Category Archives: Edu

5 Professional Organizations Women in Tech Should Consider Joining

Tanya Adams is a freelance writer, content strategist, and lover of all things tech. Not to be confused with her namesake of Red Alert 2 fame, but certainly that cool. Learn more about her at
Tanya Adams

Everyone wants to be part of the in-crowd. As a technology geek, you may have spent high school or maybe even college outside the popular kids table. Or, you had the science club or computer club to hang out with and share stories. In the professional world, we still need groups to help us along our career paths, broaden our horizons, and just make like-minded friends. As a woman in tech, finding other women to share our particular geekiness is incredibly wonderful. And, if we can learn new skills, grow professionally, and boost our businesses along the way, well, that’s great, too. With that in mind, here’s the low down on five national organizations for women in technology.


Association for Women in Computing (WIC)

Who’s it for: Women in the computing professions such as programmers, system analysts, technical writers, Internet specialists, trainers, and consultants.

How to join: You may join any one of the local chapters nationwide or become an independent member by filling out an application online. Independent membership is for professionals in the U.S and abroad who cannot physically attend chapter meetings. Alternately, any five individuals in a particular area can apply to form a local chapter.

Benefits: Career growth through volunteer and leadership activities, networking, and mentoring. Local chapters hold monthly meetings that include dinner with guest speakers and workshops. Job listings, career planning, skill enhancement and scholarships are some of the other benefits.

Cost: Local chapters’ dues vary by chapter but range from $35 to $100 per year. The average is $61. Annual dues for Independent Members is $25.


Women in Technology International (WITI)

Who’s it for: WITI boasts itself as the “leading global business organization for women in technology.” It is for women who consider technology central to their businesses, careers, and professions. WITI encourages men to join as well.

Benefits: They include networking events nationwide, professional development, mentorships, opportunities to establish your personal brand, monthly webinars, teleclasses, and speaking opportunities.

How to join: You can sign up online.

Costs: WITI offers Individual, Small Business, Corporate, and student memberships. An individual yearly membership is $250. Student yearly memberships are $50.


IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE)

Who it’s for: Women in engineering, computer sciences and information technology, physical sciences, biological and medical sciences, mathematics, technical communications, education, management, and law and policy. IEEE WIE touts itself as “the largest international professional organization dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists.”

Benefits: The mission of IEEE WIE is to facilitate the global recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines. Benefits include career resources, awards/recognition, continuing education, access to the IEEE WIE electronic membership directory, a monthly electronic newsletter, and award-winning Women in Engineering magazine. There are also local networking events through WIE affinity groups.

How to join: You must be an IEEE Member to join WIE. Professional IEEE memberships in the U.S. are $197 annually. IEEE student memberships in the U.S. are $32.00 annually.

Cost: The WIE membership dues is $25 annually, but free to students.

Society of Women Engineers

Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
Who it’s for: For women and men in the engineering professions including computer software and hardware engineering.

Benefits: Networking, educational development, awards & scholarships, the SWE Magazine, monthly newsletter, online communities, webinars, podcasts, online career center, and outreach; Affinity groups for African-American, Latina, LGBT, Native American, and IRIS (Internationals Residing in the States). Members develop leadership skills by publishing articles, presenting technical papers, leading workshops and seminars.

How to Join: Fill out an application online or by pdf.

Cost: Professional member ship is $100 annually. Collegiate Membership is a one-time payment of $50 that can be renewed every year you’re in college for no cost.

Women Entrepreneurs

Women Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (WEST)

Who it’s for: Women and men involved in science, engineering, and technology.

Benefits: Networking, mentorships, workshops and panels including advice about career advancement, alternate career options, professional skill building, and entrepreneurial thinking. WEST offers encouragement and recognition of women’s achievement in science, technology and entrepreneurial enterprises.

How to Join: You can join online.

Cost: Individual one year memberships are $95.

With such variety, perhaps you’ll find one of these organizations will be the perfect fit for you. (Or, maybe even more than one.) Remember, it’s never to early to start making those important professional contacts.


