I’ll be gathering tweets and posting updates from the Poynter programming for journalists/journalism for programming seminar (see previous post) in this CoverItLive blog.
Next week — Aug. 25-27, to be exact — I’ll return to my native Florida for a great opportunity at the Poynter Institute: a seminar that aims to teach journalists about programming and programmers about journalism. From the description:
Journalists will learn the programmer’s mindset, and programmers will learn how to see the world through a journalist’s eyes. Programmers will teach journalists how to turn data into usable information — and share great examples of efforts that worked.
From the seminar page (with some links changed), the instructors include:
- Regina McCombs, Visual Journalism Faculty, Poynter
- Aron Pilhofer, Editor, Interactive News Technologies at The New York Times
- Matt Waite, Senior News Technologist, St. Petersburg Times/tampabay.com and PolitiFact
- Jeremy Bowers, News Technologist, St. Petersburg Times/tampabay.com
- David Stanton, Technology Fellow, Poynter
- Steve Myers, Managing Editor, Poynter Online
I know/have met in-person all of them — except Jeremy, who I look forward to meeting for the first time — and know that this will be an awesome seminar. Also, thanks to a handy Twitter search for “Poynter seminar,” I’ve seen a few tweets from others will who be attending. I look forward to meeting all of them soon.
Finally, a big thanks to Poynter for awarding me a partial scholarship for the seminar, made possible by the Ford Foundation. And thanks to Regina, Steve and Dave for answering my questions about the seminar.
UPDATE: The hashtag will be #journprog.
…programming should be used as a means to introduce kids to ways of thinking and problem solving that will be useful to them in many different spheres of human endeavor. If in the process they get hooked to computer science and end up in careers involving programming, that would not be a very shabby outcome, either!
Shuchi Grover said this in a post about Computational Thinking, Programming…and the Google App Inventor on SmartBean (read other highlights).
I sat down Sunday morning to read that piece (which I found through my handy Google alert for “computational thinking”) and it reminded me of something I’d almost completely forgotten about:
In summer 2000 — before eighth grade — I attended IMACS (no relation to Apple) for a few weeks. IMACS, short for the Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science, offered STEM-related activities in a day-camp format for different age groups.
My faint memories from IMACS include programming some rudimentary commands to control a robot, working with simple electronic circuitry to illuminate small light bulbs and completing various logic/reasoning questions.
So why did I, as 13-year-old who was mainly interested in writing, do this? Honestly, I don’t remember exactly beyond these two basic reasons:
- My good friend Chris was going to attend
- I’d had some technical inclinations since elementary school
You see, Chris and I had been aftercare aids at Country Isles. Yes, we sometimes clutched clipboards and walkie-talkies as we deposited toys in classrooms. But we also assisted with tech and AV — even Winterfest in 1997 (I will never forget what it’s like to be a 10-year-old running cables and duct-taping down wires for a school-wide singing show. Oh, and what ever happened to MiniDiscs?).
Earlier in elementary school when people would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would say, “A scientist and inventor.” Surely, even a few years after such a notion, that too factored into my decision to attend IMACS.
My larger point in recapping all this history is that earlier interests, such as from childhood, can stick with us as we grow up and it’s never too late to start appreciating other areas.
Honestly, math was my least favorite subject in high school. I used to think journalists and math didn’t mix. I was young(er) and wrong. In the year or so since I graduated college, I wish I had done at least one stats class (in addition to psychology, but that’s for another post).
So why am I now fascinated by computational thinking and programming? My passion for journalism and how the fields relate, sure. But it’s also clear that my earlier interest and experiences, even one as limited as IMACS, play some role. (I also always have to credit Daniel Bachhuber specifically on the computational thinking front because he shared the first things I read/listened to on that topic.)
All of this is not to say you can’t develop a tech inclination later in life. You certainly can. What I am saying is how it’s helpful to evaluate what and who might have influenced you — and what comes of that.
Case in point, yesterday I talked my sister through setting up a blog on WordPress.com. I didn’t succeed earlier in the summer in getting her to host her own cooking blog, but in June she did buy her domain. What changed yesterday? I don’t know. We were just video IM chatting and it happened. Michelle, a rising college sophomore interested in finance and business (she digs math), is now set up to be a creator — not just a consumer.
