When you Receive a Call from Google about your Library’s Coding Program!

Hello everyone! After attending the 2016 WLA session, “A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Coding go Down” lead by Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Ryan Claringbole, and Jen Fait, I knew that I had to bring coding education into my library programming.

Computer science is a new world for me. My major was in Communications. I did take two computer sciences classes my senior year, but that education was minimal. As I was working through the college courses, and the continuing education I have pursed in coding since attending that session, the more I realized that almost every part of our lives is touched by a computer program. If you dial your phone, a computer program will has been written to give your phone instructions to complete that task. If you start you car, computers in your car operate so that your car runs safely, without your even knowing the computers are there. If you turn on your washing machine, a computer program regulates how hot the water temperature will be.

Since our lives are so intertwined with computer programs, I believe that coding is a necessary 21st century skill for both youth and adults. Still more, I believe that anyone, regardless of education background, can learn to code. 

Today, the jobs and futures of our children depend on their being able to look inside the black box and see how coding works. Even more, they deserve to be not simply consumers of media, but also know how to create it in code. In the coding programs we have lead it always amazes me how interested both parents and kids are in coding, and how excited they become when they learn they can create media on their own–all by using code. I lead a Scratch program with one class of 5th graders. Afterwards, I heard comments from their parents that their child was not asking for time to play on video games. Instead, they were asking for time on the computer to create their own games. I checked in with this class at the end of the school year, and each of the kids had original and creative ideas for websites, games, or apps that they were hoping to learn how to create with code. When I asked a similar 5th grade class, they had trouble understanding what coding was, and what it could create. A simple one-hour program changed how the first class understood coding, and made them understand that their creativity and ideas belonged in the coding world. 

The more I learn about coding, the more ideas I find that I want to try. I have been able to blog about a few of our coding programs that we have hosted.  What I did not know was that the blog posts were given to Google, who chose to feature our library on their blog post releasing information on their Phase III “Ready to Code” initiative! I received a phone call last week from Nicky from Google asking if they could use our library’s name and program information for their big announcement! Yeah! 

Have you planned coding programs at your library? I would love to chat with you and share notes! Happy coding! 

And…here is the Google blog announcement!
https://www.blog.google/topics/education/libraries-across-us-are-ready-code/

 

Kids’ STEM Workshop: Tabletop Coding

Tabletop Coding

One aspect of the coding revolution that is sweeping libraries around the country is the idea that we can expose youth and adults to coding concepts without even needing a computer. This is based on the idea that coding follows logic, and logic we can demonstrate and experiment with without fancy equipment. This is great news if you have a large group for a coding program, and you know that you do not have enough devices or gadgets for everyone!

I was able to lead a no-tech coding program for a class of 5th grade students with no computer needed. We worked on the Tabletop Coding kit, which you can download from Wiscode.org. This lesson plan does not require any technology, and instead uses a checkerboard, two game pieces, sticky notes, and index cards to show students that computer programs are made from sets of instructions to achieve a pre-determined goal.

And…even without technology…our students loved this activity!

The skinny: This was a great program, and my students ran with it! They developed complex ideas and games just using their checkerboard and some random objects that I made available to them. Two students turned their checkerboard into the house in the Westing Game book. The goal of their “program” was to help a kid travel through the house without being hurt. I was surprised at how creative they took this, just using the simple instructions I gave them.

Cost:
$0. We already had the checkerboards already on hand! You will need one checkerboard for 2-3 students. I would not try to make the groups any larger than 3 students.

Time needed:
For this 5th grade group, this activity took about 30-45 minutes.

How it worked:

I followed the lesson plan from WisCodeLiterati. I showed the students a checkerboard and gave myself two checker pieces. I randomly placed my red and black checker piece on the board and told the students the object of their program was to write instructions to make the red checker piece land on top of the black piece without moving the black piece. I showed them the cards that I made them, and how the “X” cards allowed their red checker piece to move horizontally, and the “Y” cards allowed their piece to move vertically. I then placed  a basket filled with odds and ends from my craft room on the floor. I told them that they could place these objects on their board to close off certain squares. They would have to write their program to go around these objects. I then gave groups of 2-3 students their checkerboard, two checker pieces, their deck of “X” and “Y” direction cards, and told them to have fun!

As I said, I was really surprised at how seriously the kids took this activity! They looked through their cards, and quickly found the order that they needed to organize their cards to bring their checker piece where they wanted to go. Then, they began to add obstacles and then arranged their cards again to avoid those obstacles. It was a lot of fun to see how creative they were!

This is a very simple activity, and the students caught on to the computer science of it right away! If you would like to begin offering coding programs, I would highly recommend this program! It can be adapted for any age, and it requires very low cost, set-up, and preparation!

Have you tried a “no-tech” coding activity? Do you have ideas to share? I would love to hear them!

Happy coding!

 

 

Week 3: Coding Together, Learning Together (Structuring Your Coding Program)

Putting Your Coding Club Plans On Paper!

Still blogging about the “Coding Together, Learning Together Course” that just wrapped up! If you are interested, here are my links for Week 1 and Week 2. Stay tuned for our final week blog post coming up!

If you are interested in taking this course, it is being offered again July 31-August 25, 2017 by UW-Madison’s SLIS Continuing Education Department. This course was a game changer for me, and answered so many of the questions I had about coding that was stopping me from planning out a coding program at our library. I highly recommend taking this course.

Our third week was all about putting our plans down on paper, or in my case a Word document, and actually figuring out how to structure and plan a coding club!

There are two basic ways to organize a coding program: structured and unstructured. Which one you choose will depend on your:

  • Program goals,
  • Target Audience,
  • Frequency and Length,
  • Materials Needed and Resources available.
  • What need is our coding club meeting?

Think back to our community needs assessment. What did our community members say they were interested in when I asked them about coding? As a public library, how does coding fit within your mission or vision?

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Week 2: Coding Together, Learning Together (Coding Curriculum, Apps, and Gadgets)

In our second week of Coding Together, Learning Together we began to dig into different options for coding gadgets, curriculums, and apps! (You can find my Week 1 Notes here).

This week we looked at different options for presenting coding programs. There are lots of options out there, and it is easy to be overwhelmed! However, sometimes just knowing what is out there is the first stop. Check out these resources!

Coding Websites (Credit: Casey Ineichen) 
Gadgets & Kits to Teach Code (Credit: Casey Ineichen)

Common Sense Media App Reviews:
Elementry
Middle
High 

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Week 1: Coding Together: Learning Together

Coding is everywhere right now! Lesson plans are on Pinterest, kids are talking about it, coding clubs are springing up all over the nation, and libraries are now offering coding programs to showcase how to create computer code for our youth, families, and adults. This spring, I was privileged to participate in the four- week online “Coding Together, Learning Together” course provided through DPI and taught by Casey Ineichen. This course was designed as a quick introduction to the wealth of coding opportunities and options for public libraries when planning programs. These were the course goals:

Learn the basics of coding and how to plan a coding event for your library so that: 

●You can share the basics of coding with your library patrons.
●You can select appropriate coding tools and software for your library and community.
●You can plan coding events for your library and community.

 

I found that this course was exactly what I needed to put my abstract plans about coding into a plan that was specific and timely. I understand that this course will be offered again, so if you are interested, stay tuned to Wisconsin’s DPI.
I will be blogging about my experience in this course. If you would like to learn more about code, like I did, try to work your way through some of the activities and websites that I will be posting.

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