Chapter 6: 21st-century media and issues

6.14.1 Literacy in computer science (prospectus)

John Parker

English 102, February 2021

My final research essay will cover the ways in which the literary aspects of reading, writing, and communication are involved in the field of computer science. I chose to focus on computer science for two main reasons. Firstly, I am pursuing a degree in this field and have a love and passion for programming. Secondly, computer programming is becoming a massive filed as time passes, due to the national increase in automation throughout the workforce. This means that it is a topic that is very relevant, and that it is a topic that has an impact on more individuals than just computer programmers. The argument that I will be making throughout my essay is that computer programming is a “language,” meaning that it is its own unique form of literacy. The process that I will utilize to display the various ways in which literacy is involved in the field of computer science and to create a strong, cohesive argument involves three key steps. The first of which is analyzing the ways in which computer programming involves reading, writing, and communication. Using the evidence from the previous sections of my essay and further sourcing, I will then discuss how computer programming is its own unique form of literacy. Finally, I will use evidence from earlier sections of my essay and further research to show how literacy skills and programming ability benefit one another. This organizational structure can best be described as climatic, as I am building up the essay to reach the point of proposing a use of the research that I have composed.

In order to effectively compile and display all necessary and relevant research, I have proposed six research questions that I will answer throughout my final research essay. The first three questions are: “How is writing used within the field of computer science?,” “How is reading applicable to the field of computer science?,” and “How is communication involved in the field of computer science?” These three questions work together to analyze the ways in which the literacy aspects of reading, writing, and communication are involved in the field of computer science. The next question that I will answer is: “Is computer programming its own literacy in the same way that English is its own literacy?” This question will incorporate the evidence gathered from the first three research questions and use further research to show how programming can be considered its own language. This leads into the final question that I will be answering: “Do programming ability and literacy skills have benefit one another?” This question uses the research on how computer programming involved literacy, how computer programming can be described as a language of its own, and further research to depict how these findings can impact the ways in which computer science is taught academically.

Using these research questions as a guide, I was able to find an ample amount of research on my topic. I found that there were two common “categories” that research on the topic of literacy within the field computer science falls under. The first is research on how computer science involves one specific aspect of literacy, whether it be reading, writing, or communication. The second is research on the relation between literacy skills and ability to learn programming efficiently. Although most of the research on this topic does not analyze how computer programming is a literacy of its own, it does allow for me to piece together how reading, writing, and communication are used within the field to create a strong argument on the topic. I also found a few interesting articles that do not specifically focus on literacy at all, but that I can use to further examine the literacy involved in computer programming. The article that most directly falls under this category is: “Classifying Programming Languages.”

Through the extensive research that I have done, I have found which academic fields care about my topic. These include, but are not limited to, computer science, Literacy Studies, STEM fields, engineering, communication, education, information technology, psychology, and sociology. These academic fields all have varying levels of interest in my topic, as though most interested are the fields of computer science, literacy studies, and education. Although that is the case, all of these fields have an interest in this topic for their own unique purposes, meaning that the ways in which this topic is analyzed by researched is very wide. This implies that the research I obtain is inclusive and is not limiting to the angle of approach from which I can address my findings.

An outline of the layout that I plan to use for my final research essay is as follows:

I will open my essay with a sentence that hooks the reader in, most likely surrounding the idea that a traditional STEM field includes literacy. I will then give an overview of what programming is and explain the importance of programming in my own life. Explaining how programming is relevant in my life and important to me will capture the attention of the reader, as people enjoy to read something that is more personal and in narrative form. I would usually end the introduction with a thesis statement detailing the main points that I will address throughout my essay, but I am going to experiment with conveying my thesis throughout the essay.

After my introduction, I will address the ways in which writing is prevalent within the field of computer science and programming in general. I will use the sources, “Programming is Writing is Programming,” “if You Can Program, You Can Write: Learning Introductory Programming Across Literacy Levels,” and “Computer Programming as Literacy,” to support the idea that writing is involved in Computer Programming.

I will then address the ways in which reading is prevalent within the field of computer science and programming in general. The sources that I will use to back up the idea that reading is involved in computer programming are “Encoding Literacy in Computer Science” and “Reading skills can predict the programming performance of novices: an eye-tracking study.”

Next, I will discuss the ways in which communication is used and its importance within the field of computer science. The sources that I will use in this section include “Computer Code as a Medium for Human Communication: Are Programming Languages Improving?” and “Communication Skills for the 21st Century engineer.”

