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
At the 2017 Summer Summits, Library Development staff presented on coding and coding clubs; and robots, too! Several robots were featured in our coding themed presentation (the slides can be viewed here); but we were only able to demonstrate one of the robots (the Sphero). But never fear, YouTube is here!
Through the power of YouTube, you can see all of these robots in action and learn more about them in the process. Enjoy!
Dash and Dot
Lego WeDo 2.0
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/
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…)
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.
Block Coding: A visual style of coding where instructions are represented as Continue reading
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
We’ve previously mentioned LEGO robotics, coding clubs, and littleBits machine building kits as ways to develop library STEM and STEAM programs around computer programming and machines. Today I’d like to introduce another option, the Finch robot.
The Finch was developed at the Carnegie Mellon University as a robot for computer science education. Their website has an assortment of ready-made assignments that can easily be incorporated into school curricula or used in library workshops.
Finch robots cost around $99 each to purchase (the price goes down if you buy in bulk), but if you’d like to grant fund your library’s robot acquisition, there is grant writing assistance custom-tailored to Finch robots available here.
Want to learn more about the Finch? Here’s a 3 minute overview:
Here are two exciting new and upcoming that libraries can incorporate into STEM and STEAM programs and into Makerspaces. The first is called littleBits. littleBits are magnetically connectable color-coded electronic modules. They teach children how to connect circuits and build machines but require no soldering, wiring, or programming.
There are a number of kits available for sale or you can buy modules individually. littleBits has an educational site that includes lesson plans, design challenges, tons of great ideas. Brilliantly, their hardware is open source and everything on their site is Creative Commons licensed, so it’s all free to use and modify. They’ve got a growing community of contributors uploading new lessons, projects, and build videos as well. Continue reading
The Hour of Code is a campaign from Code.org to recruit 10 million kids to try computer science for one hour during Computer Science Education Week (December 9-15). Industry leaders like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg; organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; celebrities, athletes, and politicians like will.i.am, Chris Bosh, Enrique Iglesias, and Bill Clinton; and scores of others have joined the campaign.
Computer science is foundational for all students today, yet the overwhelming majority of schools don’t teach it. This is a chance to inspire under-served students to achieve the 21st Century American Dream. Continue reading
Hosting a Coding Club at your library or in your computer lab is a great way to get teens into your building and foster their knowledge and interest in STEM fields. They also provide an opportunity for you to partner with schools and tech companies in your community. Previously, we’ve discussed how to start a Coding Club using Codecademy. Today I wanted to inform you of some other resources you can make use of.
CoderDojo has some great guidance and resources on how to start a more formalized coding club with designated coding mentors. The Bismarck Veterans Memorial Library recently started a CoderDojo (the only one so far in our state)–kudos to them!
Kodu facilitates the creation of games for the PC (free) and XBox ($5 through the Indie Games channel) using a simple visual programming language. In addition to programming skills, it cultivates creativity, problem solving, and storytelling. They have an education kit you can download to help you get started. The platform is geared towards a younger audience, but can provide an excellent introduction to programming for middle school-aged youths and even pre-teens.
CodeEd is dedicated to teaching computer science to girls from under-served communities, starting in middle school. They partner with schools and programs serving low-income girls and provide them with volunteer teachers, computer science course offerings, and computers. CodeEd does make their curriculum available under a Creative Commons Attribution license, so you can make use of it even if you don’t enter into a more formal partnership with them.
Bootstrap is a formal curriculum for students age 12-16. It teaches solid program design skills and applies algebra and geometry to video game design. The flexible course runs 20-25 hours. While Bootstrap is best suited for a school or school library media center, it has plenty to offer anyone interested in fostering a learning environment for computer programming. The curriculum is free and aligned with Common Core standards for algebra. All course materials, including unit guides, workbooks, password-protected teacher materials, and the standards matrix are available free of charge.
Code Club World is another great resource for guidance on how to start your club, promote it, and keep it running smoothly. In addition, they provide teaching materials in an assortment of languages (here’s the English one). Their focus is on clubs for children aged 9-11, but their recommendations are pretty universally applicable.
Know of any other great coding club resources? Please share them in the comments!