Libraries Ready to Code Grant Application Information Session

Did you miss the information session earlier this week on the Libraries Ready to Code application process? Did you attend but want to review the slides and the information presented? If so, you can watch the recording of the session right here.

The slides are also available.

Don’t forget you can learn more about the project, access grant application FAQs, and get started with the application on the Libraries Ready to Code website.

YALSAblog News of the Month – November 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.

YALSA Snack Break: Coding, Libraries, & Learning

In this 16 minute Snack Break learn how Alyssa Newton is integrating coding activities into the work she does with and for teens in her community. After watching don’t forget to sign-up for YALSA’s October 20th webinar on coding, libraries, and learning. Members can register for free. Learn more on the YALSA website.


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YALSAblog News of the Month – July 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.

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!

App of the Week: ScratchJr

Name: ScratchJr
Platform: iOS 7 or later/compatible with iPad
Cost: Free

scratchjr logoOK, I know some of you are saying, “Wait, I thought this was the YALSAblog for those working with teens. What’s up with a review of an app that’s for really young kids?” It seems crazy that the YALSAblog App of the week would review something like ScratchJr, but I have to say, there’s a lot to make it worth recommending to staff working with teens and to teens themselves.

  • ScratchJr is a perfect way for any adult – library staff member, parent, teacher, etc. – to start learning about why all of this talk about teaching young people how to code is important, to begin to understand what block-based coding is all about, and to be able to gain some skills so to be better prepared for STEM-based programs that might be rolled out that integrate critical thinking, problem-solving, etc. within a coding environment.
  • Any library that is giving teens the chance to work with younger children on coding projects will want to know about ScratchJr. It’s a perfect app for teens to use with kids to get the younger kids started on learning how coding works and on STEM-based activities that integrate critical thinking and problem-solving. If the teens you work with are working on this kind of project, it’s also a perfect opportunity for teens to have a chance to talk and think about how to present the information to children, how to plan and implement a program of this kind, and so on. It will take a lot of critical thinking and problem-solving on a teen’s part to put together a ScratchJr program for younger children, and that’s great.

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App of the Week: Cargo-Bot

Title: Cargo-Bot
Platforms: iOS
Cost: Free

cargo-bot logo Learning to code is a big topic of conversation these days with a lot of discussion about the importance of teaching young people coding and programming skills. Why is this such a big topic of conversation? Because when anyone learns to code/program they have the chance to spend time critically thinking, problem solving, and troubleshooting. All important skills to have in the 21st century.

Acquiring these skills is definitely a part of Cargo-Bot, an app that uses game-play to teach the ideas behind coding and programming. Playing Cargo-Bot requires programming each game in order to achieve a a particular goal. All goals require moving boxes of cargo across or down the screen. And, while the first goals are pretty simple it doesn’t take too long for the game to become more complex and require that players think about not just left, right, up, and down but the order of those moves, looping moves, and specifying when and when not to actually make a move.
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App of the Week: Textastic

Title: Textastic
Platform: iPad
Cost:$9.99

textastic logo Textastic is certainly not the most inexpensive app ever reviewed on the YALSA Blog, but it does something that you and your teens might be very interested in. It’s a code editing app. That means for anyone that codes web pages it’s a great resource to have in your app arsenal. (Those who do other kinds of coding can also use the app. Javascript or Perl for example.) Teens learning to code can enhance their skills while sitting comfortably with an iPad. Teens who know how to code can update web pages while using an iPad.

code writing screen of TextasticAt the base-level Textastic works well as a tool for writing HTML and CSS files from scratch. Click on the + in the bottom menu, name the file, and get started writing the code. Those who are coders will appreciate that the coding screen includes line-numbering, as well as a row of character keys that make it easy to enter code on the iPad screen.

What makes this app even better are the options available for getting your code from your iPad to a server or file sharing app. With Textastic it’s possible to upload files to Dropbox or an S/FTP server. That means for anyone who is coding on their iPad there is no need to email files to yourself in order to get them posted on a server. Just upload them to your FTP host and voila the pages are available for viewing on the web or editing using another device or a computer. Continue reading