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How Do We Get The Necessary Self Efficacy To Code

original image from uaeincrediable
original image from Capture Queen http://flickr.com/photos/uaeincredible/

For all the talk of read/write culture and how digital media has blurred the lines between producer and consumer, (or even prosumer if you like making up words) there is much less conversation about learning to write code. In my experience these conversations happen, almost exclusively, about tools that use graphical interfaces and wysiwyg editors for content creation. I think Marc Prensky is right in suggesting that programing itself is a new literacy, or even better yet I would suggest it’s really a deeper conception of digital literacy. In calling something a literacy were making it a fundamental, and I think the database driven programmatic nature of new media requires that folks start to take a proactive approach to making programing a part of our general education approach.

Before we can even really talk about that goal however there is something I think we need to figure out first. Many people don’t think they have it in them to work with code. I have seen people who are masters at manipulating things in complicated programs with graphical interfaces. Folks that can do amazing things in Final Cut, people who have no trouble troubleshooting issues that arise with their operating systems, but who power down when anything from HTML to C++ is mentioned. I frequently hear, “I can’t do that”, “I’m not a coder” or similar statements rooted in idenity, afinity and self-efficacy.

It is important to note that I say this, not as a confident coder but as someone who has gotten over his own fears about working through hunks of code. The things I have done, editing and tweaking Omeka and WordPress themes, hacking CSL‘s to get customized export from Zotero making a minor fix to one of Zotero’s translators, all required no training in JavaScript, or XML. Once I was comfortable with skipping chunks of stuff I did not understand I was generally able to get these things to do what I wanted to do. In these cases at least, the biggest barrier was my own lack of self efficacy with the idea of doing things with code.

There are a lot of great ways learn to code. (For a good list check out Karin Dalziel’s post, its directed at librarians but there are some great resources there.) However, I have not seen much work focusing on how we can get people over the paralysis that comes from the belief that it writing code is outside their grasp. To really break down these barriers, and get more folks to a deeper level of digital literacy, I think we need to know more about where that fear comes from and start developing stratigies for overcomming it.