The world is shifting inexorably towards a computerised future. The adults of tomorrow will need to know how to program interfaces in order to remain relevant in the workforce. To do this the children of today are already beginning to learn how to program in some simple languages. However, in the present we have a generation of adolescents that have not had the benefit of early learning in programming skills. Indeed, like many adults of the current period, the thought of having to learn how to program a simple interface fills them with fear of the unknown. What this paper will report on is how students in the humanities need to embrace learning a new language if they are to remain relevant is this increasingly computerised world. Not one of the Latin, Arabic, East-Asian, African, Indian or Islander languages, but a computer language. A language that commands machines to work for us. It reports also on study of how to introduce and inspire students to learn how to code. From a before and after survey about their attitude towards, aptitude for, and future disquietude of, programming at the beginning and end of the project we found that, by making raw code available for students to edit directly with tangible results, they quickly overcame their fear of coding. By sharing their uncertainties with their cohort they were able to overcome their initial lack of confidence and quickly discovered that coding was both empowering and rewarding. The project was conducted in the auto-ethnographic style of reporting familiar to human-computer interaction studies. While it draws conclusions from the qualitative data recorded it includes supporting quantitative evidence for claims made. It suggests possible interventions that could be implemented now to ensure our graduating students can meet the demands made of them in terms of their core understandings about how to make computers work – regardless of the discipline from which they graduated.
Keywords: programming, computer language, early learner, cross-discipline.
Theodor Wyeld is currently a Lecturer in Digital Media at Flinders University, Australia. He is on a number of review committees and has published widely. Attracting more than 2 million in grants and venture capital, he is the inventor of 'thereitis.com'. The patented 'thereitis' technology is the culmination of 10 years of research in usability studies on how to better support the sorting of large collections of database images. Between 2004 and 2009 he was a research associate with the Australasian Cooperative Research Centre for Interaction Design. He has an extensive background in architecture, planning and digital media production. He is completing a PhD in Cognitive Psychology at the Swinburne University of Technology, Australia.