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VIDEO: 5 Things to Know Before Learning to Code

We created Más Wired to show the incredible contributions Latinos are making in the digital space. As the largest growing demographic in the U.S., Latinos are more than just a market and are making important contributions in technology.
Mas Wired

Learning to code isn’t easy, but you can do it. Check out this video with 5 things you should know before learning to code.

I’m on week five of Sabio’s .Net developer training program and while I am beginning to understand a lot about the Internet — I still have a ways to go.

I do know enough, though, to be sure that you, dear reader, could probably also learn to code if you had enough “ganas” or motivation to get through the frustrating bits. Coding isn’t what I thought, but there are a few things I wish I would have known before I started.

I wanted to make this video to share those thoughts, please share with anyone you know who might be learning to code and tweet me @SaraChicaD if you have questions. Happy coding!

Finding Your Writing Voice in a Digital Age

Knowledge Junkie, Avid Reader and Lover of all things puzzles and cats. Alexandrea is a Biology major and Computer Science/Music double minor at Pacific University. A self-starter who loves a challenge, her passion is developing tools that bring people together to learn.
Alexandrea Beh
Latest posts by Alexandrea Beh (see all)

Finding your personal writing voice can be incredibly liberating and fun: finally you’re sharing your thoughts and it actually sounds like…well, you.  What is still a tale as old as time, and what has changed in this digital age?

Tell Me A Story

Writing is not a science, and there is no single way to find your personal writing voice. Instead, it is an ongoing set of experiences that you can pick and choose to learn from. Writing regularly, online and offline, is what has helped me the most.  Here are a few other tips and food for thought:

Regardless of the medium, writing is usually a form of communication from one person to another, so write to be understood. With this in mind, think of several positive adjectives that describe your personality. Then think about how you connect with other people as a result of those traits. Do you make people laugh? Unite your friends with a common cause? Ask questions from a different angle than most people? These traits can serve as a framework for what makes your writing voice sound like you.

Read other people’s writing, be it from blogs, news, trade journals, or books. Pay attention to what resonates with you, and why. Maybe it’s a casual phrase that is semi-professional but puts you at ease, or maybe it’s an analogy that helps snap an idea into place.

Credit: Arielle Nadel
Credit: Arielle Nadel

Take time for introspection and revisit things you’ve written before. What qualities are you most proud of? What do you wish you could improve? Be your own critic, but a constructive one. It also helps to seek feedback from outside sources, whether it is from an online forum or someone that you know.

Imagine that someone just gave a raving review of your writing (in the sense that film critics or book critics describe tone, content and how the piece makes the reader/audience feel). What would you want that review to say?

Going Digital

First, remember that online content is harder to truly delete compared to paper content, so proofread and make sure you’re reasonably comfortable with what you’ve written before sending it out to the world.

Writing in a digital medium means that you have even more flexibility in how to reach a potential audience:

If you don’t like writing long-form content but love digging up resources, Twitter might be the way to go. If you love using images to make a main point, explore blogs, Pinterest and Tumblr. Pinterest and Tumblr in particular provide a quick way to add your insight to another user’s content. Blogs and Facebook are probably the most versatile mediums of all, where you can write in short-form, long-form, post images and videos in any combination.

Of course, one of the biggest differences about writing online is that all of these mediums can be easily connected. Perhaps the content is not the same across all types, but your personal writing voice can unite them in a powerful way.

Due to upcoming personal obligations, I am sad to say that this is my last article. I’ve had so much fun writing for iGirlTechNews and I sincerely encourage anyone interested in writing to give it a try. Go out there, find your personal voice and share your thoughts and inspirations!

Featured Image by Alan Cleaver

TechReads: Fabricated – Part 2 (Controversies of 3D Printing)

Knowledge Junkie, Avid Reader and Lover of all things puzzles and cats. Alexandrea is a Biology major and Computer Science/Music double minor at Pacific University. A self-starter who loves a challenge, her passion is developing tools that bring people together to learn.
Alexandrea Beh
Latest posts by Alexandrea Beh (see all)

3D printers make it easier to produce prosthetics and other custom products, much to the celebration of creative minds and makers. But like pretty much any technology, 3D printers can also bring trouble. Here are some of the top controversies surrounding 3D printing, as mentioned in Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman’s book Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, along with additional resources for learning about these issues.

