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Coding Club Aims to Fill in Curriculum Gaps

Bates Coding Club – which stands today at only two months old – was born out of necessity. The club, which appeals to programmers and non-programmers alike through weekly all-level coding sessions, aims to provide Bates students a survey-level knowledge of coding that, its co-presidents Kenza Nadifi ‘21 and Sam Goldstein-McGowan ‘21 argue, is not provided in the current Digital and Computational Studies (DCS) program.
“Coding Club,” started
Goldstei-McGowan, “is a place for people to either begin learning how to code or to hone their skills. We also offer support for all DCS classes and other courses that involve coding.”
For Goldstein-McGowan, starting Coding Club was a means of providing a low-stakes outlet for mastering digital skills. “I wanted to create an inclusive environment for people of any skill level to show up and be able to code. I feel that some people see coding as something that is really difficult to learn. But it’s not! I want to foster an environment where people can learn coding at their own pace, with no fear of getting a bad grade in a DCS class.”
Nadifi gained interest in the club out of her own desire to learn a fundamental computer science skill she felt was neglected by the curriculum: coding. While she maintains faculty put forth an enormous effort to relay information to students; the classes, she says, seemed more geared toward themes of the humanities rather than mastering the finer technical points of coding. “I have taken three years of DCS classes and actively did not know how to code. And I was like, I guess I have to teach myself… I’m gonna start a club so that I can teach myself and so other people can teach themselves and we can all learn together. So it was very much out of necessity, I felt.”
Goldstein McGowan, an experienced coder, echoed these sentiments, remarking that “I have had a fairly good experience with the DCS program, however, I have felt that some of my classes did not focus enough on the coding aspect of the course. This made these articles feel more like a sociology course with a coding component than a real coding class.”
Nadifi herself has a more unconventional background when it comes to programming. “I’m a politics major, and I’m not a math person at all. I just think coding’s really fascinating, and I don’t necessarily want to [code] as a career, but I think it’s a skill at this point that like, people to need to know. Also, I want to know what the computers are up to. I don’t understand them – I want to know what they’re up to!”
The necessity of developing a coding club, however, was not born simply out of a desire to expand the breadth of skills developed by the school’s curriculum. It is necessary also, Goldstein-McGowan says, because many companies see a base level knowledge of programming as an expectation for employment.
“Coding is important because it is involved with almost every field at this point. My sister, who was a sociology major and works at a company that doesn’t do programming at all, had recently asked me to help her learn how to code because it was desired even at her job.
As technology advances and becomes even more involved in our daily lives than it already does, programming will be even more important for getting a job.”
The establishment Coding Club on campus also serves the important social purpose of promoting inclusion into the field of groups who have traditionally been left out, like women.
“[Coding] is obviously a male dominated field. But I think that’s also a major opportunity, because they’re looking for women who code now. And it’s definitely a major challenge, but at the same time, there’s a need there and an urgency to have more women… A lot of the people that show up for the club are women… In the coming years it’s going to be very fascinating to see how the field changes, because there are so many girls I know that are so motivated to learn how to code.”
Goldstein-McGowan urgess students who desire coding to relinquish any preconceived notions about the skill. “I think the hardest thing about learning how to code is starting it in the first place. To a lot of people, programming seems like a foreign concept that only some people can do… I would just advise people to give it a try and take it slow. No one learns a language in a day, it’s usually a long precess that naturally happens over time.”