42

Coding is like writing a recipe for the computer to follow so that it solves your problem. The computer "reads" each step, and follows it, eventually reaching a solution. Some programs are better than others, just like some recipes are better than others - they are faster, they produce a better result, etc. Programmers aren't really the cooks, though - the ...


15

The best way to explain coding to someone is very dependent on their background. You really need to tailor the story to fit what they understand. That being said, they're parents so... Coding is a way to give instructions to the computer, telling it what to do. Think about the instructions you leave for a babysitter. They tell the babysitter exactly ...


10

I regularly have to explain what computer science is to parents, and I have lately settled into this explanation: Technology keeps changing all the time. You get used to the menus in Microsoft Word, and then they change it to the Ribbon. You learn to program buttons in Java using Applets, and then Applets get removed from every major browser as a security ...


10

I tend to describe code as a contract. Most people know that if you read a contract, it's not in English - it's in "legalese". Legalese is a language that looks mostly like English, but it's full of odd phrases and very specific wording, and the punctuation is different. Contracts are written this way because each phrase has been interpreted by a court to ...


8

Going with real-world things which they should be familiar with are best, even if it is completely outside of education. As you have applied the tag for adult education, I'm going to presume it is outside of normal university/college courses. A bit of creativity and looking around can develop many an idea as long as you get outside the box. The cafeteria ...


6

My explanation would be: The computer isn't some machine that can do a lot of intelligent things. Rather it is very dumb, but can execute instructions carefully, very fast and without getting bored. For instance: given the task of adding up all numbers from 1 to 1 million, a human probably wouldn't make it past 100 without making some mistake and getting ...


6

I'll attempt a self-answer here, based on hindsight and a few previous experiences where I went in knowing I wanted to do this. I've found that starting off with an analogy helps a lot of the time. Friends and co-workers have reported similar results in my super unscientific poll. The one we use is along the lines of Computer science has as much to do ...


5

I would explain it like this: In reality, you have to solve problems on your daily basis. It may be a time problem, like "how do I get these five tasks done it just 1 hour?" or "how can I stack these boxes so that they all fit into the cupboard?". Computer science is in many ways equal to solving these problems, only that the problems are of a little more ...


4

Use a classroom activity, then present that as the analogy. An old campfire activity, for those that remember it. A growing story that nobody knows the end of, or even if it will end. The objective is to create a story, with everyone adding their parts, in turn. Someone starts the story by saying a few lines, and ending mid-sentence, just before some ...


4

I am not sure if I agree with the "monkey" part! Maybe everyone is capable of writing some code. Building serious apps is another thing... Anyway, show her the code.org website, and let her play around for a while. If she does not like, then probably she is not fitted for this "monkey thing" :)


4

Simple: you let one of the best science teachers of all time explain it to them for you. Here's a video of Richard Feynman introducing computers to a non-technical audience at some new-age retreat back in the 80s. Starts by explaining how computers work from the inside out, and goes on into heuristics and AI, all in his signature style of great analogies (...


4

Dealing with (my) parents who are not particularly aware of computers or the difference between a server and a database, I believe I have a fairly simple answer for this question. Computer science is the theory and study of how computers work, algorithms (in layman's terms, a process to solve a problem), and how to think like a computer in order to ...


4

"What is coding ?" A set of instructions written in human readable language (at least to developers) that is executed to perform a task or goal. "what a programming language is" High level: Just like any language that exists in the world today, it has it's own alphabet, syntax and grammar that is for communication. Technical: First off I just want to ...


4

Well, I would personally suggest you to show them the first lecture of Harvard CS50 class and believe me they will not leave it without completing all of them. It is one of the best structured course for any student (well in this case you can call your parents as students :p) irrespective of the background of the person. They have an interactive ...


4

The literary arts are full of structured strings. The main problem there is finding ones which have sufficiently interesting structure. E.g. play ::= act+ act ::= scene+ scene ::= (stage-direction | line)+ stage-direction ::= "Enter" actor+ | "Exit" actor+ ... Gypsy Spellweaver helpfully points out that this can be elaborated to incorporate even more ...


