Chris Bosh wrote a pretty nerdy piece this week for Wired (that is, after making an appearance on Code.org’s call-to-action video). In the piece, he reflects on growing up in a household with “extremely geeky parents that were constantly testing gadgets and flashing mad AutoCAD skills”. And I wonder where I got to where I am now: teaching teachers how to integrate technology into their teaching.
There is some dust settling on my HTML coding skills (especially now that HTML 5 is out). My first introduction to coding was in junior high (with a program I cannot recall). A teacher who gave us extra credit on the weekends to have our parents sign our planners after we paid them compliments, praise or actually had a conversation with them… that wonderful human teacher, in his well-known monotone, taught me my first code. It went dormant, however, until I took a Center for Writing Studies course on writing technologies. Side-by-side with our study of the history of paper, pen, pencil, typewriters and word processors was a weekly study of HTML code where I was first taught how much plagiarism is encouraged on the Web’s backbone. (If you were to do a virtual spinal tap of a website, most of what you would find is copied from elsewheres many times over.) Coders hack in the more playful sense of the definition, and I like to think of the word more synonymous with tinker now after that experience.
Coding at both levels I think went hand-in-hand with my understanding of language and its manipulation. Never was this more revealed to me as during my experience with a National Writing Project Site. I only wish I could consider myself truly bilingual in either a coding language or Spanish. (I dedicated so many more years to Spanish, actually, and I still had a harder go at mastering it.) Now proud of how I can change language, edit a sentence in wonderful ways and analyze its structure, I think I can attribute part of that to exposure to multiple languages.
That artfulness — an art that is paid very well, might I add — is one that Chris Bosh and I both agree helps us understand how the world functions. The world will need more coders to make the world work better. We need to look no further than the nightly news’s coverage of the Affordable Care Act’s website to see the need.
I also can testify to the fact that many of the jobs of today were not even imagined a decade ago: I’m holding one! I know for a fact my current job description is new to my district as of a few months ago.
Rather than national perspective, however, I think this experience with coding has also taught me systems thinking and given me the means to communicate to both IT staff as well as teachers in the classroom. Being able to talk to the folks that work in the server closets as well as the classrooms empowers me to see what capabilities will bring us to transformative learning experiences and what tech needs to be tempered.
Aside from needing to physically look up to him, I have to give Bosh quite a bit of credit for giving nerds someone to look up to. His essay, despite having some private industry backing, speaks to a need that schools could be addressing as the world turns to a new (probably Kindle, Nook or iBook) page.