A while back, I went on a little rant about how CS students don’t learn how to read and critique code, and that because of this, they’re missing out on a huge opportunity for learning. They’re not exercising their abilities to comprehend other people’s code.
But let’s step back for a second. Forget code for a minute, and let’s just think about reading in general.
The take home message: reading is not a skill that can be sharpened in a vacuum. One of the keys to increasing reading comprehension is to increase the variety of reading material to practice with. This will help build the foundation needed to understand more sophisticated material.
Actually, this really doesn’t come as a surprise to me. In the Drama department, before diving into a new script, we are encouraged to briefly study the time period (slang, accents, and turns of phrase in particular) and the subject matter of the play. This builds a foundation of context, so that the script makes some sense the first time it is read. And the first time a script is read is very important, because for me, it lays down many of the assumptions that I carry throughout my time working with the play. Every subsequent reading of that play builds off of the first reading.
So let’s direct this back to reading source code.
The idea of studying code as art is intruiging…maybe I’m not the only one who thinks of it like sculpture.