A Gray Area of Responsibility

A machine part malfunctions or breaks down, causing a fatal injury. The machine part was 3D printed. Under what circumstances is the death the responsibility of the user, manufacturer, design engineer of the machine part, and/or design engineer of the 3D printer? Michael Molitch-Hou provides industry insight on possible changes in liability issues. The complexity escalates further when we consider that 3D printing is also being used to develop living tissue, which may one day include entire organs.

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

Credit: edie newsroom

How do 3D printers measure up in terms of sustainability and going green? Instead of mass production, 3D printers can be used to manufacture an item only when it is needed, and the additive manufacturing process generates less waste. However, this model works for some products better than others. Factor in shipping/transportation costs, how easily the product can be made out of recyclable parts, and how easily the product can be recycled, and suddenly it’s not so easy to decide how much sustainability we’re really looking at. If you’re curious, Jonathan Bardelline and Catherine Wilson discuss this issue in more detail.

Getting the Red Light

3D printers are becoming cheaper, and the Internet provides increasingly ready access to design files for countless objects. This puts a strain on the concept of intellectual property.  How does this change the safety of items such as food, drugs and guns, which are currently regulated to some extent in many parts of the world? For example, in early 2013 the US government ordered a man to take his design files for a 3D printed gun off the Internet, but not before many other people downloaded and shared the file.

A Changing Job Market

Will 3D printers eliminate jobs or create jobs? You could argue for both sides, but let’s reframe the scenario: 3D printers seem set to eventually replace many of today’s manual laborers. However, the authors of Fabricated highlight an increasing demand for the design engineers that will continue to drive the creative side of using this technology. In this article, Rodolfo Lentejas explores some other ways that the job market could shift, including impacts on retail. For a more historical perspective, check out this column by History, Future Now.

Machines Making Machines

Credit: MIT Technology Review
Credit: MIT Technology Review

It would save a lot of time if a 3D printer could fix itself and print its own replacement parts. What if it had enough artificial intelligence to make better parts for itself or print entirely new, more sophisticated machines? The author, inventor and Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil made popular the concept of the singularity, which includes the idea that machines will keep developing smarter machines until one day, artificial intelligence will have surpassed human intelligence. Kurzweil calculates that the singularity could be upon us by 2045. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen argues the flip side here, reasoning why the possibility of the singularity is much further down the road.

This article is part of a series called TechReads, my ongoing series of technology-related book reviews. If you would like to suggest a book for a future TechReads article, please leave a comment below – and if you’ve read Fabricated, I’d love to hear what you think!

Featured Image: Evan Leeson

Creating New Folders In Microsoft Office 2010

I graduated in June 2013 with a bachelors in Information Technology: Systems Analysis. I currently work at a medical center where I am their database and systems administrator. Some current games that I play are Diablo 3, Never Winter, Path of Exile, League of Legends (not as often as I would like), Star Craft, and the sims.
Skye Gilbreth

Method One

  1. Open up outlook.
  2. Right click on your inbox.
  3. Select “New Folder…” from the drop down Menu

    New Folder Option
    New Folder Option
  4. Name the new folder and select a location for this folder.

    Naming and Setting the Location of Your New Folder
    Naming and Setting the Location of Your New Folder
  5. Click on “Ok” once you have named your new folder and selected the folder location.
  6. Locate and verify your new folder was successfully created.

    Test Folder
    Test Folder

Method Two

  1. Open up outlook.
  2. Click on “Folder” from the ribbon bar.

    Folder Tab
    Folder Tab
  3. Click on the folder icon with the label “New Folder”.

    Select Create New Folder Icon
    Select Create New Folder Icon
  4. Name the new folder and select a location for this folder.

