Starting a coding club in the library

By Jennifer Robinson

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This project is about teaching coding in school libraries. A lot of school libraries, including my own, have used the annual hour of code to encourage student interest in coding. I have a small group of students who visit the library regularly during their lunch break to “play” on the computers. Some of them are coding using Scratch and others are playing games created by people on Scratch. I am considering possibilities for a little more structure (or involvement on my part) in student work on coding.

I started by looking for programs to run in the library, perhaps an after school coding club, or lunch-time coding challenges, as well as resources for learning coding, and opportunities to code using different types of hardware (such as with makey makey or Raspberry pi). I then considered the variety of programming languages available and what would be most appropriate for students in a middle school setting.

Because this is a newer topic, I found only a few sources that directly related to setting up programs for coding in a library. I found many resources on coding itself, including resources targeted towards young people about coding. Coding is often self-taught and I think that would fit well with the library as a place that offers an opportunity to learn rather than a structured class where students would be lost if they missed a day or lesson. I hope to offer something in my library either as an after school program or during study hall next year.

Bibliography

Dillon, Stacy, and Amy Laughlin. “Starting from Scratch.(mix It Up: Makerspaces).” School Library Journal 60.8 (2014): 34. ProQuest. Web. 6 May 2017. <http://moe.highline.edu:2158/docview/1548842821?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:primo&accountid=1327>.

Although this source is brief, it helped me find some resources on coding that I had not heard of. It lists apps and websites that are free or low-cost where students can work on learning coding. The websites are tested and recommended by School Library Journal. Prices are included. Some new-to-me programs include Kodable, My Robot Friend, Hopscotch, and Tynker.

Dixon, Nicole, and Michael Ward. “The Maker Movement and the Louisville Free Public Library.(ACCIDENTAL TECHNOLOGIST).” Reference & User Services Quarterly 54.1 (2014): 17. ProQuest. Web. 6 May 2017. <http://moe.highline.edu:2158/docview/1566615229?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:primo&accountid=1327>.

This article is focused on maker spaces, but most of the ideas in this are related to technology use in maker spaces. There are resources for computer coding, 3D modeling and printing, and computer gaming such as Scratch. The article offers some good advice to libraries in incorporating these spaces: be flexible, find a good fit with patrons, and identify partnership opportunities.

Ford, Jerry Lee. Scratch Programming for Teens. Boston: Course PTR, 2014. EBSCOhost Academic EBook Collection. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://moe.highline.edu:2048/login?url=https://moe.highline.edu:2596/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=nlebk&AN=263408&site=ehost-live&scope=site&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_Cover>.

Scratch is a computer coding program that helps young people between the ages of 8 and 16 learn how to code. This book is a great resource for learning all about scratch. It includes detailed explanations about how Scratch works and how users can create their own programs and games using Scratch. It also includes details about how Scratch works as a social platform. This book would be helpful for anyone who is trying to run a class or club where students are using Scratch to learn programming.

Graves, Colleen, and Aaron Graves. The Big Book of Makerspace Projects: Inspiring Makers to Experiment, Create, and Learn. New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2017. Print.

The authors of this book are both school librarians with makerspace experience. Collen Graves was the School Library Journal Librarian of the Year Co-Finalist in 2014 and earned the Library Journal Mover and Shaker Innovator Award in 2016. This book includes 51 projects for makerspaces, some easy and some more advanced. Although my project is not about makerspaces, some of the projects that are a part of the makerspace movement are computer coding related and this book includes those types of projects. The book includes projects using scratch, several projects using Makey Makey, and projects using Dash and Dot, Sphero, Tickle, and robotics. This one got me thinking about how I could use computer hardware and physical objects as part of coding projects. Some of these projects are likely to appeal to younger users, but a middle school with students as young as 11 seems like a good fit.

Harris, Patricia. Understanding Coding with Raspberry Pi. New York: PowerKids, 2016. Print.

