Reflection on the Python Workshop

I attended the Python workshop on Wednesday night. Although I have spent probably about 200 hours coding in the last 5 years, this was the first time since 2013 that I have received in-person instruction in a coding language. I had never reflected on how self-directed and self-taught my coding experience has been thus far, and I find that one of my biggest takeaways from the Python workshop is a sense of empowerment about my own ability to teach myself to use code. (Not “code,” but “use code,” probably a similar distinction to Micki’s “I am a hacker, not a coder.”) I’d say I was already comfortable with about 90% of the material covered, but dang, has that 10% filled my brain for the last 28 hours.

I was first exposed to coding in my first year of college, when I took a course called “Data Driven Societies” to fulfill a math requirement. We learned Excel and some basic R to perform statistical analysis and make charts in ggplot2. Since then, I have learned R on and off exclusively through applied projects: an independent study (with a non-coding History professor), a summer internship (for a non-coding boss), an honors project (with a non-coding English professor), and a couple personal projects. It’s not until right now that I recognize that 1. I have done a lot on my own and am proud to feel the results of that work, and 2. It feels SO good to learn from a real person and to know that the troubleshooting sessions in my near future can involve more than just me searching in Stack Exchange. I am excited to reach out, and to embrace this physical, interpersonal aspect of coding that I haven’t connected with in years. Hooray for analog help on digital questions!

On that note, everyone in the workshop was given a pink and a green post-it to signal “I’ve completed the latest task” or “wait, I need help.” This not only gave an easy, non-verbal way to ask for help or more time, but also made it physically clear that each and every person in the workshop had the right and the means to do so. I like that this expectation was set so concretely, and think it helped make for a workshop with a pace and style that would feel accessible even to someone who considers themselves an absolute beginner. 

Re: Shani’s allusion to my analog solution — Rafa wanted to use the blackboard behind the projector screen, but without turning off the projector there was no apparent way to turn off/down the projected image. So I got up and put my pink post-it over the projector lens, and cut the image off at the analog level, rather than the digital. Which, along with the unexpected joy of being taught Python in a human voice, has now gotten me thinking about how I love analog and digital best when they work together. I love reading about coding projects on printed pages, and also experiencing those projects online. And I love iterating between the two myself: my hand and my consciousness feel resonant when I underline and annotate with a pen, and then again when I turn my fingers to my keyboard to compose new thoughts on a screen. I learn best when I have both. I’m very grateful for this workshop’s simple but profound reminder that and code help, along with code, comes from humans, and it takes only a little bit of effort for me to get myself into the same room as those humans and talk in more than ones and zeros.