Entering The World of Coding

Women are underrepresented in computer science, so I have agreed to offer a three-week minicourse on coding at Harpeth Hall during Winterim, a between-semesters period for alternative curricula. My only previous experience with computer programming is from more than 30 years ago, when I had to take a course in FORTRAN for my engineering degree. I do not have happy memories of that experience.

Fortunately, there are many more coding languages to choose from these days, and there are some very entertaining and enjoyable ways to learn them. I’m learning Python, and I’m using two resources. The first one is the book Hello World! by Warren and Carter Sande. Hello World

It’s written at a level schoolkids can understand, but adults will also find it very helpful. It’s filled with useful illustrations, and best of all, it has a link to a downloadable file that installs a Python IDLE (a graphical user interface that allows you to write and run Python programs on your computer), so you can work through all the examples as you read. There is a brand new edition coming out in two weeks, and the link above will take you to the Amazon page for that edition.

Here’s a screenshot of one of the first exercises. It’s a program that converts any Fahrenheit temperature to Celsius:


The second resource I’m using is Codecademy, which hosts all kinds of online courses for people who want to learn coding. Here’s a screenshot of a typical lesson:


The lessons are easy, entertaining, and you can learn at your own pace. Codecademy offers courses in jQuery, JavaScript, PHP, Python, and Ruby. And guess what? It’s free!

I’ll be posting later in the year on how the course goes, and what my students think about the subject. Meanwhile, here is a nice introduction to what is involved in programming.