The next section of my essay will focus on how computer programming can be considered its own unique form of literacy. I will open up this paragraph by discussing my experiences with learning to program. My struggles did not come with the computational side of computing, but rather with the syntax and formatting side of coding. This will lead me into the use of my first source, “Classifying Programming Languages.” I will use this source to show how complex the world of programming is, with syntax and grammar of its own, and compare it to the grammar and structure used in human language. I will spend the rest of this section discussing findings on how programming can be considered a language of its own. I will do this through the usage of many academic sources and usage of my own personal experiences whenever most appropriate. The sources that I will use in this section include “Role and meaning of functional science, technological and engineering literacy in problem-based learning,” “Human Languages vs. Programming Languages,” and “Computer Programming as Literacy.”

The next and final section of my research essay will cover how literacy skills and programming ability benefit one another. I will open this section by discussing how my reading ability has helped me to adapt to programming more quickly than some of my peers who have struggled with reading in the past. I will continue this section by discussing various academic articles that focus on how literacy skills can improve ability to learn to program. These articles include “Computational Thinking and Literacy” and “Reading skills can predict the programming performance of novices: an eye-tracking study.” Using this information, I will discuss how these findings show that teaching programming to young people in ways that literacy is taught may be more effective than just the typical STEM approach. The academic articles that I will use to back this up include “Coding as another language: a pedagogical approach for teaching computer science in early childhood,” “Encoding Literacy in Computer Science,” “Computational Thinking and Literacy,” and “If You Can Program, You Can Write: Learning Introductory Programming Across Literacy Levels.”

I will conclude my research essay by discussing how literacy is involved in many STEM fields, contrary to popular belief. I will discuss the future of programming in general, placing a special emphasis on what the findings outlined in my essay mean for the future of programming education. The paragraph and essay will end with a concluding sentence that leads the reader to both becoming more interested in programming and to look for literacy in activities that may not commonly be thought of as involving literacy.




Annotated Bibliography

Bers, Marina Umaschi. “Coding as another language: a pedagogical approach for teaching  computer science in early childhood.” Journal of Computers in Education 6.4 (2019):  499-528.

This scholarly article discusses a new method of teaching computer science to young children starting in kindergarten. This new approach to teaching early childhood programming is called “Coding as Another Language.” This method of teaching coding deviates from the typical STEM approach, offering the proposition that computer science teaching can be enhanced by incorporating the design of literacy instruction, due to the parallels that exists between natural languages and programming languages. This article will be useful to me by enhancing my argument that programming has its own complex literacy through the exploration of the similarities between natural languages and programming languages.

Cencelj, Zvonka, et al. “Role and meaning of functional science, technological and engineering  literacy in problem-based learning.” Journal of Baltic Science Education 18.1 (2019):  132-146.

This academic article discusses functional literacy in STEM fields for problem-based learning. The article discusses the growing dilemma in the fields of STEM regarding a lack of functional literacy, which is defined as the ability to apply reading, writing, and communication to a specific field. The importance of being able to create and read written texts in the fields of science, technology, and engineering are discussed. The results show that competency in functional literacy leads to success in STEM subjects. Since computer science is in an engineering discipline, this article will enhance the argument that literacy skills benefit programming ability.

“Classifying Programming Languages.” Pltypes, Loyola Marymount University,

This non-academic article focuses on classifying various programming languages using a wide array of methodologies. Through the consideration of comparative aspects, many of the most common programming languages were divided into eight categories. For each category being considered, the syntax, structure, and abilities were examined and compared to those of the other categories. The article also explains various programming styles or “paradigms” that are commonly used within computer science. This article will enhance my argument that programming has its own complex literacy through the comparison of the many styles of programming and the many ways styles of writing.

Dubochet, Gilles. “Computer Code as a Medium for Human Communication: Are Programming  Languages Improving?” Proceedings of the 21st Working Conference on the Psychology  of Programmers Interest Group. No. CONF. University of Limerick, 2009.

This scholarly article discusses implications of coding that go further than just commanding a computer, focuses on how coding is becoming a channel for communication between individuals. The article explores the increase in team usage in the field of computer science, suggesting that the ability to understand the code that other’s write is extremely important. The article also examines a key role of communication in programming, which is communication between programmers and stakeholders. The study described in the article used eye-tracking and social behavioral evidence to support the claim that programming languages are developing as a channel for human communication. This article supports my argument that there is communication involved in programming.

