Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Programming Language from MIT

MIT has been testing a new programming language designed at enticing the younger crowd into coding. My programming experience started when I was in elementary school with a book on BASIC my dad gave me in which I would "code" designs that would eventually print out something resembling an American flag, a house, or a dog.

In Nancy Leveson's class on programming language, we often discussed how there was very few differences among the languages, whether they be procedural, object-oriented, or a loosely-classified "other." However, in this case, it's not so much the language as the perception of it.

There are still way too few female programmers. I remember my first week of freshman year at Dartmouth, walking into a large theatre-style-seating lecture hall to take a placement exam for computer science. Most of the seats in the hall were filled. I was the only female.

Since then, I've often considered why girls don't go into programming. I think there are a variety of reasons for it. Perhaps two of the largest are the nerdy stigma that goes with it and that lack of a social quality. Face it; despite how many meetings or collaborations we might have, developers still sit in front of a computer most of the day (except for those doing the XP-team-programming thing).

I loved that this article pointed to the collaborative element of this language, that students could laugh and share a joke. The picture at the top of the article showed two girls laughing while sitting in front of a machine. So, while the BASIC I learned on was simple like Scratch, it did not have the collaborative, "fun" element this new language seems to have. While I do not think that this language will be the panacea for the gender disparity in programming-type jobs, I do think that people on the Scratch project are thinking in the right direction.

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