I’m in the middle of developing a new Computer Programming for Journalists course for the spring semester. I want to put some of my thoughts on this out there so that people who are smarter than I am can prod it a little, point out the holes, make suggestions, etc.

This is an exposure course. No one will come out of it a fully-fledged programmer. Students will dive into various programming “pools” — and to various depths. The goal is to give students enough understanding of the possibilities to allow them to work effectively, as journalists, with programmers; understand the possibilities that coding brings to journalism; and have a strong enough grasp on some basics, so they can at least modify code. If, in the process, some of them discover that in their journalistic heart of hearts they’d rather write code, they’ll have a pretty good idea about what they have to do next.

Here are my thoughts so far.

The course would have three sections. In the first, students would build a basic portfolio site using HTML and CSS, and then layer in JQuery, using and modifying available script packages. In the second, we’d use HTML, CSS and JQuery (or other libraries) to build an iPhone web app. In the third, we’d move onto using programming for data visualization, using a variety of scripting languages and tools.

That’s barebones. It would be a mostly a doing class, but there’d be some minor lecturing on programming concepts, strengths of various scripting and programming languages, available tools and frameworks, etc.

It sounds a little ambitious but doable, I think.

So, smarter folk: What do you think? What’s missing? What’s not needed? What seems reasonable and what seems unreasonable? Any and all comments are welcome.

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