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CODE4LIB  February 2013

CODE4LIB February 2013

Subject:

Re: back to minorities question, seeking guidance

From:

"Shearer, Timothy J" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 22 Feb 2013 23:13:25 +0000

Content-Type:

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Hi Folks,

This is a great discussion and it continues to be helpful to me on many
different levels.

It started late enough after code4lib that I plunged ahead with my class.
FWIW, "Impostor Syndrome" (thanks Jason Griffey) was an eye opener, and a
chance for me to offer my own sense of some things.

In case it's useful, I reflected that in my experience:

*Impostor Syndrome is a common theme in the whole field, not just in
technology end of it.

*That I think I see mangers and administrators who feel it just as much as
fresh graduates, but from the other side.  They feel their understanding
of technology and shifts in the information ecosystem is atrophying and
that these kids keep showing up talking about discovery layers, analytics,
solr, and web services when what they think all they know is opacs, gate
counts, rdbms, and consortial agreements.

*And I gave the students a pep talk.  I.e. they're smart, they're going to
get good jobs, and that they have gobs and gobs to contribute.  And I see
this every time we meet or they turn in an assignment.

While I *will* continue to aspire to be in a boy band, I loved and will
use the idea of emphasizing that you can always get into technology, there
is no aging out.

As indicated above, I've learned a lot from these discussions and plan to
try to put what I can into practice.

I'm responding specifically to this thread in the tapestry because it
resonates with my feeling about education in general.  I once was in a
setting/talk with Doris Betts and she was griping about how kids are
taught to write and read in many classrooms and homes.  Educators begin
with the spelling and grammar and what you're doing wrong.  When educators
should be imparting the fun, the *opening of the door* that written
communication offers.  It's playful, it's liberating, it's escape, it's
transfer of wisdom and emotion.  Get them hooked and only then worry about
the whys and wherefores.

The deal for me is that applications and the systems that undergird them
empower us to do more than we can without them.  They support human
endeavor.  Like written language they can be playful, liberating, escape,
or support the transfer of information (and wisdom?).  If we learn the fun
and useful stuff first, we get hooked.  After you're hooked, then you can
and may even want to follow up with the whys and wherefores.

Some of those whys and wherefores include mathematics, logic, and even
circuit design (honestly I didn't really feel completely on solid footing
until I dealt with logic gates and could map those to "on" and "off").
Knowing, later, that there were people doing the things I did and that
they had language and theory was something I was ready for. It made
programming courses seem not like work but like pulling away the screen
and letting me see inside.

There are many paths to technology.  Mine was being lazy.  Being certain
there had to be a way to make a machine do the clearly redundant work I
was being asked to do in a technical services department.

Getting that these things support *us* (until skynet, of course).  That
the virtual world is really a physical world.  That you can do it.  These
are the things that serve one well when beginning in IT.

Of course, I've also come to believe that like all systems, we're good at
them when we learn to think like them.  And that can be bad and even
dangerous.  I tend to do apply a specific brand of logic to a lot of
problems that might be better resolved via poetry.  Remembering that the
things we develop support human endeavor is something that serves us well
later in our careers when we're journey or even "expert."   I meet too
many IT folks who serve the machines and forget why they're doing so.

Thanks so much for all your help and please feel free to keep weaving the
thread (or hit me directly if you want to keep it off-list for any of the
various reasons that may occur to you; say getting the impression this
isn't the right venue).

