Artists. Social Workers. Gamers. Writers. These are all people who should be interested in computer science. In college, there were so many things I wanted to major in, it was hard to manage. I even started out in pre-med. That was misguided, but that’s OK. I ended up in the art department, with a concentration in photography, on the eve of the digital revolution. One major I never considered was computer science. Looking back, my reasons were pretty stupid.
I thought I knew exactly who should major in computer science. I had a few classmates who knew all about computers. And most, though not all, were guys. They were friendly and often helped us when computers behaved badly. Although I gave myself permission to learn everything else from scratch, (I’d never taken photography before), I thought I already had to understand computers to learn about them.
Back in 6th grade I thoroughly enjoyed a class most kids hated: graphic arts. This class moved beyond Logo Writer (a brilliant program) to an ancient version of Adobe Illustrator. I noticed that my enthusiasm for this class set me apart. It was fascinating to discover how different brushes could create different looks. I was quite proud when I recreated a Degas painting in the computer. Since I grew up to work as a graphic artist and photographer, I sometimes wish I could find these files. Sadly, they’re lost in time. I noticed it was unusual to enjoy this class that combined art and technology.
Since college, I’ve worked as a professional photographer, taken courses in communications and earned a Master’s Degree in International Relations. But I’m not done. Living in St. Louis, I had the opportunity to join a group of people interested in learning programming. I finally figured out that loving video games, always having new ideas for apps and wanting to make the world better mean I should learn computer science. It’s relevant to all the fields I listed above.
And it’s been awesome. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. But everyone thinks it’s hard. I’ve almost stopped saying I’m bad at math, because it’s irrelevant. There is a little bit of conceptual math in programming, but it’s more like a language. It’s about problem-solving. And anyone interested in anything will find it beneficial. I think of computer programming as an extension of literacy because it connects people to ideas and tools. It’s a type of reading and writing that opens a world of possibilities for those who learn to participate.
Here are some free resources to get you started:
- Turtle Academy: Turtle offers a great way to create amazing shapes using a simple programming syntax. Click on “Free Lessons” to get started. You can start creating shapes with no prior understanding of programming.
- cs50: This is not for the faint of heart – tackle this one with a group of dedicated students. If you’d like to do a little exploring and access some of the free resources first, consider clicking the “Live” or “Seminars” links in the left navigation bar.
- code.org: An amazing combination of original and currated learning content. They even offer a section called unplugged, where students can learn computer concepts without the need for a computer or internet connection.
- techli: Techli delivers innovation news and in-depth editorial on the technology, businesses and ideas that are changing the way we live, work, and play. They have a great selection of written and video content on everything from what’s happening in the startup community to internet culture.
Photo by Nirat Sthapit
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