Coding in Your Library
What were you doing in your library in December 2014? Perhaps you joined over 90 million other students, teachers, and librarians around the world for the Hour of Code events that were taking place. If you didn’t, don’t worry. Code activities are still going on and there are plenty of chances to take part in early learning programming opportunities.
What in the World Is Hour of Code?
The Hour of Code is championed by Code.org, a non-profit organization focused on increasing the use and exposure of computer science to young people, particularly females and minority students. The Hour of Code is simply an hour where students learn about code. It doesn’t require students to have a computer; they can use smartphones and other handheld devices. It is an introduction to the range of computer science, a chance to uncover and reveal the truths about coding for websites, apps, and games, as well as show that anyone can learn the basics of coding. Code.org offers tutorials in computer programming for grade levels K–12, beginner to advanced. Students have fun, game-like programming sessions with characters from the Disney movie Frozen and other popular characters, including those from Angry Birds. Students, educators, and librarians can all learn something new in an Hour of Code. There is a program to fit everyone, and once participants have completed their hour, they receive a certificate!
Jobs involving computers are increasing at double the rate than any others. Coding is an important literacy for our students to have (Lepi 2014). As librarians, we know information literacy is the ability or set of skills required from an individual to know when information is needed, and the aptitude to evaluate, locate, and use the needed information (ALA 1989). When it comes to coding and computer science, a different type of literacy is being discussed: digital literacy. The definition for this type of literacy is that the student or patron has the ability to use different types of technologies to find, assess, make, and communicate information (ALA 2011). Coding offers students the opportunity to communicate in a new manner. They can find answers, create new online sites and games, and share with peers. Venturing further, code is the language behind websites, apps, and games. It is the language for future careers, opening doors and opportunities for those students who are really interested.
Coding in Your Library
Whether you are an expert or novice at programming or coding, incorporating Hour of Code events and activities in your library can be easy. Code.org and similar sites have offered programs, games, tutorials, and ideas to get started. How-to guides are provided at Code.org along with videos, banners, posters, handouts, and social media tips to get the students interested and excited. Librarians and their peer educators around the world took part in Hour of Code activities. Here are a few examples and ideas for your own coding event:
1. Invite a professional in programming, computer science, gaming, or IT security to come and talk with the students.
2. Have older students learn to code and then serve as peer mentors for younger students in their school, or plan a trip or digital field trip where coding is taught to younger students at other schools.
4. Take part in online activities or hands-on unplugged math and science activities that lead back to coding and programming.
5. Use the digital projector and SMART Board and have the class code together.
6. Create online instructional videos for peers, using sites like Jing and Screencast-o-matic.
Alternative Sites and Ideas
A multitude of activities and lessons took place during the week dedicated to the Hour of Code. For many educators it went so well that there were days of coding or follow-up activities throughout December and into January. There were times during the Hour of Code week where Code.org had such heavy traffic that teachers and librarians turned to other sites for coding instruction and events. Here are some alternative websites for coding:
Code Academy, www.codecademy.com. Learn to code interactively with this American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Best Websites winner.
Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/hourofcode. Another AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning winner, Khan Academy also had activities for the Hour of Code. Focusing on coding in Java for program drawing, HTML for webpage design, and SQL for database creation.
Scratch, http://scratch.mit.edu. Scratch has been around for a few years but still remains a great site for students to learn about coding, game creation, and animation.
Tynker, www.tynker.com. Created with young children in mind, it lets kids build online programs with specially crafted courses for students.
Udemy, www.udemy.com. Online courses are available anywhere, anytime. Udemy would be for older students looking for more advanced information on coding, programming, and information science.
The Coding Library
Programming or coding may not thrill you, but it can be exciting to your students. To know where their websites, apps, and games come from and how they are built, brings in a level of knowledge that students didn’t previously possess. They now not only know how their online tools are created, but have the keys to making them. Millions of students have participated in computer programming with the Hour of Code. The “Write Your First Computer Program” tutorial has had nearly 30 million participants, and “Code with Anna and Elsa” has had well over 10 million participants. Exposing students to computer science, programming, and the experience of coding is a worthwhile venture. Sites like Code.org have built platforms that make coding fun and approachable, and they now offer resources that make it easy for educators in the field. Exploring this experience with students is well worth the hour spent in the library.
American Library Association. “Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report.” 1989. www.ala.org/acrl/publications/whitepapers/presidential (accessed July 26, 2014).
American Library Association. “What Is Digital Literacy?” 2011. http://connect.ala.org/files/94226/what%20is%20digilit%20%282%29.pdf (accessed July 29, 2014).
Hour of Code. Code.org. http://code.org/learn.
Lepi, Katie. “Why (and How) Students Are Learning to Code.” 2014. Edudemic. www.edudemic.com/teaching-students-to-code/(accessed January 15, 2015).