Casey is a library media specialist at Winnequah Elementary School in Monona, WI, teaching kids from 4k all the way through 5th grade. She loves sharing her love for reading, coding, and technology every day with her students. Casey also enjoys long walk on the beach,eating cheese and finding the best bloody mary available. Connect with Casey on Twitter @RedorRead.
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As a school librarian, I don’t typically get a chance to provide the same types of programs you might see in a public library setting. This May, though, I had the chance when our school hosted Springfest. Basically, during Springfest, each teacher signed up to run an activity in their room for the last hour of the day, and students signed up for an activity that interested them.
This felt like the perfect opportunity to share one of new passions in life with the kids, coding! I would like to say that while I love coding, I am very much a beginning coder myself, and have limited experience. I am, however, a big believer in including coding in our schools and encouraging students (especially girls) of all ages to learn at least a little bit of code. I had done a school-wide Hour of Code in the library this past December, but hadn’t had a lot of opportunities to include coding beyond that. This time around, I decided to limit it to students in 3rd-5th grade. There were eight kids total who signed up, four boys and four girls (yay!), which made it a very low-key afternoon.
When the students arrived, I started by briefly introducing the three programs they had the option of using – Code.org, Scratch, and Bitsbox. All of the students had seen Code.org and used Scratch Jr. before, but Bitsbox was completely new to everyone. I really wanted the students to explore on their own, and I didn’t want them to see me as the expert in any way. Some of the kids had more experience than I did, which was great!
As the students were set free to choose where to begin, it was interesting to see who gravitated to which programs first. I should mention I don’t have a large number of computers in the library so students were using Chromebooks, PCs, and one student was using the brand new iMac. Because these were all web-based programs, it didn’t really matter that students were using different devices. In the end, three of the girls jumped on Bitsbox right away and the rest tested the waters with Scratch.
I was really excited to see what the students would create left to their own devices. It was a bit of a rough start for some as Scratch is not overly intuitive for beginners, in my opinion. We worked through it together, but it was important to me to remain very hands off. I would give verbal directions while the struggling students would “drive” their own computer. Once we got past the first couple of hiccups, it was pretty smooth sailing.
After about forty minutes, students started sharing what they had created on their own without any prompting from me. One boy who had never used Scratch before was very proud of his animated character, as he had spent the greater part of half an hour figuring out how to first make it walk and then make it look like it tripped. One of the girls had experimented with making her own app using Bitsbox, and she had coded a simple click/touch app. Most students had tried out at least two of the coding programs by the end. It was amazing to see what each student got done in such a short amount of time, and made me wonder what they could be capable of if they had more time.
I even sat down and played around with some of the predesigned apps from Bitsbox, and created a fire-breathing dragon!
With about ten minutes left, I brought out the coding themed temporary tattoos I had gotten through Bitsbox and offered them up to anyone who wanted one. I did have to talk one student out of putting his tattoo on his face or neck, but otherwise they were a big hit!
All in all, I was very happy with how everything went! I think having the different coding options worked really well, and while I had been a little nervous about how the loose the structure was, the students enjoyed the freedom. If you haven’t tried a coding program in your library yet, I highly encourage you to try something like this. It required very little prep work, and you truly only need to have a bare minimal understanding of coding beforehand. It was great to learn alongside my students for a change!