Tim



On 2/22/13 2:09 PM, "Wilhelmina Randtke" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>The math you get in an introductory programming class is 4th grade math:
>add, subtract, divide, multiply, mod.  It isn't the stuff that matters for
>big structural problems.  And it's not practical.  For a few numbers, I
>can
>do it faster with a calculator.  For many numbers, I can do it quickly
>with
>a spreadsheet.  If I want to print "Hello World" I can just type it into a
>text editor, or write it with a pencil.  Why bother to write a program and
>fuss with a compiler?
>
>Pretty much the whole entire entry level programming class for the average
>class covers using code to do things that you can do much more easily
>without code.  Even a programmer would just use a calculator to add some
>numbers.  It's the opposite of useful.
>
>What to start with instead is an open question.  When I was a child,
>Silicon Beach Software released WorldBuilder.  This was something like a
>developer tool to make the kind of games Infocom made after they put
>pictures in games.  I think it may have been derived from an Infocom
>developer tool.  Anyway, it had basic objects you make - rooms,
>characters,
>items - and then for each you could attach code to it in a scripting
>language that was specific to the WorldBuilder platform.  So you could
>call
>a random number generator from within a room, and based on the number
>returned, you could call or not call a character (ie. monster).  You could
>attach to a character, the chance to bring a different character instead,
>and so could have a variety of characters with some probability of
>appearing.  For an item you could give rules about it that change things,
>like switch one room for another, so that using a key switches a room with
>locked door for one with open door that allows movement in more
>directions.  It was scripting for simple dungeon games and a simple
>drawing
>and photo import tool to make room images and sprites.
>
>It's a little worrying that there aren't introductory programming
>platforms
>that let someone do something interesting at a simple level (ie. just
>making a dungeon, based on a map, but not having any puzzles in the
>dungeon
>is still creative, and you can show it to someone to "walk" through), and
>then have added functionality you can reach via code (ie. probabilities
>that objects and other characters will appear in a room, items where
>possessing the item changes how a room works, so coding lets the static
>map
>become more interactive).
>
>Introductory level programming classes have no practical or impractical
>but
>fun applications to the world.  Code doesn't do anything better, or
>faster,
>or previously impossible until way too far into formal education.  Being
>useless is a huge turn off for me, and probably lots of other people.
>
>-Wilhelmina Randtke
>
>
>On Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 10:39 AM, Cary Gordon <[log in to unmask]>
>wrote:
>
>> While comprehensive specific math skill set might not be necessary in
>> programming, an understanding of mathematics beyond arithmetic can be
>> very useful. Relational database theory, for example, maps pretty
>> neatly to set theory.
>>
>> Mathematics in general delivers a lot of insight into dealing with
>> complex patterns.
>>
>> Is a solid math background necessary to program? Of course not. Sooner
>> or later though, programmers need a solid understanding of logic.
>>
>> Thanks,
>>
>> Cary
>>
>> On Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 7:30 AM, Karen Coyle <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> > On 2/21/13 7:48 PM, Emily Morton-Owens wrote:
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> This was just the right thing to say, because he was connecting it to
>> >> something that I consider myself talented at (languages), rather than
>> >> something I don't (math).
>> >
>> >
>> > I want to clear up the "math is hard" and "programming is math" myths.
>> > First, the ratio of women to men in graduate math programs is
>>approaching
>> > 50/50, although women are still struggling to be hired and gain
>>tenure in
>> > math departments. So "math is hard" for many of us, but it's not
>> necessarily
>> > a gender thing. (I'm looking for the cite for this -- I've done too
>>much
>> > random reading recently and didn't mark this. May be book below.)
>> >
>> > Math skills are not required for programming. There was a time when
>> silicon
>> > valley was desperate for programmers, and some companies advertised
>>that
>> > they were looking for folks with music skills and they would teach
>>them
>> > programming -- because they had found that musicians make for good
>> > programmers. It's the ability to deal with complex patterns that
>>makes a
>> > difference. Which is why it annoys me when programming instruction
>>begins
>> > with a list of mathematical functions that most programmers will never
>> need.
>> >
>> > I believe that Rosy was the first to recommend this, but the IEEE
>> > publication: Gender Codes - why women are leaving computing/ edited by
>> > Thomas Misa, 2010 is essential reading. You can get it as a Kindle or
>> Nook
>> > book. isbn 978-0470-59719-4 (paper) 978-1118-03513-9 (ebook)
>> >
>> > kc
>> >
>> >
>> >>
>> >>> Hi Folks,
>> >>>
>> >>> I'm teaching systems analysis at SILS (UNC CH) this semester.
>> >>>
>> >>> Though the course is required for the IS degree, it's not required
>>for
>> >>> the
>> >>> LS degree.
>> >>>
>> >>> However, the majority of my students this semester are LS.  And the
>> vast
>> >>> majority are women.
>> >>>
>> >>> Apropos of the part of the thread that dealt with numbers:
>> >>>
>> >>> For those of you who came into this community and at some point went
>> >>> through a MSLS or MSIS program I am wondering if there are things I
>> could
>> >>> try to do that might have an impact on better aligning the ratio of
>>men
>> >>> to
>> >>> women in code4lib and the technology end of the field in general to
>> that
>> >>> in the general population?
>> >>>
>> >>> Was there a moment of clarity?  A person who said or modeled the
>>right
>> >>> thing?  A project that helped uncover a skill you didn't know you
>>had?
>> >>>
>> >>> And, I am not just interested in what I can do through one class,
>>but
>> >>> also
>> >>> what the curriculum and school could do more holistically.
>> >>>
>> >>> Thanks,
>> >>>
>> >>> Tim
>> >>>
>> >
>> > --
>> > Karen Coyle
>> > [log in to unmask] http://kcoyle.net
>> > ph: 1-510-540-7596
>> > m: 1-510-435-8234
>> > skype: kcoylenet
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> Cary Gordon
>> The Cherry Hill Company
>> http://chillco.com
>>

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