    Naming and Setting the Location of Your New Folder
    Naming and Setting the Location of Your New Folder
  5. Click on “Ok” once you have named your new folder and selected the folder location.
  6. Locate and verify your new folder was successfully created.

    Test Folder
    Test Folder

How To Find Your Computer’s Name in Windows Xp and Windows 7

I graduated in June 2013 with a bachelors in Information Technology: Systems Analysis. I currently work at a medical center where I am their database and systems administrator. Some current games that I play are Diablo 3, Never Winter, Path of Exile, League of Legends (not as often as I would like), Star Craft, and the sims.
Skye Gilbreth

Windows XP

  1. Click on Start.

    XP Start Button
    XP Start Button
  2. Locate “My Computer,” on the right side of the start menu.

    My Computer
    My Computer
  3. Right click on my computer.
  4. Select properties from the drop down menu.

    Properties Option
    Properties Option
  5. A new windows should pop up called “System”. Under the tab “Computer name” you will find your computer’s name.
    Tab - Computer Name
    Tab – Computer Name

    Computer Name Location
    Computer Name Location

Windows 7

  1. Click on Start.

    Windows 7 Start Menu
    Windows 7 Start Menu
  2. Locate “Computer,” on the right side of the start menu.

    Computer Location In Start Menu
  3. Right click on computer.
  4. Select properties from the drop down menu.

    Properties Option
    Properties Option
  5. A new windows should pop up called “System”. Under the heading “Computer name, domain, and work group settings” you will find your computer’s name.

    Computer Name Location
    Computer Name Location

Should You Apply to the Ada Developer’s Academy?

Tanya Adams is a freelance writer, content strategist, and lover of all things tech. Not to be confused with her namesake of Red Alert 2 fame, but certainly that cool. Learn more about her at
Tanya Adams

Even though there has been an increase of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations since the 1970s, women in the computer sciences remain sorely underrepresented. Just 15% of software jobs are held by women and 1.5% of open source contributors are women.

The Ada Developer’s Academy (Ada) — named for Ada Lovelace, purportedly the founder of scientific computing — is addressing this skill gap by training women to become software developers.

Ada is currently accepting applications for its second class slated to begin September 2nd.

“Ada is increasing opportunities for women in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry while addressing an acute and ongoing shortage of local developer talent,” said Elise Worthy, Program Manager & Co-Founder of Ada. “Our program is providing women with a solid footing in technical careers and tackling head-on the gender imbalance at local software companies, who recognize that Ada is a great opportunity to create a more equitable, diverse culture in tech.”

Established in 2013 as an intensive software developers training school exclusively for women, Ada offers six months of classroom-based instruction followed by a six-month internship  with Puget Sound-area tech companies. The internships prepare students for the transition into junior developer positions. Students completing the program also receive a certificate from Bellevue College.

[tweet “This extensive education is offered for free to all women accepted.”]

Because of the immense time commitment (classes meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays), the women are awarded a monthly stipend.

Why a full year program?

Search the web and you will find 8-week hacking programs, but those programs are not sufficient enough to prepare students with limited or no technical background.

“We want to make sure that students are fully prepared. Learning to program in a classroom only gets you halfway there. The internship component is key: students experience being on software teams, working with legacy codebases, deadlines, and production code,” said Bookis Smuin, Lead Instructor at Ada. “The internship is just as important as the classroom experience in preparing the students to be productive and successful developers.”

The first class of students numbered 16. For this upcoming class, 24 students will be admitted.

Potential students do not have to possess prior programming experience, but should demonstrate technical aptitude.

According to Worthy, a majority of the women interested in programming are novices and have had limited access to technology education in high school and college. In fact, many of the students in the previous Ada class were switching careers. They held bachelor’s degrees in everything from theater to linguistics.

Of this first class, 25% relocated to Washington State from as far away as Florida  and half were women of color.

Ada did not release any information as to the specific ethnicities of the first class; however, according to a 2013 government report, African-Americans and Hispanics, regardless of gender, have been consistently underrepresented in STEM employment. In 2011, 6% of STEM workers were African-American and 7% were Hispanics.

