How to Code Like A Girl: An Interview with Author Miriam Peskowitz

Cover image of Code Like A Girl alongside avatar of author Miriam Peskowitz.

Author Miriam Peskowitz’s new book Code Like A Girl is a fresh take on learning to code, starting with Scratch, running through Python (via Trinket!), and ending with Raspberry Pi computers. Miriam first contacted us a few years ago about her project, and it’s been fun to get some glimpses behind the scenes as she’s worked to make her vision a reality.

She sat down with us on the day her book was released to discuss her approach to coding, her experiences with the coding education as a woman and a mother, what she wanted for the book, and her vision for what coding like a girl means. Our talk definitely left me inspired, and I hope it does the same for you!

Code Like A Girl is your 6th book.  How did you become an author?

So, I spent my 20s in graduate school, at Duke, and then put in a few more as a young professor at the University of Florida. By 34 I’d gotten tenure and had a baby and took a leave of absence. I realized I’d done the academic things I wanted to do, and that what I loved about the job was creating new things through writing. I decided to follow that instinct. I gave up tenure and got to work on my first post-academic book. I’m glad for those academic experiences; they made me fearless about exploring new ideas and fields, and using all the words you get to put into a book to bring them alive. 

This book in a sense builds on your Daring Books for Girls series.  What made you want to write this book now? 

Well, first, I saw my high school age daughter take coding classes. Semester 1 was 50/50 boys and girls. Semester 2 was 70/30 and by Semester 3 she was the only girl in the class and all the boys were getting together and sharing code. It has started well, but turned into the classic experience. Then, true story, I was called to the Obama White House for some meetings about girls, media, toys and tech, and I left that day thinking there was a book to be written, and that even though I knew nothing more than a little html at the time, I wanted to learn to code and write it. 

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Introducing Trinket Code+

Meet our Code+ plan, a new, low-cost plan designed specifically for learners. Here are some features to get excited about:

The Next Step in Our Mission

Trinket’s mission is to make the world’s easiest way to write, run, and share code in the classroom. Our free trinkets provide hundreds of thousands of users with tools for making code while they learn. Our premium Trinket Connect plan has proven popular with users around the world, offering enhanced collaboration, classroom management, and more powerful trinkets.  Now, our Code+ plan provides low-cost access to premium trinkets, designed for learners.

Write, Run, and Share Powerful Code

With the Code+ account you can write, run, and share your premium trinkets with anyone.  Create a new trinket and use the Share button to get a link you can send to anyone.  Or embed it on your website, just like a YouTube video.  Visitors to your website or shared link will be able to run your code, no installation required.

A Code+ account lets you Remix any premium trinket you find on the web.  This saves a copy of your changes to your account, and lets you work on your version of the trinket from wherever you found it.

In addition, Code+ account holders will be able to copy any of the premium trinkets in our interactive Trinket Books, Python for Everybody and Think Java.  This makes these free resources even more helpful.

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Creating Images with Java

Java is a powerful language that’s been popular in education for many years. Like all programming languages, it’s often helpful for learners to work with images. The visual feedback that images give can be more engaging and more intuitive than text alone. Yet, many instructors don’t know that you can use Java’s built-in libraries to easily make your own images!

In this quick post I’ll use the Java Trinket to create a simple image, a version of the Trinket logo. The code is based on an excellent example by Byron Kiourtzoglou over on Java Code Geeks.

In this example, we make both a png and a jpeg from the same Graphics2d object. Check it out:

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How to Make a 3D Astro Pi

I’m excited to finally be able to show off a special project we’ve been working on with our friends at the Raspberry Pi Foundation for the past few months: a 3D Astro Pi emulator!  Hundreds of thousands of students and teachers have used Trinket to run Python, Java, and HTML in their classrooms.  Now, thanks to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, anyone can code a virtual 3D Astro Pi with Python. Check it out:

The Sense Hat is a simple device that attaches to the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer and allows easy physical computing – writing programs that interact with the real world.

If you’re not familiar with the Astro Pi project, you’re in for a treat.  There are two Raspberry Pi computers (named Izzy and Ed) up on the International Space station and kids around the world submit code they’ve written for a chance to have it run in space!  Ed has a Raspberry Pi camera module attached to him, and Izzy has a Sense Hat attached, letting students and event he astronauts themselves write programs to monitor the environment on the station, measure gravitational fields, and display information via the color LEDs.  Learn more about Astro Pi here.

Here’s what Izzy, the Sense Hat Astro Pi looks like up in space with British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake:

Astronaut Tim Peake with the Sense HAT in orbit aboard the International Space Station
Astronaut Tim Peake with the Astro Pi Sense Hat aboard the International Space Station

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Aaron Titus on Computational Modeling in the Physics Classroom

Dr. Aaron Titus is Associate Professor of Physics and Chair at High Point University. He has been using and creating technology to teach Physics since the late 90s. I’ve been fortunate to know Aaron for many of those years, originally through our mutual work on WebAssign and now with Trinket and GlowScript. In this interview, Aaron talks about specific tools he uses in his classroom, how to get educators and students alike interested in using coding for Physics, and more. Enjoy and definitely check out some of his links!

You can find other interviews in our interview series here.

Aaron Titus
Aaron Titus in the classroom

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