Education and Efficacy: Teaching Comp Sci to Designers

Once again, Kelcey has been tremendously helpful with psychology texts. I've been looking over some of the literature she gave me, and I've found some interesting new facts. One of the key factors in predicting whether students will continue with computer education is whether they feel they have the ability to control the computer. This ability may be pegged to experience, but there is no direct correlation between prior experience and willingness to continue learning about computers. Feelings of comfort in using computers (self-efficacy) are a much better predictor.

This leads me to think that the important part of teaching new students, or students coming from fields not related to computer science, is to give them immediate feelings of control over what the computer does--that this is far more important than having them be competent with computers. The more assured they are that they can overcome a technical obstacle they once thought to be impossible, relative to their ability, the more likely they will be to pursue this work in the future.

Okay, so, I just need to find a way to make this playful, and I'll have something set for my Design and Education class. My feeling is that, if I want to teach hacking to designers, I must provide them with easy challenges right up front and build up their sense of self-efficacy.

The real trick will be to find a way to do this in a class full of people who have different levels of programming ability. Maybe making the play state open enough so that advanced students can wander into more challenging assignments while novices can spend time mastering the simpler tasks. As long as both groups are satisfied and empowered, I'll have done my job of encouraging them to take more classes (and take more chances) in the future.

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