This book is geared toward kids and is part of a “Kids Can Code” series. I considered the possibility of acquiring several Raspberry Pi computers due to their low cost. Students can then use coding to program the Raspberry Pi for a number of uses. This book would be a good one to have for students to use as it breaks down the Raspberry Pi and explains how it works and how it can be coded in simple terms. The book explains how Raspberry Pi could be coded using Linux, Python, and Scratch. This source alone is likely not enough to guide students in completing a project on the Raspberry Pi, but it’s a decent place to start.

Jensen, Karen. “TPiB: Jump in Head First and Start a Coding Club.” Teen Librarian Toolbox. School Library Journal, 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2014/02/tpib-jump-in-head-first-and-start-a-coding-club/>.

In this article, teen librarian Karen Jensen shares her own experiences with starting a coding club at her library. She includes details about how she got started, the agenda for her club meetings, and she includes links to resources that she used, such as the video she uses to introduce coding. She states that a work at your own pace method was a good way to start this club, but it didn’t help build club camaraderie, so she began a group project as well. I think she offers some good advice in finding a balance between individual work and group work in making a club work.

Kafai, Yasmin B., and Quinn Burke. Connected Code : Why Children Need to Learn Programming. Cambridge: MIT, 2014. EBSCOhost Academic EBook Collection. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <https://moe.highline.edu:2602/ehost/detail/detail?sid=1d4eb555-4b3e-4be4-81d3-e73ba004be15%40sessionmgr4006&vid=0&hid=4002&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwJnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=815362&db=nlebk>.

This book delves into the why of teaching coding to young people. This source would be useful for finding information that can help sell the need for funding for a coding club in a school library. The book includes information about how students can use coding projects that help them in other curricular areas such as language arts. The book also includes helpful information about resources and materials for teaching coding, such as Scratch, Makey Makey, and Lego Mindstorm.

“Libraries and Coding for Children and Teens: Key Conclusions.” YASLA. ALA, n.d. Web. 13 May 2017. <http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/Libraries%20and%20Coding%20Writeup.pdf>.

This is one of the few sources I found that is specifically focused on running school library programming on teaching coding. I found many of the suggestions to be very useful. One piece of advice for librarians is that they should look at coding programs as a way to learn with their patrons; they shouldn’t shy away from being involved because of lack of skills in coding. Another great piece of advice is that the coding program should not have an end goal of learning to code. Instead it should embrace design thinking. The focus and goal should be on solving problems or creating through design. Coding is the vehicle for which that happens. The article also offers several examples of coding programs across the United States and several resources such as Scratch or Code Academy as places to get started.

Smith, Kelly. “Coding for Everyone: How Your Library Can Help Anyone Learn to Code.” Web Junction. OCLC, 19 July 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://learn.webjunction.org/course/view.php?id=292>.

This source is actually a webinar from July 2016. I wasn’t present at the webinar, but the resources left behind are helpful. After reading through the slides and attached “code club” kit, I found that this is really a sales pitch for libraries to subscribe to a premium service that assists in running a coding club. However, the kit that is included with this webinar offers some useful advice in running a club in the library and a couple of great resources. This group advises libraries to set up an after school time of 1.5 to 2 hours weekly for coding club to meet. It offers suggestions for the general agenda of meetings. It included a spreadsheet for tracking progress which guides club members through several online code-learning programs. And it included slides that could be projected with coding challenges. It suggests that time be set aside at the end of each club meeting for users to share the projects they are working on. I like the concrete suggestions this kit provides; it helped me to see how I might set up a club in my own library. I had been thinking I could run something during our 25 minute study hall, but this information made me realize that a more extended time after school would likely be better for learners.

Woodcock, Jon. Coding Games in Scratch. NY, NY: DK, 2016. Overdrive. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <https://krl.overdrive.com/media/2410257>.

Although I read this as an e-book, I would recommend this book to have as a print resource in the library for students to use when working on scratch. The format of the book is targeted to young people and is easy to read with a lot of visuals. It is split up into chapters where each demonstrates the creation of a game in Scratch. I can see this being useful for a student just starting out. If they follow the steps and create a game, it won’t be theirs, but they could potentially test out making some changes to the game to see how choosing various programming blocks affects the program. Starting here might give some kids ideas for elements they can include and the confidence they need to start creating their own games.

About:
I’m currently a first year middle school librarian in Kitsap County.

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