One of the tricks with successful makerspaces activities in libraries is developing them so they are doable with limited staffing and staff preparation and can be done during a lunchtime or similar restricted time period. These activities need to be fun and engaging as students are giving up their own time, and age appropriate. One such activity is coding. This article looks at pencil coding which can be easily done by ages 10 upwards. It is user friendly for teachers and library staff to gain skills. The coding requires needs internet connected computing devices. Coding is considered so important in the UK curriculum, that it was announced in September that all students from ages 5 to 16 must learn coding at school:
“This is very much not vocationally driven,” Peyton Jones said. “It’s not motivated primarily by saying there’s a skill shortage in this country and we need to have more people who can programme. It’s motivated instead by saying: ‘What sort of education do our children need?” http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/coding-classroom-schools-across-england-introduce-coding-curriculum-1463188
The concept of removing ICT as a separate subject at lower year levels is that ICT can be included within subject areas. The problem with this notion is that teachers choose the best tool to achieve their subject learning objective and this will be influenced by their own skill set. While this debate continues, school libraries have the opportunity to offer coding, both inside and outside class time. This promotes the library as providing technology leadership, learning extension, differentiation and a safe haven for students.
So, how to get started?
The pencilcode.net website is engaging, easy to use and resources are provided. There is an overview video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJzFD4EdeuY (3 mins) and one for Getting started at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edN07wcbj2w (4 mins 26 secs).
Step by step instructions
Go to http://pencilcode.net/
Click “Let’s play.” Click the blue play button – see what happens. Look at the code that created this movement.
To create your own code, click top left on the word “blocks” located on the blue bar. Highlight the code that is there and delete it. Students can use either the blocks to code, or type their own code.
Go to Lesson 1 at http://activity.pencilcode.net/ The beginner activities are a good place to start, and then move through these to the more advanced activities. These activities challenge the students by providing starting code, then students need to complete the code to finish the challenge.
There are more activities at http://bit.ly/1vwwd3z from page 9 onwards which can be printed out. These are good for student choice and practice and again progress from beginner to a more advanced level.
If students would like to save their coding, they can sign up for an account: http://activity.pencilcode.net/home/worksheet/signup.html
There are other resources for teachers at http://guide.pencilcode.net/
Not only is pencilcode.net free, but there is a worldwide group of pencil code hackers who meet at hackathons and are continually improving and developing this resource.
Pencilcode.net is an easy way to introduce coding.
While technology skills, such as coding, have value for both males and females, the US government sees supporting women to move into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) areas as “an essential part of America’s strategy to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. Women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations and experience a smaller wage gap relative to men… Increasing opportunities for women in these fields is an important step towards realizing greater economic success and equality for women across the board.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/women The STEM movement is widespread, but increasingly STEAM is gaining attention which highlights “Art” or design as an important future technologies skills http://stemtosteam.org/ The following youtube clip further highlights the stereotypes that operate to discourage girls from gaining digital skills, and the opportunities and advantages for women in pursuing learning in technology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sp5miJi4A8
On the ground, how did this coding happen? I just printed out some activities from pencilcode.net, and at lunchtime in our primary library asked if any students wanted to learn coding. The interested students, ageing from 10 to 13, as in the photo, logged on to pencilcode.net and did the 2 beginner activities, and then started choosing different activities to keep working on. We have had several meetings and the students have been exploring this at home as well. They are keen to keep meeting, so we have established Tuesday lunch as a good time, so I am looking forward to them outstripping my meagre skills and learning more from them.