So, Ada may be helping fulfill an ethnic diversity deficit in STEM jobs as well.

What do the women learn in the classroom?

The curriculum covers web development, how to work on agile development teams and lead software projects. Students work on projects that simulate real applications under real deadlines.

Specifically, students learn the Ruby on Rails tech stack (Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, HTML/CSS) and Agile Methodologies (pair programming, test-driven development, user-story creation).Through their training the students become adept at information gathering and creative problem solving as well.

“We’ve been so impressed with the student’s progress over the past six months. They’re developing full, production-ready applications on agile teams. They’re not only becoming fluent in code, but in the development process,” said Scott Case, COO of EnergySavvy and Ada Co-founder.

In May, the current class of Ada students held a demo of the civic apps they created as part of they’re coursework.

How can this education be offered for free?

As part of the Technology Alliance, Ada relies on sponsorships from Seattle-area tech companies who cover the students’ tuition, actively engage as mentors, and provide hands-on experience through internships.

Sixteen Seattle-area tech companies, including Expedia, EMC Isilon, EnergySavvy, Zillow, Marchex, Redfin, and Nordstrom, are now sponsoring Ada students.

Ada’s Future

Ada is on its way to training software developers who will fill a few of the 20,000 open STEM positions within Washington State.

Perhaps other organizations will take note of Ada’s approach to training software developers and duplicate the model. The need for diversity in tech is nation-wide.

Interested in applying to Ada Development Academy? The application deadline for the upcoming class is June 16, 2014 at 5 p.m. PDT.

Women interested in making a career change to software development are encouraged to apply.

Newbie Classes: Code Academy, Treehouse & Code School

Hello World! & newbies!I write about programming concepts, apps & general tech.
Latest posts by Kauress (see all)

Learning how to code starts with sifting through massive amounts of information, on where to start.  After which, you’re faced with deciding what to start learning.

For the past 3  months, I’ve pretty much narrowed down newbie coding classes to 3 main  platforms:

  • Code Academy: initial point of contact.
  • Treehouse: Go here afterwards.
  • C<>de School; For more advanced newbies.

chartAs a newbie, your learning should be focused, guided and cover core concepts.  A topic must be learnt by  practicing – by doing coding examples.  Googling can either be helpful or tedious , depending on how much you delve into a certain topic . Avoid  spending too much time on a certain topic because it will detract from the bigger picture.

In my opinion, it’s well worth starting at Code Academy, following on to Treehouse and then C< > de  School once you start advancing. I also recommend a textbook/ebook  on what you’re learning  and taking notes.

Code Academy

I started out with this first. when I knew  nothing about coding.  Nothing, Nada, Zilch. However, I did know that HTML & CSS is a prerequisite to any kind of programming.  If you didn’t know this, now you do! As a newbie, no matter what your end goal is start at HTML & CSS first.   Code Academy is free, which is  usually why  it’s an initial point of contact with coding, for a lot of people.

I particularly liked the clean minimalistic dashboard at Code Academy, they recently changed it and it’s very nice. Despite not having any videos, their teaching text is engaging and to the point. Each course is written by  a different instructor so you don’t get bored or inundated with the same teaching style.  Additionally the code exercises build on top of each other and become harder as you progress.  Users collect badges as they complete assignments.They also have projects you can do like building your webpage. The problem is that sometimes you need to keep refreshing your page, or restart firefox after clearing cookies when code doesn’t work due to bugs.

People also complain that Code Academy gives them a false sense of security, because of all the hints and leading the learner by the finger. These are valid issues, but not applicable to a newbie. As a newbie, Code Academy should be your initial contact with coding, and not your only contact!

At Code Academy, you should look into the HTML, CSS & Jquery courses. The JavaScript course is good as well, but it goes about things in reverse : i.e. practice first then introduce the theory, which might be confusing for some.


