Teach your kids to love coding

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For my library, this week is an anniversary. One year ago I began incorporating coding into our programs for kids and teens.

Being able to code is a 21st century skill and fun, so the library is a natural place to offer opportunities to try coding and resources to take learning one step further. Coding lets kids and teens create media, instead of just consume it, which gives them a new platform for storytelling.

Coding, and even hacking, also allows them to understand, actively participate in and help shape community conversations, many of which happen in the digital environment. For those of you who may still be a little fearful of dabbling in code, just go for it! Be a lifelong learner!

The basics are easy for most and the results are worth it. So what am I doing this week? There are 4 ways to be part of the Hour of Code at my library:. Planning a coding program and need help getting started? The tools built for the event are available year round. In less than two hours, kids were creating their own digital stories, images or tools. On top of all that, it was just plain fun. So, a coding program was a natural next step.

But how would I customize my program to meet the needs of year old kids in my community? I started by looking at who attended the tech programs at our library, at local schools and around town. What was already out there? What did kids want? What kids were already getting access to essential computer science not just digital literacy skills?

Where were the gaps? After doing some research, I started also asking where are the girls? While the Digital Divide in terms of access is decreasing in many parts of the US, thanks in part to digital media in schools and libraries, the digital divide in terms of participation also known as the participation or opportunity gap is wide. Daugherty, The participation gap involves knowing how to use the digital tool effectively to participate in, and define, our digital world.

Nationwide, girls are significantly underrepresented in Computer Science education and IT jobs. Locally, the situation is similar. Few girlsparticipate in tech-specific programs at the library and in local schools in any great numbers outside of events sponsored by the Girl Scoutsyet knowing how to code opens up many more opportunities to create, learn, build and participate. They do however come to other programs at the library in large numbers. After all, I wanted girls to come to the program, and more importantly, get a taste of coding and what they could do with it.

After all, diversity fosters innovation. I also found the Made With Code site, part of the Google Initiative to create opportunities that inspire girls to code and explore Computer Science. Designing a Program for Girls At the library we try to offer programs for everyone. We both design programs for our regular patrons and those who are infrequent or first time visitors. I like to think of this as providing equal access to information while also providing equitable service.

Each patron needs something a bit different. I saw the girls coding program as one of many ways we connect community members with information. Yes, most of these individual program elements could easily apply to any program, and will when I repeat the Intro to Coding program for boys and girls in February. But, in combination, it created a program environment that research shows makes girls feel more comfortable and supported so I decided to try it.

Equipment While I led the program myself, I definitely needed help from the intrepid IT department and a couple of coworkers. I also needed quite a list of equipment for the event and things like secure wifi in the room we were using for faster access. I laid out the supplies in front of me jar of peanut butter, jar of jelly, bag of sliced bread, knife, plate and then had the girls tell me what to do- the very specific instructions that make up a program.

It was hilarious and effective! What the Girls Had to Say 9 girls and 4 adults attended the program- the perfect number. My Thoughts The program went very well in general. The group was the right size and the girls meshed well. They were comfortable together. It was wonderful to see parents and grandparents learning and exploring alongside their girls.

I loved the cooperative spirit and the real interest the girls had, several of whom I had never seen at a library program before. They were technology-related, of course right? Having unplugged tricks up my sleeve was very helpful.

I co-presented this webinar, Hour of Code: While we received a lot of interest in and positive comments about the program, one parent contacted me to complain that her son could not attend and challenged my decision to hold a girls only program. In all regards, the program created lots of conversation in the community.

During the week of December 8th, our library will be participating in the Hour of Code. Fortunately, kids are curious and many are fearless so introducing something new, like coding, in a fun, informal way usually works out well. For example, motivated Minecraft players check out every available Minecraft book in the library, over and over again.

The Hour of Code site offers great resources for planning so I started there. Unlike my brother who was working as a programmer at 15, I was not interested as a kid, teen, or even youngish adult. The kids see me exploring, problem solving, and even getting frustrated as we figure it out together. For example, what will inspire my daughter, and girls her age, to dive in? Have any suggestions for my program or an experience to share? Please send them my way!

Lightbot is a 3D game-style app that teaches the basic concepts of programming. The app introduces programming vocabulary and encourages an understanding of procedures, loops and conditionals. The app includes coins and stars to show progress. No in-app purchases, ads or social media links.

Lightbot One Hour Codinga special iOS and Android version released for the Hour of Code event, is temporarily available and offers a limited, free version of the full app. It includes 14 levels. Free, with in-app purchases for additional levels and classroom subscription Ages: The orientation is slightly different than in the 3D oriented Lightbot app mentioned above and will require a shift in thinking if moving from one app to the next.

The free version of the app features 45 levels that are completed sequentially. Narrated tips and a small hand hover over correct commands if help is needed. Music can be turned off in the settings menu on the home screen. The free version of the app has in-app purchases for additional levels and links to the classroom version. Up to five profiles can be made within the free version. Free, with in-app purchases for additional games Ages: Tynker is a unique app in this list because it combines the game play format with game creation.

The non-competitive game portion of the app involves programming Codey, one of several kid-friendly characters, to move across the screen towards the end goal- a candy prize. Drag and drop commands are moved from a bank on the left to an ordered list at the top of the screen. Repeat blocks can also be used at different levels, introducing the loop.

When Codey starts, the command being used is highlighted in the string of command blocks, making the connection between what Codey is doing and the code written. After playing with Codey, or one of the other characters, the Tynker app includes opportunities to build or modify a game using the same drag and drop coding blocks. This part of the app is about exploring, playing, and testing.

The app offers immediate feedback with the ability to run a test and see if, for example, the newly designed character dances if tapped or sound effects play. Coders will get to see behind the game. Doing a quick math problem, provides access through a parent gate to puzzle settings, where the puzzle solution and a button to reset a puzzle can be found, and a link to the Tynker website for more information about online coding courses for kids.

Internet connectivity is not required to play the games, only to download sample games in the game creation area. The background music can be turned off in a drop down menu found within each game. Other iOS apps to check out: Hour of Code The Foos: Sites to check out: Post navigation Happy HourofCode week! There are 4 ways to be part of the Hour of Code at my library: Design a basic video game at the weekly Maker Club on Thursday, Dec 10, 3: These free tutorials — and more — can also be accessed from anywhere HERE.

This app is available for many tablets. Check out a book on coding or programming to take home. Coding for Kids Sites to check out:

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