Tag: technology

Computer science — literacy for the 21st century

The moment a guy says, “I love reading books,” and then gives an example like, “Have you read the latest book by Junot Diaz?” I have to try to walk away and try calm my faster-beating heart. I have a similar reaction when any of the guys in my office have black screens of code open on two monitors.

Strange attractions and (sort of) jokes aside, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to require all public schools to offer computer science to all students. I admire the trend toward increasing emphasis on code as a fundamental literacy.  Whatever amateur coding skills I honed in the past are definitely obsolete by now, but my background has allowed me to at least understand code that other people have written. It’s been immensely helpful, not just in tech but in other areas of life (including writing!). On broadening the application of computer science:

But let’s back up a step: What if learning to code weren’t actually the most important thing? It turns out that rather than increasing the number of kids who can crank out thousands of lines of JavaScript, we first need to boost the number who understand what code can do. As the cities that have hosted Code for America teams will tell you, the greatest contribution the young programmers bring isn’t the software they write. It’s the way they think. It’s a principle called “computational thinking,” and knowing all of the Java syntax in the world won’t help if you can’t think of good ways to apply it.

Unfortunately, the way computer science is currently taught in high school tends to throw students into the programming deep end, reinforcing the notion that code is just for coders, not artists or doctors or librarians. But there is good news: Researchers have been experimenting with new ways of teaching computer science, with intriguing results. For one thing, they’ve seen that leading with computational thinking instead of code itself, and helping students imagine how being computer savvy could help them in any career, boosts the number of girls and kids of color taking—and sticking with—computer science. Upending our notions of what it means to interface with computers could help democratize the biggest engine of wealth since the Industrial Revolution.

— From “We Can Code It: Why Computer Literacy is Key To Winning The 21st Century” via MotherJones

It may not be requisite for everyone to deftly write enough code to become a lead developer, but I agree with the Mayor’s statement that “a computer science education is literacy for the 21st century.”

Be brave, little heart.

I received a phone call one night and gazed questioningly at the phone screen, which displayed a name I hadn’t seen or heard for at least a decade.

It turns out Alex was renouncing most forms of texting and email for a period of time, and reaching out to people he hadn’t connected with in a while. To hear their voices, and to have real conversations.

He explained that he had undergone heart surgery recently. Though some time has passed since the surgeries, some complications have resurfaced and he’s been visiting the hospital often since then. He once attempted to track his exercise for 100 days as part of his recovery. People wrote and responded with similar words over and over again via Facebook and text message. He received many “Oh you’re so brave, get well soon!” responses – which, while well-meaning, didn’t seem to offer enough avenues to really reconnect. He wanted to know where life was taking me, what I was up to, and for me to ask the same of him.

There are times when technology distances us rather than fulfilling its (arguable) original purpose – to create connection, whether in business or personal context. Jonathan Safran Foer’s essay in the New York Times is still one of my favorite reflections on this topic. I battle internally with this idea, because ever since computers appeared in our home I have been curious about and enamored by almost all aspects of technology. In my daily life, I strive to help myself and others understand how technology can serve as an enhancement to our relationships, rather than a hindrance.

Alex asked me my address later, and sent me a postcard from his travels.
I sat down in my chair, touched to have received a physical postcard. I marveled at the expression on the children’s faces. It brought back memories of learning sevillanas and the beginning movements of flamenco during the heat of summer when I lived in Granada. The enunciation of the music through our floral hand movements, the emotion in our faces.

The message written on the back admitted that he didn’t know if I still dance or not. But that if I do, he hopes I allow the dance to contain as much feeling as is shown here.

Foer writes:

I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts.

Alex’s heart, albeit physically strained and weary, still speaks loudly and lovingly through the ways he has touched me from across the continent. He still writes about facing death daily, and strives to make the most of each moment. He is an avid user of social media to talk about it all, and I admire the bridges he’s built between that and making old-fashioned contact with friends.

As our generation gets older, this reconciliation between two different worlds of connection and communication becomes more important to me. I am lucky enough to have time to tread sweetly on the final days of my second decade – taking this time offline to gather myself and reflect. One of my favorite people has reassured me that the next one will be the best of my life so far. Still, I purposefully stretch out the days under a different kind of sunlight. I move slowly, with a deliberate rhythm (tap tap tap, like the castanets) – and still the decade gets ever shorter. In watching or dancing flamenco you learn to release, to carry the audience and yourself through the rhythmic drumming that often mimics the heart. There was no part of us pent up, unexpressed, to be taken home to ferment.

We only get this one chance, we only get this one heart. “Be brave,” I encourage our little hearts. Don’t be so afraid to talk to someone, no matter the medium – like, really talk. Shed fear. Dance harder. Feel more, and speak now.

wrists and picnics

In case you never read app version update notes (I am tasked with writing them for our app so I try to make a habit of reading them), here’s a funny one from Trello sparked by the Apple Watch update. To preempt anyone with overdue-app-update-anxiety, the 23 updates were taken care of shortly after these screenshots were taken.


  
  P.S. – I had a chance to try on some of the different Apple Watch styles, and they were certainly more covetable than I had hoped. Well done, Apple. 

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In other news, to celebrate spring we’re having an amaro-fueled picnic affair on a Mexican blanket with some tunes on Sunday. Come join. We might procure phumplings. I promise to play Drake and Beyoncé

My friend made a watermelon invite. You can’t go wrong with this.