Everyone can program. Maybe not right at this instant. But everyone has the ability to learn to program. It’s really true. Some people disagree – mostly people who believe that they can’t program, it’s too hard.
But everyone really can program. Bear with me for a moment. I think I can convince you.
See this door?
It’s the door to the female toilet in a cafe in Parkville. I spent some time hanging out at this cafe once, when my kids were at a thing at the Zoo. They went in at 8:30 and I had to hang out until the zoo opened at 9:30, so naturally I sought out the nearest coffee. When I tried to go to the loo, I found this door.
How do you get in? The silver plate on the right suggests that you push, so I pushed. Nothing happened. I thought maybe somebody was in there, so I waited a bit, feeling a little foolish. No noises happened behind the door, so I tried pushing again. It didn’t give. I tried sliding the door. Nothing. I waited some more, smiling sheepishly at people walking by. Feeling increasingly foolish. The door was stuck just a teensy bit open, so I pushed at it harder. Really quite hard. Nothing.
Eventually I gave up, went back into the cafe, and asked them how the heck you get in. Turns out that little panel on the left is for a proximity sensor. There’s a key. Armed with the key, I waved it at the magic panel, and the door opened easily. I didn’t even know there was a key – there was no sign or any other indication – so I just felt stupid for not being able to operate a simple door.
Why am I telling you stories about toilet doors? (My students will tell you it’s something I do surprisingly often – it may just be that I have an unhealthy fascination with them…)
Because programming is the same. Without the key, it’s really hard to know how to open the door. But once you know the tricks, it’s suddenly simple.
Tell me, can you direct someone to your house? “Turn left here, turn right there, go straight until you reach that.”
It’s simply giving a clear set of instructions in terms your target audience can understand. The precise language of the instructions is important. You wouldn’t tell most people to head North North West in suburban streets. You’d tell them to go left or right. With someone who doesn’t know left and right, you might use “my side” and “your side”. Anyone can program. It’s simply a matter of having the keys. Of knowing the right instructions.
If you want to test the theory, check out the courses on code.org. Or check out Grok Learning, where you can learn to program as part of one of their competitions, or just by working through their beginner courses. They have tutors who can answer your questions online, to help you when you get stuck. Because everyone gets stuck sometimes, even experienced programmers. It’s important to be brave enough to ask for help.
Feel like you can’t program? You’re just like me, standing and staring at the toilet door, not knowing there’s a key. Once you know about the key, the rest is easy. So trust me. There are keys.