Let’s Code!

In early December, YALSA blogger Jami Schwarzwalder wrote a great post (with many great resources) on how to participate in Hour of Code week. I want to expand on her work and talk a little more about some of my experience with code and how that may translate into teens and code.

It seems that in today’s day and age, knowing how to code can be a crucial job skill. It gives you an edge and from a personal standpoint, knowing how to code can be incredibly empowering. It’s especially important to help get females (at any age) interested in coding because as we see time and time again, the difference between males and females involved in the technology field is astonishing (just search “girls in technology infographic” and see the fascinating percentages).

I think there are many ways to go at coding for teens. If you want to encourage girls, the video from Intel, who sponsors Girls Who Code, is pretty inspiring. The website itself, provides nice photos, information on past programs, and even the ability to download their most current curriculum for you to adapt to fit your teens.

Another similar website to Girls Who Code is Made With Code (through Google). They offer many projects for all levels of coding experience. These projects are fun and also include the ability to share with the world through their favorite social media outlet.

If you have teens that don’t have as much experience with coding, I would suggest doing the hour of code at code.org. Usually the theme of these puzzles is Angry Birds, but it looks like for the holiday season, the developers have moved over to Elsa and Anna from Frozen. It’s a great way to see “the blocks of coding” which will be helpful in future coding exercises. The videos that are every five or so levels are also helpful in letting you know what the blocks do and how they all work together.

With some coding under their belt, I think MIT’s Scratch is a good place to start. While there is a version that can be download onto your computers, their web version also works quite well. If you’re unfamiliar with Scratch, I would suggest watching some of their tutorials or even checking out Super Scratch Programming Adventure by the LEAD Project. This book would be great for teens to use (lots of cool drawings and learning is done through a comic form) and just to familiar yourself with the program (if you’re interested).

What is great about Scratch is that they can make their own projects (pretty much anything they can think of) or do what’s called “remixing.” Essentially they can look at completed projects and “look under the hood.” The teens can see how people created various projects and then “remix” and revise it for themselves. It’s a great way to learn all the capabilities of Scratch and give the teens some ideas of projects of their own.

Finally, if your teens want even more, I would direct them over to CodeCademy.  Here, they can sign up for an account and tackle many different programming languages: Python, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, or Ruby. You go through a series of lessons, all that can be self-directed by the teens themselves. CodeCademy also has some projects to help see coding in action. I’ve personally used CodeCademy to learn Python and HTML/CSS and like the website, as well as the public forums for when I get stuck on a lesson.

Best of luck and I hope some of these resources will be useful to your teens!

About Hailley Fargo

Hi, I’m a new professional working as a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Penn State University. As someone who provides reference to undergraduate students and teach information literacy to primarily freshman, I’m curious about the intersections of the work of YALSA and academic libraries (and how we can collaborate and work together to help our teens). In my spare time, I like to bike, read memoirs, watch TV shows, and consider myself an oatmeal connoisseur.

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