Author Archives: Eric Stroshane

Libraries and The Hour of Code

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Guest Post by Tom Stokke, North Dakota Hour of Code Coordinator

The Hour of Code was started by Code.org in 2013 as an initiative to introduce students to coding, or computer programming. Code.org believes that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.” To this end, a variety of engaging hour-long activities have been designed to introduce the concepts of computer science, in fun and engaging programming tutorials. In subsequent years, Hour of Code activities have been designed for everyone, from kindergarten through high school and beyond, to engage audiences from all levels of education and experience.

Even though the use of computers has become ubiquitous, currently there are limited opportunities for students to learn to use computers as problem solving tools. As a society we are very good at consuming content with computers, but our abilities to innovate, design, and create new problem solving tools are limited at best. By improving students’ understanding of how to use the computational abilities of computers to solve their problems, in their fields of interest, we can develop a prepared workforce better suited to meet the demands of tomorrow. Continue reading

Starting a Coding Club at Your Library (5)

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Greetings and welcome to another installment of CodeDak, the State Library’s monthly column on running coding clubs in libraries! This episode is unflaggingly focused on one topic: lesson plans. If you’re offering a weekly, bi-weekly, or even a daily program, things will run smoother with some field-tested plans to work from. Even if you have no advance knowledge of this whole “computer science” thing, you can turn to these to guide you through. Below are links several sets of curricula and some brief explanations of what you can expect at each site. Enjoy!

Code Club: Code Club has full curricula for six different coding languages (Scratch, which may be best for beginners; HTML & CSS; Python; and three hardware-specific sets of curricula for working with Raspberry Pi, Sense HAT, and Sonic Pi). Each curriculum has six projects, which introduce concepts and complexity as they progress. For Scratch, HTML & CSS, and Python, there are multiple sets of 6 project arcs—six for scratch and two each for the others. As an added boon, these are all available in 28 different languages, which can be a great help when working with new Americans: https://codeclubprojects.org/en-GB/

Code.org: You may already be familiar with Code.org through the Hour of Code, but they also have comprehensive lesson plans presented alongside supplementary materials for teaching coding concepts to any grade level, from K-12. Have pre-readers? No problem. Advanced kids? Code.org has you covered. Simply start out by selecting Elementary, Middle, or High School under “Full course catalog” and you’ll be guided along to everything you need. If that’s a bit overwhelming and you’d like to take a more stripped down approach, simply go the “Express” route,” which comes in two flavors: Pre-reader and CS Fundamentals: https://studio.code.org/courses?view=teacher Continue reading

Starting a Coding Club at Your Library (4)

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In this installment of CodeDak, we’re going to look at some robots, books, and games you can incorporate in your library’s coding club to help make computer programming more approachable, concrete, and fun. Even if you’re not running a coding club (though you should be!), everything mentioned here could still be used in a variety of engaging educational programs at your library. As a side note, the State Library intends to develop circulating kits around many of the interactive ‘bots below, though these aren’t anticipated to be in circulation until early 2018. We’ll provide more details as plans gel!

Robots and games, no computer required:

Circuit Maze: A single player game that teaches logic and sequential reasoning in an electrical engineering framework. Play pieces on the game board within the constraints of a challenge card, complete the circuit, and light things up: http://www.thinkfun.com/products/circuit-maze/

Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set: Tap instructions into the back of a plastic robot mouse to steer it through a maze you build yourself. Appropriate for even very tiny people. Good times! https://smile.amazon.com/Learning-Resources-Robot-Activity-Pieces/dp/B01A5YMCH4/

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Starting a Coding Club at Your Library (3)

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We’ve been easing you into the idea of running a coding club at your library and participating in this year’s Hour of Code. If this is your first time checking in, you may wish to refer to the previous entries in this series.

What at minimum do you need to get started?

Time. You will want to hold regularly scheduled meetings of your club (or clubs!) and each meeting should be at least an hour long. During the summer and afterschool are optimal times, but weekends can work well, too.

Computers. Desktops or laptops; tablets will work handsomely for block coding (which is likely what you’ll start out with), but if you’re going to be working with older teens or eventually catering to more advanced coders, keyboards will become important.

Curriculum. The core curriculum we’re recommending is CS First. It’s completely free and targeted at ages 9-14. You can schedule it flexibly and it’s based around block coding, which makes it accessible and easy to accommodate. Plus it ties in really well with educational robots (coming soon from a State Library near you…)

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Starting a Coding Club at Your Library (2)

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In the first installment, we introduced you to CodeDak, the State Library’s initiative to encourage and support running coding clubs in libraries throughout the state. We looked at the exigent need to provide safe, fun, and free opportunities for our youth to learn coding and computer science. Now we’re going to define some terms and detail the bare bones of what you need to get started. This guide is far from comprehensive, but fear not—there’s more to come in future issues of the Flickertale!

Coding: Also called programming, computer programming, or scripting, this is the practice of creating sets of machine-interpretable instructions that make a computer do your bidding. This is an incredibly powerful skillset, as computers are in almost everything, including phones, drones, refrigerators, and rubber duckies. The applications of coding range from creating games and apps, automating routine processes like sorting, making robots dance, performing complex math, modeling weather patterns, even creating art and music—anything a coder can dream of.

Programming Language: Just as people use a wide variety of languages to communicate with each other, there are many different languages for communicating with computers. Common ones taught in coding clubs include: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Scratch, and Ruby on Rails.

