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!

Digital Games in the Classroom

A new survey from the Games and Learning Publishing Council sheds light on just how commonplace games have become in today’s classrooms. Among the findings:

  • Among K-8 teachers surveyed who use digital games in teaching,’ 55%’ have students play games at least weekly
  • 72% typically’ use a desktop or laptop computer for gaming
  • Nearly half believe that’ low-performing students benefit the most from digital games
  • Word of mouth is the biggest influence when selecting games

So what can librarians take away from this data? Continue reading

Innovations in Teen Services – Making a difference with Teens using Outcomes

As mk notes in her CoveritLive post about yesterday’s awesome Innovations in Teen Services panel, I was scheduled to speak on the panel but was grounded at the airport for an unplanned six additional hours. While that’s a whole blog post in itself, and probably not even the worst flight horror story of the conference, I’d like to share a bit here what I did plan to present. Special thanks to my colleague, Catherine Haydon, ALA Emerging Leader, who stepped in at a moment’s notice and shared information regarding using outcomes with teens.

While defining outcomes for your teen programs and services, isn’t necessarily something new, we’re probably seeing a lot more on our radars in terms of the importance of telling our story as libraries, particularly because of limited resources that we’re competing for in our communities. Being able to share that we’re making a difference in the lives of teens, is one way that we can show as a library we’re bringing value to the community. At my library in Charlotte, NC we have a teen intern program where teens learn to create with digital media and teach others how to do this as well. Continue reading

30 Days of How-To #16: How to use Scratch

For years, I was scared of Scratch. I knew it was something I should feel comfortable using, but I’d go to the Scratch website or open up the application, stare at it for a few minutes, and then close it up again, thinking “yep, later.” It looks HARD, especially if you’re not a programmer. (Programmers can learn to use it in about 3.5 seconds.)

Then I took the plunge. I agreed to teach a class on Scratch to middle school students as part of a summer program at my school. So I had to teach myself how to use it. And honestly, I didn’t truly become comfortable with it until I’d taught others how to use it. The thing about Scratch is that it’s a language, literally. You need to understand how the language works before you can speak it. And the way to learn it is to practice.

Where do you start? Here:

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28 Days of Teens & Tech #25: Media Mashup

Over the past three years I’ve been in on the work of Hennepin County Library’s Media Mashup project (an IMLS funded project) which focused on bringing technology to teens in public libraries around the United States. The project used the Scratch software program (Scratch project example below) as the entree point for librarians to integrate tech into their services. And, it looked at the ways in which Scratch was integrated in order to better understand challenges and successes when innovating in libraries.
Learn more about this Scratch project
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Define Teen Services: Innovation, Risk, Change, Relationships, Passion

Last week I had the chance to attend meetings of the Hennepin County Library Media Mashup project. Media Mashup is an IMLS funded project that looks at how innovation and change happens in libraries. The way that’s being investigated is through the use of Scratch software with teens in libraries in Hennepin County and around the country. Last week’s meetings were inspiring and I left with several words bouncing around my head: Continue reading