Learning stuff: drupal, raspberry pi, scratch, makeymakey

Last week I had the opportunity to take two amazing and very different workshops.

The first was Drupal in a day, which has inspired me to start a new project that I’ve been thinking about for a while (stay tuned for updates).  Drupal is one of those things that I hear everyone talking about but seemed overwhelming to delve into on my own. But once you know where to start, it’s an easy-to-learn tool, especially if you’ve used something like WordPress. It seems endlessly customizable, with an active community who contributes their own modules and themes. So now I just have to figure out what I want to do with it and try it out.

The second workshop was with Raspberry Pi (the famous $40 computer) and Makey Makey controller hardware. After booting up the Pi and learning the basics of Makey Makey connections (which was really fun and easy) we got to play around with Scratch to do some basic programming type stuff and pull it all together.

I had just read this article from Fast Company a couple weeks ago, and the message it conveys completely irked me. While I don’t think everyone should learn to code with the intention of becoming a hardcore developer, I completely disagree with the premise that people should avoid coding altogether and spend their time on other pursuits. I think it’s a problem that the general public is so far removed from the processes which create the technology of our lives.  Taking both of these workshops has just reinforced my belief that people should learn about the tools and building blocks of their world (and let’s face it, our world is increasingly centred around, if not entirely engrossed by computers, apps, interfaces, and other things that run on code).  I see this as a kind of technological literacy, and isn’t literacy the foundation of making informed choices, and of democracy?  To say that a career in coding isn’t for everyone therefore don’t bother learning the basics of coding is analogous to saying that a career in law isn’t for everyone so don’t bother learning the basics of, say, copyright or the DMCA. For me, learning or teaching these things as specializations for experts only is missing the point entirely. 

tl;dr coding and hardware workshops are fun, I should go to more, and so should everyone else.