Block Coding: A visual style of coding where instructions are represented as Continue reading

Starting a Coding Club at Your Library (1)

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The Library Development Department of the North Dakota State Library has begun a new initiative focused on coding in libraries. It’s our goal to see libraries throughout the state participate in this year’s Hour of Code. More than that, we want to work with you to start a coding club in your library. Please, please, please don’t be frightened or rage quit your job. You’ve totally got this and we’ll be with you every step of the way. Before we get into the weeds, I wanted to provide a few reasons behind why we’re doing this:

  • Currently there are more than 500,000 computing jobs open nationwide (572 in North Dakota)
  • Last year, less than 43,000 computer science students graduated into the workforce (117 in North Dakota)
  • Computer science drives job growth and innovation throughout our economy and computing occupations are the number one source of all new wages in the U.S.
  • North Dakota has no K-12 computer science curriculum standards nor are North Dakota high schools required to offer computer science courses (though to their great credit, many do)
  • Learn more at: https://code.org/promote

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NDLCC Standards Compliance Resource Links

Whether or not you attended one of our recent Summer Summit meetings, I wanted to ensure these resources were readily available and in one convenient location. If you need further assistance, don’t hesitate to contact your friendly Library Development Specialist here at the North Dakota State Library!

Hooray! Your Library’s a Pokéstop!

Pokestop

The North Dakota State Library is a Pokéstop and your library likely is, too!

Guest post by Shari Mosser, ND State Library

I wanna be the very best. Like no one ever was!

Lately, you might have seen random people outside your library – singly or in groups. The people range in age, background and lifestyles. The only thing in common is that they are usually holding a phone in front of their face. Sometimes they congregate for a half hour or so and then walk (or drive/bike) away. Others will just keep walking by or abruptly switch directions with excited looks on their faces.

These people are probably playing the new, popular, free-to-play game called Pokémon GO! It is so popular it is on the verge of overtaking the daily number of users that are on Twitter. Pokémon GO uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where you are in the game (so real world locations!) and make little “monsters” appear around you. As you move around, different Pokémon appear depending on where you are and what time it is.

The idea of the game is to encourage exploration and travel (i.e. walking) in the real world making it an augmented reality (AR) game. Players actually have to go to the physical location to play. This game is what players have dreamed about since Pokémon came out in the late 90’s. The idea that Pokémon are real and inhabit our world is very enticing.

An Augmented Reality Pidgey lurking in our stacks

An Augmented Reality Pidgey lurking in our stacks.

The game also transforms local landmarks and businesses into Pokéstops and Gyms. Most likely your library is a Pokéstop in the world. This is where players come to refill their necessary supplies (like Pokéballs and other items). Reach out to those players by advertising that you are a stop! Let the players know they can refill and collect valuable Eggs.

Or, you can play along! Then you can set up your stop to lure Pokémon. This means you put out an item (in game) that will increase the amount of Pokémon at your Pokéstop. These Pokémon then can be seen and caught by any player nearby. Use it during a typically slow period of your day to get more foot traffic, and then use your creativity to turn them into a library patron! Drop a lure before your summer reading program as a lead in to your event. Make sure to advertise your lure beforehand to increase participation.

The popularity of this game is exploding. Make that impact a positive one by embracing the game and its players. Pokémon GO could be a memorable experience for you and your patrons!

Now, I’m off to find Mew!

Pokémon, (gotta catch them all) it’s you and me
I know it’s my destiny
Pokémon, oh, you’re my best friend
In a world we must defend

Screen PBS Documentaries for Free at Your Library

Logo for PBS's POV documentary film seriesPBS allows libraries to register to borrow and screen select documentary DVDs, free of charge. They even have discussion guides, lesson plans and reading lists to accompany these films. New additions to their lending library collection are added each year in association with their POV series. Their 2015 lineup includes The Overnighters, a feature-length award-winning film set in North Dakota’s oilfields. Not convinced? Scope their trailers!

In order for your library to participate, you do need to register in the POV Community Network. Once you register, you will receive an email with an activation link and temporary password. Use these to activate your account. You will then be ready to go–to make requests, you will simply need to log in to your account and click “Create an Event” to register and schedule a screening.

Over 80 high-quality documentary films on sundry topics and of various lengths are currently available to libraries through this program, and more get added each year.

International TableTop Day, 2015

Logo of International TableTop Day featuring cards, dice, spinners, and game piecesInternational TableTop Day lands on April 11th this year, and it’s not too soon to get your library signed up as an event host! It’s free and will be a blast for you and your patrons.

TableTop Day is a celebration of the fans of tabletop gaming. It’s a single day where the world is brought together by the common purpose of spending time together and having fun.

If you have board, card, or other tabletop games at your library, you have everything you need to participate. Whether you already have games or not, it never hurts to acquire more. Visit a local game or hobby shop, or if you don’t have one, a box store and see what new games they have. Complex/European games have been the flavor of choice for some years now–don’t be afraid to dive in and try something new! By adding a few of these to the mix, you can help ensure you’ll have engaging offerings for adults, teens, and children.

If you’re curious, you can learn more about TableTop Day by visiting the official site. If you’re ready to commit, go ahead and create  an official TableTop Day Event and place your library on the map. This will make it easy for gamers to find you!