There’s been a lot of noise recently about coding. There are websites like codecademy.com where you can learn to code in seconds. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a ten-year deadline to offer computer science to all students.
These efforts are well-intentioned but are not enough. We must teach both coding and decoding skills.
Coding skills allow you to manifest an idea into digital reality. Decoding skills allow you to interpret the digital reality that surrounds you.
Here’s an example. When I was a high school English teacher I used to teach my students about a framework called “What does it say? What does it mean? Why does it matter?”
This is the front page to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign page:
What does it say? (On a literal level, what is the message?): Donald Trump is running for president. You can support him by joining his email list or donating to the campaign. He is pictured giving a peace sign and smiling. His main message is wanting to “Make America Great Again.”
What does it mean? (How can you interpret the objective observations you just made?): The slogan “Make America Great Again” suggests that America used to be great and isn’t anymore. Trump’s smile and peace sign pose is reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s:
Why does it matter? (What are the implications of your interpretations?): James MacGregor Burns said of Richard Nixon “How can one evaluate such an idiosyncratic president, so brilliant and so morally lacking?” Trump could arguably be described the same way.
Part of Trump’s success has been his status as an outsider candidate (one who has not held political office). Despite that, he wants to be seen as presidential. Alluding to Nixon’s famous pose can trigger the connection in voters between the former president and the presidential hopeful.
The ability to deconstruct media messages in this way will only become more necessary as they continue to become ubiquitous. My friends and I at The Learning about Multimedia Project (The LAMP) want to make sure this happens.
On Tuesday, October 20 from 7pm – 10pm at Lattitude Bar & Lounge we’re going to host a media-themed trivia night to benefit The LAMP. You can get tickets here.
Let’s work together to make sure kids have the decoding skills they need to match their coding skills.
– Omar Lopez, LAMP Executive Board Member
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