Greater Clarks Hill Regional Library


Coding for Self Improvement

Sam Link
Jul 9, 2015

Computer literacy is essential in the modern world, whether for work or pleasure. Increasingly, everything from accounting to video rental requires being able to operate a computer in at least a basic way. However, the emphasis is on the computer as a tool – like a hammer or drill – something where you need to know how to use it, not how it necessarily works, or how to build one yourself.

However, unlike learning to forge your own hammer or build your own high-RPM electric motor, you can learn the basics of how a computer works. With the advent of languages like Python and Ruby on Rails, computer programming has become more accessible to people with limited computer skills. And, more importantly, learning how to write simple computer programs translates to practical everyday skills in very real ways.

  1. Computer programming helps with critical thinking.

However simple the problem, programming requires you to engage the solution and think about how you reach the endpoint for a very simple, and constant, reason – computers are dumb and do exactly what you tell them. They understand basic logic and if a statement is true or false. Accordingly, the programmer has to use precise logic, mathematics, and other operations so the computer performs its task accurately. When you learn to program, you learn to ask good questions, break down complex problems into smaller parts, and analytically consider the consequences of different courses of action.

  1. Computer programming helps with problem solving

Beyond solving the initial problem presented, computer programming provides the programmer with ample opportunity to solve other problems. Interesting problems. Problems you never knew could possibly exist. Because, going by the constant “computers are dumb and do exactly what you tell them”, you will have moments when the computer is doing exactly what you tell it, which happens to not be at all what you mean. This means researching the problem, learning about new ways of doing things, and often thinking outside the box as to how to do something.

  1. Computer programming skills improve basic computing skills

Many programs – especially office-related – have basic programmatic elements available to the user. As an example, most spreadsheet programs have the ability to say something like this:

If Column A’s total is more than Column B’s total, display Column A minus Column B in green. If Column A’s total is less than Column B’s total, display Column A minus Column B in red. If Column A’s total equals Column B’s total, display Column A minus Column B in yellow.

Learning to program allows one to make greater use of these features, performing more advanced operations using the simple commands.

If you’re interested in learning to code, there are multiple resources available in the Greater Clarks Hill Regional Library:

  • Beginner's guide to writing Minecraft plugins in JavaScript, Walter Higgins (Columbia County, 794.815 HIG)
  • Coding for Dummies, Nikhil Abraham (Columbia County, 006.74 ABR)
  • JAVA Foundations, Todd Greanier (Columbia County & Burke County, 005.133 GRE)
  • Beginning SWIFT Programming, Wei-Ming Lee (Columbia County, 005.25 LEE)

In addition to the books above, there are several programming courses available through Universal Class in SQL, Javascript, HTML, and CSS.

Good luck, and happy coding!

Sam Link
System Services Librarian
Greater Clarks Hill Regional Library