Why we need programming workshops for everybody

This article is by our managing editor Abhishek Gupta.

A lot of articles about the ‘Girls who Code‘ initiative begin by describing an inspiring story of a woman who would have never ventured into the largely male-populated domain of computer science without the program.

‘Girls who Code’ has taken the world by storm . There are statistics that show that women are grossly under-represented in computer science and that this would help bridge that gap. (57% of Bachelor degrees are awarded to women yet only 18% of Computer Science degrees go to women)

‘Girls who Code’ is a great initiative that is helping to bring about positive change. But what is often not given a second look is that a profound change can be triggered in society if more and more people could learn the skills that result from working in this field. Workshops should not only expand reach not to cover more women—they should expand for people from all walks of life.

Programming Workshop with code(love)

Simon Peyton Jones, a British computer scientist makes a very relevant point when he equates computer science as being one of the basic skills that should be taught in school alongside Physics, History among other things in today’s world. He goes on to explain his thought process saying that when we are all taught Physics at a young age, it helps to demystify things like how a bulb is turned on when you flick a switch – its because of electron movement in the wire connecting the switch and the bulb.

Similarly, a study of computer science can help decipher many of the technological wonders that surround us.

‘Girls who code’ is a dedicated channel that is making efforts to achieve that specific goal, a programming workshop that helps girls achieve their potential in programming.

For everyone who has started on the path to learning more about computer science and learning how to program – there are several problems that one encounters along the way even in the presence of an ever-growing number of online tools and learning platforms.

Many offer courses geared towards making you an expert in a particular programming language or framework. There are even MOOCs that come a bit closer in terms of emulating the real learning experience yet all of them fall short in one respect or another. More often than not, you run into errors and bugs, sometimes things that conceptually don’t make sense and at that point having a teacher who can answer your specific question makes the learning experience much more accessible to everyone. Programming workshops are a boon for direct human interaction and teaching.

Not all beginners have the patience to pore through programming forums such as Stack Overflow to find answers to their questions and this becomes a barrier that pushes them away from pursuing their curiosity further. What ‘Girls who code’ has done is not only to provide women with a conducive environment to learn but more importantly have someone to teach them the ropes in the early part of this learning process and lower the barrier to pursue an interest in computer science.

As a field, computer science is gaining in popularity and is sparking the interest of many people who want to at least try it out if not pursue a career in technology. The growing enrolment in CS50 at Harvard University stands as a testament to this fact.

So maybe we should start looking into setting up camps / offer workshops at major tech companies for people who are interested in learning what computer science is all about, and not only offer them by gender. “Girls who Code” do very good work for girls, and that should thrive and continue—why not have a similar “Everybody who Codes” movement?

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/elfgoh/

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Roger has worked in user acquisition and marketing roles at startups that have raised 200m+ in funding. He self-taught himself machine learning and data science in Python, and has an active interest in all sorts of technical fields. He's currently working on boosting personal cybersecurity (youarecybersecure.com)