Discovering My Inner Techie

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 

Sharon Gutowski

Contributor at iGirl Tech News
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).