Grafwallner, Peg. “Encoding Literacy in Computer Science.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 10 Jan. 2018,

This non-academic article discusses an instructional coach and computer science teacher’s experiences with implementing literacy lessons into a computer science class. The article examines the various ways in which reading literature differs from reading code. The researchers found that reading takes place in the form of understanding directions by thinking about them in a successive but theoretical manner. The computer science class was taught with an emphasis on literacy through directions, ultimately proving to boost the success of the students’ ability to program. This article will enhance my argument that programming has its own complex literacy and support the idea that literacy skills benefit programming ability.

Harris, Ana. “Human Languages vs. Programming Languages.” Medium, Medium, 1 Nov. 2018,

This non-academic article compares natural languages with programming languages, primarily using the author’s experiences as a linguist and a programmer. The article explores the criteria for something to be considered a language and explains how programming languages can be categorized in this way. It goes on to examine the similarities and differences between human languages and programming languages. The findings of this article suggest that understanding these similarities and differences will help to advance machine translation and speech recognition. This article supports my argument that programming is its own unique literacy by showing how it is a language in itself.

Hermans, Felienne, and Marlies Aldewereld. “Programming is writing is  programming.” Companion to the first International Conference on the Art, Science and  Engineering of Programming. 2017.

This scholarly article explores the similarities and differences between programming and writing. This article uncovers many of the parallels between the writing process and the coding workflow by comparing various practices that are frequently performed in both fields. The results of the study show that there are many similarities between the two, which leads the idea that programming education may be able to adapt some teaching methods primarily used in writing education. This article supports the idea that the literacy practice of writing is prevalent in programming and strengthens the argument that programming has its own complex literacy.

Jacob, Sharin Rawhiya, and Mark Warschauer. “Computational thinking and literacy.” Journal  of Computer Science Integration 1.1. 2018.

This scholarly article discusses programming education in K-12 schools and its correlation with literacy education. This article explores the ways in which computational thinking is its own literacy, how literary skills can lead to stronger computational skills, and how computational skills can improve literacy development. This article found that computational thinking is its own form of literacy, making a case for the integration of computer science courses in K-12 schools. This article supports my argument that computer science is its own form of literacy and strengthens my idea that both literacy skills and programming skills benefit one another.

Riemer, Marc J. “Communication skills for the 21st century engineer.” Global J. of Engng.  Educ 11.1 (2007): 89-100.

This scholarly article discusses the importance of communication skills within the field of engineering. By exploring various situations in which communication is necessary, the article shows that communication and language skills are a key asset for modern engineers. The article focuses primarily on English language and communication skills, but also discusses the benefits that come with being a bilingual engineer. The findings of this article suggest that an increase in communication and language courses in college curriculums will produce more successful engineers. This article will be useful in supporting my argument that communication is important within the field of computer science.

R Hassenfeld, Ziva, et al. “If You Can Program, You Can Write: Learning Introductory Programming Across Literacy Levels.” Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, vol. 19, 2020, pp. 065–085., doi:10.28945/4509.

This scholarly article explores the results of an elementary school plan to combine computer programming education with reading and writing in an elementary school. The article discusses results from a test on literacy and an assessment of students’ understanding of an introductory program language, drawing conclusions based upon their correlation. The purpose of this article was to analyze the connection between students’ literacy levels and their height of achievement in grasping an introductory programming language. The results of this study indicate that there are fundamental understandings and constructs that are shared by literacy and computer programming.

Schoeman, Marthie. “Reading skills can predict the programming performance of novices: an eye-tracking study.” Perspectives in Education 37.2 (2019): 35-52.

This scholarly article discusses a study of the relationship between reading skills and the ability to code. The results of the study show that students with low reading skills failed the programming component, while those with higher reading skills did better overall. These results depict the fact that reading skills do play a role in one’s ability to learn programming, attributing this relation to the fact that programming is high-level written language in its own sense. This article is useful to my essay, as it displays how the literacy practice of reading is prevalent in programming.

Vee, Annette. “Computer Programming as Literacy.” Coding Literacy, 2017, pp. 445–452., doi:10.7551/mitpress/10655.003.0003.

This excerpt from “Coding Literacy: How Computer Programming is Changing Writing” discusses how programming is a literacy in itself. The purpose of this article is to examine the connection between programming and writing, focusing on how programming is affecting modern literacy.  The article examines the ways in which studying programming from a humanities lens connects to literacy research that focuses on how people manage with technological entities. The author finds that programming is its own form of literacy, as it includes aspects of writing and communication, stating that computer programs are constantly being used in our everyday lives to read our interests and taste through many applications.

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