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Coding genius is no longer the exclusive domain of the IT crowd. Many creatives, educators, health professionals and entrepreneurs are discovering how computer coding skills can enrich their career.
If you’ve been wondering whether you should learn to code, Dr Elicia Lanham, Senior Lecturer in Information Technology, and Associate Professor Andrew Cain, Associate Head of School (Curriculum), both believe the answer is a resounding yes. ‘The problem solving and analysis skills that you develop through coding have become sought after skills from industries outside of the STEM professions,’ Dr Lanham says. ‘Coding is a great skill to have as it allows you to practice problem-solving and creative thinking.’
Assoc. Prof. Cain and Dr Lanham says it’s not just university students that are learning how vital these skills are. ‘The new government digital technologies curriculum highlights that children will now be exposed to programming and coding as part of their primary and secondary education,’ Dr Lanham explains. ‘I think the government’s support of digital technologies and associated skills is evident through the digital technologies curriculum that is currently being implemented within primary and secondary education.’
In line with this, one of the biggest changes Assoc. Prof. Cain and Dr Lanham have witnessed in regards to coding is the idea of who can or does program. ‘With the increased level of supportive resources available we have seen the level of access to coding and programming increase,’ Dr Lanham says. This includes digital toys such as Lego Mindstorms, Sphero, JimU Robots, which have interactive features but also extension tasks which require you to code the toy. ‘This exposure to coding will only increase as we move forward into the future,’ Dr Lanham says.
One of indirect benefits of coding proficiency is that it promotes a type of logical thinking that can be broadly applicable to all type of problems. ‘Even if students don’t pursue a career in coding, the skill development and thought processes that they develop through learning coding are skills they can take with them into any future career,’ Dr Lanham says.
With our increasing reliance on technology, coding skills are also being utilised more and more in everyday life. Having some grasp of coding allows you to integrate different technologies into your life (i.e. using your mobile phone to program your washing machine and robot vacuum cleaner to get started on the chores while you’re at work).
'Coding is a great skill to have as it allows you to practice problem-solving and creative thinking.'
Dr Elicia Lanham,
School of Information Technology, Deakin University
If you’re wondering what type of coding to learn you have a number of options. ‘There are many different programming languages in use today,’ Dr Lanham says. ‘Some of the more common ones which have broad application include Scratch, Python, Ruby, Java, C++, and Swift.’
According to Assoc. Prof. Cain and Dr Lanham the first coding skills you learn are just a starting point upon which you build. ‘These languages change and evolve over time given the technological advances,’ Dr Lanham explains. ‘Having a solid understanding of the fundamentals means you can apply your current knowledge and then extend this through the learning of new languages and practices.’
The best way to learn coding is through practice. ‘Start by building something simple and getting a good grasp of the fundamentals,’ Dr Lanham says. ‘Then increase to more complex tasks.’
Recognising your own learning style will help you to get started. ‘We all learn in different ways: some of us are more visual learners and some prefer books,’ Dr Lanham explains. ‘The great things about learning coding today is that there are many resources on the Internet to help and support you through your coding journey.’
If you’re tossing up between attending a coding camp or integrating coding into your university studies, Assoc. Prof. Cain and Dr Lanham believe it’s worth considering how deep into these studies you wish to go.
‘Coding camps are intense sessions which focus on developing your coding skills generally for a purpose or to create a desired outcome,’ Dr Lanham says. ‘Coding or programming within the university structure is focused on developing a strong understanding of the fundamentals, as well as gaining skills in industry practices and relevant tools.’
Even if you can’t see a direct use for coding in your career, if you have the interest it’s an area worth exploring. Assoc. Prof. Cain and Dr Lanham say that developing an understanding of coding can be an empowering way to create your own possibilities and outcomes.
Find out about other ways to increase your career options through digital literacy.
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