Learning How To Speak Code

By: Kaitlin Traynor

So, here we are. On the internet. Magical, isn’t it? An endless freefall of humanity and cats. More so cats. Much like our feline cyber lords, I’m curious by nature and wanted to know more about the nuts and bolts that go into this pseudo-ethereal realm we spend huge wads of time in.

(As an aside, this post features Ladies Learning Code, but surely Cats That Code exists? That progression just seems natural.)

A classroom in action at Ladies Learning Code.

A classroom in action at Ladies Learning Code.

Basically, coding is building things. Building stuff is cool and meaningful, amirite? Especially when it produces something useful which can be shared with others. Programming involves a lot of problem-solving and creative thinking. Skills that are relevant and applicable to everyday life, whether it be for your professional development or that incredibly specific hobby you’re into. Since we use it every day, it seems like a few basic programming pointers would be useful for many of us. That means all of the real life humans. Not cartoon hackers or brogrammer stereotypes.

Ladies Learning Code offers low-pressure forays into coding frontiers. As a not-for-profit organization, they give anyone the chance to learn more about programming. LLC has chapters across the country, but Toronto’s workshops happen at the Centre for Social Innovation. All the fresh-born coding babies are welcome. If you can send an email, you qualify. (If you cannot, how’d you get here weirdo?)

I attended a workshop called Intro to HTML & CSS event on October 9th. The room was full and the laptops were open. Our instructor told us that by the end of the day, we’d have built our first website. As she took us through the lesson, a string of mentors circulated to lend a hand. When I paused to survey the room, I noticed how it seemed like every participant was excited to be there. That energy and engagement continued throughout the day.

Do not be afraid.

Do not be afraid.

When the workshop was over, I’d written a markup document and successfully built my own website. It was simple but it included sliding images and content and I was the one who made it. The direct result of what I’d learned was now a tangible thing and doing that didn’t even feel like work. The whole experience was enormously positive and I left wanting to try it again. I don’t know what I expected, but was surprised that writing code didn’t feel technical or robotic. Like any language, HTML and CSS are a form of expression.

Formal education starts with reading and writing. (Unless you have a raised by wolves in the wilderness back-story, in which case let’s hear it.)

We don’t learn to write in order to become professional writers, just as we don’t learn math to be career mathematicians. This is just the baseline stuff we need to functionally navigate society. Technical skills are an emerging form of literacy. Ladies Learning Code’s workshops send the message that anyone’s capable of taking part.

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