What Creative Coding can teach you beyond crafting visuals

Published by Tim on Friday November 17, 2023

Last modified on January 25th, 2024 at 14:06

Learning to code has had a bad reputation for ages. Many people have the impression that it’s all about acquiring purely technical skills. I experience this very often with my graphic design students: many of them see creative coding as a skill that primarily serves to create particularly interesting visual worlds. They look at Creative Coding as a style, a specific aesthetic. And this is absolutely fine, it can be a huge motivation in the beginning of the learning proecess. But on the other hand it completely underestimates the real value of learning to program.

It is often mentioned that Creative Coding is very suitable for learning Computational Thinking, a bundle of skills that is very valuable and helpful for work far beyond programming. I fully agree with that. However, I find the term Computational Thinking problematic, because it makes it sound as if we humans are learning to think like computers. But it’s the other way around: the way computers work has been designed by humans and from many perspectives the computer works just like the human thinking. So in a sense, we learn to recognize patterns in our own thinking rather than learning new ways of thinking.

Some time ago, I found a great book by Marina Umashi-Bers, a professor at Boston College, and it’s called “Beyond Coding – How children learn human values through programming”. For me it was an eye opener: Instead of focusing on the fact that children learn important ways of thinking while programming, she goes one step further and writes about how they even learn human values and virtues through coding. This is by no means far-fetched. MIT Press is one of the most renowned scientific publishers in the world.

Marina Umashi Bers lists 10 virtues that children learn through coding: curiosity, perseverance, patience, open-mindedness, optimism, honesty, fairness, generosity, gratitude, forgiveness. In the book, she discusses each of the virtues and backs them up with her experience and research findings. In her opinion, learning to code can teach children important soft skills they need to become reflected future citizens. In the book, the author explains in detail how this works for each of the virtues listed.

The point I want to make here is this: I find it amazing how much value we can get out of learning to code. Creative coding is perceived by many creatives as a certain aesthetic or style. But it is much more than that. Programming offers us a huge spectrum of valuable things that go far beyond beautiful graphics and visuals.



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