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Programming Literacy for Non-Programmers Class-- Gauging Interest

Someone pinged me today with a problem. She's married to a nerd and her eyes glaze over when he talks about work or when he has friends over and they talk about work. She told me this because she saw that I had posted in another female friend's Facebook post that one of my most attractive features is apparently that my eyes don't glaze over when guys talk about computers. This response was to a post where a woman was complaining that when her husband talks about work that her eyes glaze over because she has no idea what he's talking about and she would like to understand better.

I've had people here ask me about learning to program and where one might start, and to be honest, that can be a complicated question that depends partly on the level of education of the person asking as well as what they want to accomplish. I also had several women from the feminist hackerspace tell me that they want to learn to program and I've even seen some of them at programming lectures.

My mother was a technical writing instructor and I spent a lot of effort training myself to speak about programming and other technical things in a way that non-nerds can understand, partly with her help. Mom taught me to always know my audience and speak at the audience's level, which is something that I've figured out how to do where programming is concerned. I also am one of those people who doesn't think that there's anything wrong with not having the educational background to skip directly to "here's some code."


Programming and science are things that comes naturally to me— I started programming when I was 11— but I was highly discouraged to pursue programming and the sciences. Had I not been so driven and so inherently technically oriented, I may not have overcome that gender bias and I know that many women who otherwise would make exceptional programmers didn't overcome that. Not having my technical background shouldn't preclude women from learning about programming, but most of the classes that I see that are introduction to programming actually start out with code and that may not be a good approach for women with little technical education.

I think that a better approach for women might be to discuss the concepts, refresh on middle school algebra, talk about terminology, talk about decision making in programming, and give an overview of some of the things that computer professionals do and tools that we work with. You know, like a computer literacy class, only, instead of having you open Microsoft Excel and showing you how to enter a formula into it, telling you what it means when someone says "So I opened a Jira about that bug and some jerk marked it 'could not reproduce' even though he said he tested it on his superadmin account and I said that it's a permissions problem for moderators! Argh!"

As we are all aware, I am in a bit of a conundrum regarding my employment situation and I could use some ways to prove that I understand programming concepts even if I don't know the syntax for the language that's being used at a specific company. This could actually work as resume building and as a source of income. I have a lecturing background and I may have a location that I could teach from. Plus, it could help women feel more competent with computers, could help women turn to technology instead of away from it, and could help the reputation of women with male programmers. The more that I think about this, the more that I think this is an awesome idea.

So the question is: do you think this is an awesome idea?

Would any of you be interested in taking such a class, whether to gauge your own interest and ability in tech or to be able to engage in conversation with nerds without your eyes glazing over? And if so, would you be able to attend in person in San Francisco or would you have to attend online? For a series of, for instance, 6 classes at an hour each, what would you be willing to pay for in-person instruction vs. remote instruction? Or would you like it better if it were a crowdsourced effort, funded via a kickstarter campaign, with lessons posted to YouTube?


What are your thoughts, Groupthinkers?

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