Last month, Code.org finished up their Hour of Code campaign that ran during Computer Science Education Week (12/9-12/15 http://csedweek.org/). The campaign urged young students to spend a little time learning code and included tutorials by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.
But what about adults? I work with a lot of clients who shy away from code. They understand the value of code. And as a Digital Creative Director, every time I’ve worked with a team that understood code, the project always turned out more engaging (and cost-efficient). Instead, I hear many clients say, “There are smarter folks out there who know that stuff.” “It’s all gibberish to me.” “I wish I knew but it’s so confusing.” Sound like you?
Seeing the Forest Before the Trees
If you’re an adult who really wants to get the most out of learning code, I have a secret: don’t look at code as a language. Instead, think of code as logic or a chain of If/Then statements: if you have some information, then you can process it to make new information. Simple.
Approach code as if you were organizing a series of events that control and effect each other, not as this bunch of non-sensical words and numbers. It’s about seeing the forest before the trees. I encourage adults to think of code as ”Something You Orchestrate” instead of “Something You Write”. You need to know the sound of the instruments, not how to play them.
Wonderful things will happen.
Once you grasp code as logic, you’ll understand how your bank knew you’d like an offer from Banana Republic, or how an App on your iPhone interacts with the light switches in your house. Better yet, you’ll understand the value of basic algebra when helping your child with homework.
Bottom line: You’ll have a more detailed understanding of why and how our ever-connected world works the way it does. And playing with some of Code.org’s games do a great job teaching this.
A Good Place to Start: Angry Bird + Blockly
Code is about making machines that affect objects like pictures, text or video. Machines are actions, objects are things. Some machines are one-offs. Some are grouped to work together. You can think of the machine parts as blocks that fit together. Some blocks tell other blocks to do stuff, other blocks just distribute information.
To illustrate the way blocks come together to make small machines, take this kids’ tutorial on Code.org (http://learn.code.org/hoc/1). The goal is to build a program to help an angry bird get through a maze. From a code perspective, the machine is the action of getting through the maze and the objects are the angry bird and the maze. That simple distinction will get you very far in understanding how agency partners like us do what we do.
Why should you care?
All modern code languages are based on this basic premise of little machines and objects. If you can understand the RELATIONSHIPS these machines and objects have between each other, you’ll get much farther than trying to construct the mechanics of getting machines and objects to affect each other.
Every time you learn how something works, take note of that machine for future use. Every time you have new data, know that they are objects that can be re-processed through different machines to create “something new”. And it’s that “something new” that often makes the most useful and entertaining pieces for customers and clients alike.
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