This is a popular coding platform that promises to   prepare you for a career in programming.  I haven’t been using this one for very long and go there to  tinker around.  Their basic membership starts $29./month, but you can try it  free for 14 days.They have a broader variety of courses than Code Academy and Code School, with business modules included in addition to programming classes and a library, with tons of resources.

Treehouse offers a more structured environment and is program orientated.  Their user panel is a little more crowded but organized. Newbies are guided by course “tracks”. For example depending on what your goals are, they offer course tracks  such as  web development, Ruby on Rails, IOS development, web design etc.  You choose a track and then videos, quizzes and exercises precede.  Once you choose a track, you’re guided step by step through the courses and cannot jump courses (must do them chronologically).

This is much slower paced than Code Academy and for that reason might be better for beginners who know HTML & CSS and want to now delve into more advanced skills such as JavaScript.  The quizzes aren’t supposed to be hard academic tests, rather they’re questions to reinforce concepts.

Treehouse tracks progress, through a point and badge system as you work through quizzes and code challenges on a work-space. They also have a job board which is pretty cool.

C< >de School

For slightly more advanced beginners. This is a paid subscription starting at $25/month.  But here is a free 2 day pass! Head here if you’re in need of more practice, their rails class is highly rated. Simple interface, not too much going on here all at once, which is nice.  They have fewer course tracks, but  classes on lesser known topics like GitHub and the very new Node.JS are included, which is exciting!  I jumped into their instructional class on Git, which has about 25 slides with accompanying exercises to help you learn how to use the Git repository.

Like Treehouse,  instructional videos are used.  Followed by coding exercises.  You can also download slides of the video  if you wish to.  As a personal preference,  the console is built into the web page like Code Academy, I just find this more convenient than having to open a separate workspace (like Treehouse).  Progress is tracked through a badge system. These are shown in a report card on the user panel.

Featured Image: Ryan Joy


There May Be Something There That Wasn’t There Before

Knowledge Junkie, Avid Reader and Lover of all things puzzles and cats. Alexandrea is a Biology major and Computer Science/Music double minor at Pacific University. A self-starter who loves a challenge, her passion is developing tools that bring people together to learn.
Alexandrea Beh
Latest posts by Alexandrea Beh (see all)

Ah, but maybe it was there before and it just took a new perspective.

If you think you’ve got a pretty accurate worldview, watch this TedTalk and we’ll see. In 2007, Hans Rosling showed us that in a world filled with increasing amounts of data, we desperately needed to visualize that data in a new way.

As a pre-test, Rosling asked the following set of questions to a group of Swedish undergradute students who were studying global health:

Which country has the highest child mortality…

  • Sri Lanka or Turkey?

  • Poland or South Korea?

  • Malaysia or Russia?

  • Pakistan or Vietnam?

  • Thailand or South Africa?

If you’re still feeling pretty confident, then that’s great – I make it a habit to read the local and world news almost daily and felt like I had to make some second guesses, but didn’t feel like I’d be too far off. What’s more, Rosling reveals that each pair of countries was deliberately chosen so that one country would in reality have twice the child mortality rate of the other. Shouldn’t be that hard then.

I was right for 5 2 out of the 5 questions, and the Swedish students were just about as accurate. How come we were so wrong, and how does data visualization come into play? First go make yourself a nice cup of tea, then come back to watch Rosling’s TedTalk, see how well you scored and among other things, see how just profoundly the Internet has impacted our world.

Without spoiling the video (if you’re still reading this and you haven’t watched the TedTalk, go watch it! I’ll wait, it’s okay), what strikes me most is that much of the data presented was not new in any kind of raw sense. These changes throughout the world haven’t happened overnight, yet it took a new kind of data visualization – Rosling used Gapminder – to make these changes easy to notice and understand.

In what turned out to be an at-once fitting and ironic search, I attempted to find a Creative Commons licensed image on Flickr to accompany this article and met with little success. (Thank you, Tony, for finding an image!) Type in ‘data’ and you get generic tech pictures, creepy doll faces and Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek. Type in ‘data visualization’ and you get a plethora of complicated circles, rectangles and spikes. ‘Statistics graphics’ yields slightly better results, yet I became very aware that the way we typically represent data in charts and diagrams has not changed much over the years. Rosling’s TedTalk helped me reflect that maybe it really is time for us to upgrade the way we visually represent data. If I was feeling pretty confident about my answers to those five questions, how many other situations are there where my perspective is so skewed, and what would it take to see something new?

