Saturday, January 2, 2016

May The Code Be With You In The Library

May The Code Be With You In The Library

We were so excited to try the "Hour of Code" sponsored by! I learned about this event through many conversations with educators on Twitter. We had also learned about at a local education cooperative program. We decided to host the event in the library during lunch from December 7-11. During the previous week, we had student and teacher guests from Hanamaki, Japan (Hot Springs' sister city). We decided to give a preview of our "Hour of Code" programming by inviting our friends from Japan to attend.

How We Conducted the Preview To The Hour of Code Session

The preview event worked very well! One of our students explained how to use the puzzle sessions. We decided to start with the Star Wars themed activities since Star Wars Episode VII was about to arrive in theaters. Both our students and the visitors were very interested in the coding puzzles! A few of their adult chaperones even participated with us! As an added bonus, one of our student leaders brought her MiP robot to demonstrate. We also brought out our library Spheros for students to try. The preview was a success!

Our Hour Of Code Sessions December 7-11

We invited students in grades 8-12 to come to the library during lunch for "Hour of Code" during the entire week of December 7-11. During the first sessions, we had student leaders show the basics of solving the coding puzzles. Students participated by working at their own pace on the site. It was great to see them interested in coding! We held prize drawings each day for students that participated. As an added bonus, we had Arkansas school technology infusion expert, Mr. Harry Dickens, drop in to visit one of our sessions!

We were encouraged by student engagement!
What Happened Next

Later in the week, students experimented with the Minecraft portion of the site. A few of them even moved over to MIT's Scratch site to begin the process of coding a new video game! Perhaps, they should be encouraged to start working in teams to create larger projects like this. Imagine the 21st Century skills they would be learning! We have plans of having "Genius Hour" sessions in the library during the upcoming second semester. This type of team oriented Makerspace/ Coding activity would be perfect for our learners. It is so exciting to think about the gaming and programming ideas small teams of students might develop. There are so many possibilities for this since the library is a research haven for all questions and problems our students will encounter.

Things To Consider

I don't know much about coding. The only programming experiences in my arsenal go back to the 1980s with BASIC (Remember the old Texas Instruments TI-99/4A computer?) If you are wanting to try activities like this, it isn't necessary to have a great deal of knowledge. Students will be encouraged if you make the resources and time available to them. We have found that there are always students who are willing to take the lead and show what they know. Some of our library staff participated with students in the coding sessions. Imagine the impact that it might have had if other adults had participated. Perhaps, we can explore this in future sessions. The key is having a willingness to experiment and to cultivate that desire to the learning community. We never know how many aspiring engineers and programmers are just waiting to be encouraged.

Failure Doesn't Happen

Another consideration is to push aside the fear of failure. There is really no such thing as failure in a Makerspace or coding/ programming environment since it seems best to embrace the obstacles and figure them out together. It's about experimenting, learning, and problem solving! Recently, I had a terrible time trying to replace a leaking component in the valve of our shower faucet at home. The situation became very tense when I couldn't get the pieces to come apart to repair. I had almost given up on this DIY plumbing project (I was ready to pick up the "Bat-Phone" and call a real plumber.) when I remembered to check my Internet sources. Would you believe there were numerous discussion boards and YouTube videos that showed me solutions to the problem? In my frustration, I had forgotten the most powerful tools available to me! We should encourage our students to use these same resources to research the problems that arise. The solutions are there; we just have to find them. Patience is key.

Ideas And Next Steps

Now that we have hosted this event, there are many possible ways to improve it for the future. What if we invited a professional programmer to come talk about their work in the industry next time? This could be a Skype session or face to face. We have recent alumni  that have started degree programs in this area of study. How powerful would it be to have some of them visit to discuss what they have learned since graduating from high school? We had two alumni speak to our students about college expectations last year, and it was a great success!

For our next installment my wife, Cindy Evans, will share how she introduced coding concepts in her K-6 library! Until then... The Code Will Be With You... Always. Pass it on to your learners!

Check out our top 5 blog posts of 2015!

How my wife hosted "Hour of Code" in her K-6 Library!

How we made a collaborative YouTube library commercial.

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