I was given a great book for Christmas called ‘Program Or Be Programmed’ by Douglas Rushkoff. It turned out to be one of those books you can’t put down and then feel the need to go back to again and again. In it he gives us ten commands for the digital age. Ten commands that I feel most of us will ignore, but will do so at our peril. In the book’s introduction he says,
… as we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them. In the emerging, highly programmed landscape ahead, you will either create the software or you will be the software. It’s really that simple: Program, or be programmed.
He goes on to suggest that the very technology that we are coming to rely upon more and more is shaping our world and is doing so without our explicit cooperation.
… as such technologies come to characterise the future of the way we live and work, the people programming them take an increasingly important role in shaping our world and how it works.
We are bombarded with software and apps designed to make life easier for us, to lessen our stress levels. One of the ten commands that Douglas Rushkoff speaks of is ‘Time’ and he says we should learn not to ‘always be on’.
Instead of becoming empowered and aware, we become frazzled and exhausted. We have no time to make considered responses, feeling instead obligated to reply to every incoming message on impulse. We reduce the length and complexity of our responses from paragraphs to sentences to txts, making almost everything we transmit sound like orders barked over a walkie-talkie in a war zone. Everything must happen right way, or better, now. There is no later.
In our schools we need to think not only about the ever-growing need to make better use of the technology that is now available but also how we use it. At present we teach children how to use software and apps in the belief that this will equip them for the modern workplace.
Instead of teaching programming, most schools with computer literacy curriculums teach program. When a kid is taught a piece of software as a subject, she’ll tend to think of it like any other thing she has to learn. Success means learning how to behave in the way the program needs her to.
How do we create more programmers in our schools?