Looking Ahead

The term ‘big data’ is becoming a more prevalent topic in computer science as we collect more and more information about ourselves and the world around us. Since Rosling gave his talk in 2007, it has become even more necessary for people to create news tools that help us better understand all of this information and decide how to react to its implications. Something tells me that pie charts and scatter plots aren’t always going to cut it anymore.

Think you might be interested in a career in big data? Check out what contributors at Forbes and Computerworld have to say.

Discovering My Inner Techie

Creative Thinker, Cartoon Aficionado, Google Analytics Certified, Skilled Writer. Sharon's published work spans the fields of militaries and social media. She also deftly figured out long ago what coffee and genetic testing have in common (they're both wake-up calls).
Sharon Gutowski

Artists. Social Workers. Gamers. Writers. These are all people who should be interested in computer science. In college, there were so many things I wanted to major in, it was hard to manage. I even started out in pre-med. That was misguided, but that’s OK. I ended up in the art department, with a concentration in photography, on the eve of the digital revolution. One major I never  considered was computer science. Looking back, my reasons were pretty stupid.

I thought I knew exactly who should major in computer science. I had a few classmates who knew all about computers. And most, though not all, were guys. They were friendly and often helped us when computers behaved badly. Although I gave myself permission to learn everything else from scratch, (I’d never taken photography before), I thought I already had to understand computers to learn about them.

Back in 6th grade I thoroughly enjoyed a class most kids hated: graphic arts. This class moved beyond Logo Writer (a brilliant program) to an ancient version of Adobe Illustrator. I noticed that my enthusiasm for this class set me apart. It was fascinating to discover how different brushes could create different looks. I was quite proud when I recreated a Degas painting in the computer. Since I grew up to work as a graphic artist and photographer, I sometimes wish I could find these files. Sadly, they’re lost in time. I noticed it was unusual to enjoy this class that combined art and technology.

Since college, I’ve worked as a professional photographer, taken courses in communications and earned a Master’s Degree in International Relations. But I’m not done. Living in St. Louis, I had the opportunity to join a group of people interested in learning programming. I finally figured out that loving video games, always having new ideas for apps and wanting to make the world better mean I should learn computer science. It’s relevant to all the fields I listed above.

And it’s been awesome. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. But everyone thinks it’s hard. I’ve almost stopped saying I’m bad at math, because it’s irrelevant. There is a little bit of conceptual math in programming, but it’s more like a language. It’s about problem-solving. And anyone interested in anything will find it beneficial. I think of computer programming as an extension of literacy because it connects people to ideas and tools. It’s a type of reading and writing that opens a world of possibilities for those who learn to participate.

Here are some free resources to get you started:

  • Turtle Academy: Turtle offers a great way to create amazing shapes using a simple programming syntax. Click on “Free Lessons” to get started. You can start creating shapes with no prior understanding of programming.
  • Code Academy: They offer a fully interactive learning environment. The instructions are easy to follow and you get to see your code in action as you learn. You can use your FaceBook account to create a free Code Academy account and start learning quickly. Code Academy offers full courses in HTML/CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Python, Ruby, PHP, and APIs.
  • cs50: This is not for the faint of heart – tackle this one with a group of dedicated students. If you’d like to do a little exploring and access some of the free resources first, consider clicking the “Live” or “Seminars” links in the left navigation bar.
  • An amazing combination of original and currated learning content. They even offer a section called unplugged, where students can learn computer concepts without the need for a computer or internet connection.
  • techli: Techli delivers innovation news and in-depth editorial on the technology, businesses and ideas that are changing the way we live, work, and play. They have a great selection of written and video content on everything from what’s happening in the startup community to internet culture.

Photo by Nirat Sthapit