When I set out to apply for the Provost’s Digital Innovation Grant, it was with an eye to acquiring a skillset that would help with my future pedagogy. Philosophy professors are often tasked with teaching introductory logic courses to non-philosophy majors; with the tech sector’s seemingly endless appetite for new talent, many departments are angling those introductory courses towards a growing number of computer science students. With this in mind, I acquired funding from the PDIG to take a handful of computer programming courses through Codeacademy’s Pro subscription.
By learning the basic ins and outs of how programming languages worked – in this case, Python and HTML – I hoped to better understand how I could better accommodate computer science students in any future logic courses I may teach. Perhaps the most obvious example of this comes in Python’s use of conditionals in constructing loops: the “if, then” statements that are the backbone to much of Python’s basic functionality are also a core element of most introduction to logic courses. More than this, Python – as well as many other programming languages – relies on Boolean logic to function on the whole, and understanding how “and”, “or”, and “not” function as operators is also a fundamental aspect of introductory logic courses. (The role of logic is somewhat less integral to HTML and other style-focused languages, I discovered.) While this is not a shocking discovery on the whole, having a handle on howthe tools of logic work in Python means that I feel better prepared to make substantial reference to them in future introductory logic courses.
As for my experience of Codeacademy specifically, I found it to be a great platform for the layperson to get a handle on the ins and outs of programming. It provides introductory material that helps the uninitiated understand what the different languages do, and choose the one that suits their interests best. One of the features specific to the Pro subscription, intermittent full-length guided projects that allow users to build programs and webpages from scratch, was a particularly engaging and helpful element of the service. That being said, the work-when-you-will model it runs on may not be as well-suited to the life of a busy graduate student as a day long boot camp might be; though I treated it as a productive way to unwind from my academic work, I often found it slipping off my to-do list when my schedule grew cluttered. But for those of us who have a fledgling interest in programming and can diligently make the time for regular lessons, I would highly recommend giving it a go.