4

Mathematical expressions or natural language are good candidates for these. e.g. from http://matt.might.net/articles/grammars-bnf-ebnf/ <expr> ::= <term> "+" <expr> | <term> <term> ::= <factor> "*" <term> | <factor> <factor> ::= "(" <expr> ")" | <const> ...


3

In addition to the excellent definitions already provided, consider taking a slightly different approach or at least augmenting it a bit. This comes back to good pedagogy: I wouldn't give students definitions without context. Moreover, I would support whatever concept I want to get across, no matter how broad or narrow, with specific examples and ...


3

I think I would explain it like this: What is a programming language? I'd say, it is a set of instructions1 (a "language", the words are the operators, sentences are expressions and so on) to tell a computer what it should do. There are instructions to do basic arithmetic or calculations, instructions you can use to interact with the user, and ...


3

I've been a professional Software Developer for about 30 years, and a hobby programmer before that going back to the 70's. So I've been asked this a lot, and have had time to try lots of approraches. The main issue is that you are talking a different universe than most everyone else's experience. In a social situation, you have one or two sentences before ...


3

Computer science is a discipline of problem solving. I use this phrase from CS50 often (mainly because I teach an adaption of it): inputs -> algorithms -> outputs From the official CS50 notes from last year's Week 0 lecture, the following three bullets explain what this phrase means: At the end of the day, computer science is about problem ...


2

A programmer writes the instructions for a computer to do its job. A program is a set of instructions for it to follow to accomplish or aid in performing a task. Sometimes the instructions can be rather abstract things like skipping certain instructions or doing others over and over. The programmer assembles instructions into smaller groups that accomplish a ...


2

First, try setting up some sort of "coding hangout time" - you and her can practice coding together. You can help her when she gets stuck, and encourage her. It's always good to have a buddy in what you're doing =) Second, start with the right things. Try a little visual programming first, using hour of code programs, or a language like Python, which will ...


2

What do you like about programming? Think of something you saw/did when you were starting out that inspired you. I remember during my undergrad when one of my professors all of a sudden one day wrote a program that output itself. I was blown away! Why didn't I think of that? What could I do with that? That was it for me! If your friend is like you, she might ...


2

I don't know if this will help you, but I often find myself in the position of explaining the difference between CS and IT to students / prospective students / parents, and I use the experience of being a one-time emergency medical technician to help. I compare the difference between CS and IT to the difference between medical doctors and EMTs. As an EMT, ...


2

Well, I know that starting out it is encouraging to do something simple that still has use. I would recommend trying to set your friend up with an easy to read language like vb.net and helping them through some simple programs that can show them the uses of programming (a personal favorite is an interest calculator with textboxes to put in the principal ...


2

I want to focus on this part of your question: What tools are there to show her it is much easier than it looks at a glance? It reminded me of this blog post from Scott Hanselman: "Stop saying learning to code is easy." The entire post is relevant for this topic, but I'll just excerpt this paragraph: When we tell folks - kids or otherwise - that ...


2

Let me try to give a more interesting example, that can't be expressed as a set of simple regular expressions. BNF, properly speaking, is about the structure of a thing, such as a language. As such, the parts have relationships to one another. So, in computer languages "if" and "while" are tokens (word symbols, keywords), and tokens can be defined by regular ...


1

What are your friend's major worries about coding? If it's just the difficulty, I would maybe show her something drag-and-drop such as App Inventor. While an actual career in the field would most likely involve programming using code instead of blocks, I think showing her what she can build using a block-based language could help her realize how approachable ...


1

It is like a set of legal precedents, where each one refers to previous ones, and adds a bit. To understand the latest one, you must walk the chain, and try to work out what is now true. Old precedents can not be edited, but new ones can supersede (by saying it is like the old one except that …). Precedents are created in local courts, there is no need ...


1

I agree with your first part. A trained monkey can code Show this to her and say If a monkey can write code, then why can't you. Some encouraging things you should tell World's first programmer was a lady, Ada Lovelace The previous CEO of Yahoo was a lady, Marissa Mayer So, A Girl can be a good programmer. Regarding to Smartness There is a great ...


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