Even if she never sets up her own hosted blog, never touches a line of code or never goes any further, it has — thus far — certainly been worth my brotherly nudging. And, to borrow from Grover, it wouldn’t be too shabby if she did.
What were some of your most noteworthy technical influences? Where did those influences lead?
Correction: The opening quote, originally attributed to Charles Profitt, has been updated to reflect the actual source — Shuchi Grover.
Hacks/Hackers: How should we structure an online curriculum for journalists and technologists to learn together?
Howdy, I’m sharing this link/excerpt as I test the “Press This” WordPress tool, which I might start using to share interesting things a la Tumblr. On that note, check out my Tumblr, Greg Linch’s Commonplace Book. Also, check out my answer to the question below.
To make this work, we need feedback from both journalists and programmers on the questions:
- What topics should be covered?
- Would you be interested in helping to teach a topic?
As someone who started out as a primarily “print” reporter, my mindset — and, more specifically, my thinking — as a journalist continues to evolve after nearly eight years in the field, starting as a high school sophomore.
That made me wonder on Twitter:
How would you characterize the relationship between mindset and thinking? Which one is derivative from the other?
More specifically, I’d say that I’ve long had an open mind(set) in the journalism realm. For at least a couple of years, I considered this one of the most important characteristics for a journalist — along with passion. I still think this is true.
Recently I’ve become fascinated with “computational thinking” (more on that later) and wonder if my mindset is informed by this “new” way of thinking or vice versa.
your mindset impacts thinking which impacts mindset which impacts thinking… etc for infinity
So why am I thinking about this now? Well, for one, I’ve proposed a session (with the same name of this post) for Saturday’s BarCamp NewsInnovation in Philadelphia: Rethinking our Thinking. The description:
Journalists often discuss the need for evolving skill sets. On a deeper level, we sometimes talk about mindsets. What I’m interested in currently is, “How can we reshape our thinking?”
That idea formed because I’ve been reading, watching and listening to a lot of insightful things lately, including material on computational thinking (first found via Daniel Bachhuber). For example, check out:
- Computational Thinking article by Jeannette Wing, which I first read months ago
- Jon Udell’s Interviews with Innovators podcast with Wing
- Computational Thinking for Everyone podcast with Joan Peckham
- Computational Thinking and Computing lecture by Wing, the which you can watch below or download as a video podcast [slides].
Finally, there is the Center for Computational Thinking at Carnegie Mellon, the university where Wing worked when she wrote the original article.
More recently I’ve stepped back and am looking at coding from a broader perspective. This coincides both with my role in helping to organize the first Hacks and Hackers event in DC as part of the May 4 ONA DC meetup at American University. Also related, is last week’s launch of the Hacks and Hackers forum, where I serve as a community moderator.
So, basically: Whereas before I was interested in teaching myself some coding languages to enhance my skill set, I’m currently focusing more on learning about the fundamentals of programming and computational thinking (with the practical skills on the side for now).
Is this an essential step in learning to code? No. Has it been and will continue to be helpful? Most definitely.
Also, I’m considering writing another post before BCNI Philly (and one after to synthesize the results of the “thinking” discussion). The pre-Philly post would be more focused on different types of thinking and why they’re important. UPDATE: Heres’s my follow-up post: Rethinking Our Thinking, part 2: Computational thinking and the new journalism mindset. Also, check out these notes and this mindmap from the session.
In preparation for that post and the session, I need your help.
As I asked in the Hacks and Hackers forum, what has most shaped your thinking? As a journalist — heck, as a person. Let me know in the comments.
For now, I leave you with some valuable selections of what I’ve been reading — I recommend reading them all:
- The Pragmatic Programmer Quick Reference Guide on Coding Horror
- New dual-degree master’s in journalism & computer science announced by Columbia (plus Wired magazine’s coverage and some reactions)
- The Journalist as Programmer: A Case Study of The New York Times Interactive News Technology Department by Cindy Royal
- Software Is Media by Fred Wilson
- The Zen of Python
- The Bias of Veteran Journalists by Lane Wallace