The Not-So-Secret Code

“If we want America to stay on the cutting edge, we need young Americans…to master the tools and technology that will change the way we do just about everything,” so said President Obama, when he became the first President to participate in the Hour of Code (Finley 2014). Coding is no longer limited to computer classes. Educators in many disciplines have championed it. How can the library program be a part of this effort?


Coding is now a skill that can be integrated into any classroom. School librarians can help both students and teachers by offering opportunities and sharing resources to enhance information and digital literacy. Not comfortable with coding yourself? Learn along with the students. Start by exploring. Make coding a part of a personal learning network with colleagues. This article presents selected tools to use for coding, resources that show how coding can be a part of school programs, and some sites to explore for more possibilities. If a President can code, so can a school librarian!


With the media splash of Hour of Code events and the growth of STEM programs, coding sites have proliferated. Here are some common tools to explore. All are either open source or have free versions for educators to use.

  • Alice. by Carnegie Mellon University, Alice appeared in the early 2000s for K-12 education. It is a 3D programming environment to encourage students to develop animations for storytelling, gaming, and video creation. Alice uses tiles in a drag-and-drop activity that helps students see the techniques used in more advanced programming languages. It can be downloaded and installed for free. Alice also provides a wide range of teaching materials and an online support community.
  • Code Academy. http://www.codecademy.comDesigned for older students, Code Academy aligns programming with Web design and uses the Rails language in a learning tutorial. There are language resources for a number of common Web tools: HTML, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and more. The focus is on interactivity and APIs, with starter projects like animating your name and creating a galaxy.
  • provides resources for coding both in support of the Hour of Code program and for more extended coding experiences. Their resources include a comprehensive curriculum arranged in modules. For instance, they provide an “Introduction to Computer Science” 20-hour module. Teacher tools include tracking of student work, curriculum alignment (with standards), lesson plans, and video clips about the resources.
  • Google Blockly. https://blockly-games.appspot.comGoogle provides a series of educational games designed to teach coding to those who have no programming experience. Users move blocks into patterns, so no typing is required. Think of it as LegosĀ® on screen. Blockly is open source, and there are links to more advanced segments (like “App Inventor”) provided on the site. Users create online so there is no software to download.
  • Mozilla Webmaker. coding for Web design, Mozilla’s focus may most closely align with information literacy goals for school librarians. This site includes links to Thimble to teach coding (Java Script), Hour of Code activities (Hello, Processing), and videos about Web literacy.
  • Scratch. by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab in 2003, Scratch is a free tool to teach programming via animations, games, and interactive stories. The site also provides videos and many sample projects. The help section includes videos and downloadable guides for using Scratch. This tool can be used online or an offline editor can be downloaded. Also, check out Mitch Resnick’s TED talk about Scratch (
  • Tynker. http://www.tynker.comTynker teaches computational thinking and offers a full curriculum for coding. Teachers can sign up for a free version, which includes Tynker basics and some classroom management tools. For-fee versions include full curricula and added tools, available for either single classroom or site licenses. Home subscriptions are also an option. This tool is available online and also as an app for iOS and Android.


Use these links to learn more about how to approach coding in the school library program. Act as an ambassador for coding at the school and district level.

  • Coding 101. Stallings’s Livebinder breaks out coding sources into levels for elementary, middle, and high school students. He also provides information on coding apps for iPad and Android.
  • Help Kids Code. https://www.helpkidscode.comThis online magazine for educators, available for $12.00 a year, has features that are accessible for free. It highlights classroom activities, tools for coding, and more.
  • Hour of Code. that is needed to create an Hour of Code event in a school community can be found here. This site can be used to build interest and awareness of coding as a skill students can develop. There are also links to go beyond the event to building a program.
  • Hovious, Amanda. Information Literacy by Design [Thinking]. talks about how design thinking and coding fits into information literacy instruction.
  • Is Code the Most Important Language in the World? PBS Digital Media PBS series “Off Book” video discusses the need for coding instruction. The speakers also talk about the technology industry and the gender inequality in the field.
  • Pierce, Margo. “21st Century Curriculum: Coding for Middle Schoolers.” T.H.E. Journal 40, no. 5 (May 2013): 20-23.Pierce presents examples and interviews with schools about coding initiatives.
  • Robotics and Coding Club. Ford, librarian at Curtis Elementary School (Weatherford, Texas), shows pictures of student activities and a Symbaloo link for coding resources.
  • Vaidyanathan, Sheena. “Three Ways to Get Every Student Coding.” ISTE (November 26, 2014). describes the five-year process used by the Los Altos (CA) school district to establish a coding curriculum.


Need more information? These sites curate links about coding in schools including tools, videos, and articles, and have a wealth of information to explore.

  • Coding in the Classroom. Edutopia.
  • Cool Coding Apps and Websites for Kids.
  • McClintock-Miller, Shannon. Coding, Coding, Coding.
  • Resources for Teaching Programming (all ages). (Scoop.It)
  • Teaching Kids to Code. Edsurge.


The Hour of Code initiative has raised awareness here and internationally in coding as a skill that all students should experience. It is a technology skill that can be integrated into a variety of activities in all school disciplines. Coding as a part of the school and library program does not have to focus only on special events like the Hour of Code. Explore ways in which the library can be involved, from resources on the library webpage to extracurricular activities to coding as a part of lessons co-taught with other educators in the school. Kevin Hodgson sums it up this way:

If we don’t understand the basics of how it all works, how can we bend technology to do what we want it to do? We need to understand the architecture of the media in our lives. We need to know why something does what it does, and how to adapt it for what we want it to do. We need to be educated (2014).

For ideas on getting started with coding in your school library see Use This Page.


Further Reading

Finley, Klint. "Obama Becomes First President to Write a Computer Program." Wired (December 8, 2014).; Hodgson, Kevin. "Why Coding is Important in Our Writing Class." MiddleWeb (January 5, 2014).

See Use This Page (page 59), "Coding in the School Library" in this issue of School Library Monthly.

About the Author

Kathy Fredrick is the Director of Libraries and Instructional technology for the Shaker Heights City Schools in Ohio. She has worked in library media centers at all grade levels in Ohio, Wisconsin, Australia and Germany. Email:

MLA Citation Fredrick, Kathy. "The Not-So-Secret Code." School Library Monthly, 31, no. 6, April 2015. School Library Connection,

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Entry ID: 1967080

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