Monday, February 15, 2016

Tabletop Coding, plus more resources for coding with kids from WisCode Literati

I'm a fan of coding and other computer science activities in libraries--and I hope more and more folks will be inspired in this area, too, what with President Obama requesting $4 billion in the next budget specifically for K-12 computer science (CS) education. I love that coding activities are simultaneously versatile and engaging. Also, there's some indication that those activities kids intentionally spend time on are the ones preparing them for future jobs we have yet to even imagine. That's a strong argument for making sure CS and coding are part of library offerings, if you ask me.

In my relatively short career thus far, I've had the opportunity to work in libraries with both limited and advanced tech materials when it comes to kids' programming. What hardware a library has access to certainly factors into what type of computer science programming they can offer, but hardware doesn't have to be correlated with your intent to program around coding. We can get kids started with fundamental coding concepts in plenty of no- and low-tech ways.
All you need for a simple coding
activity is a grid board, some
tokens, and blank index cards.
With that in mind, I put together a Tabletop Coding activity for elementary ages and older. I've offered it as one of a range of stations on our Afternoon of Code here at Skokie, but it can also be a standalone pop-up activity, a competitive program--you name it. The materials are simple: a gridded game board, like for chess or checkers; a few game pieces or other tokens; and 20+ blank index cards, plus a writing utensil. With these simple materials at your fingertips, you can get kids in the mindset for coding. Full details on running the activity are here.

You see, rather than specifically share this full program activity how-to here on the blog, I wrote it up for a tremendous, free coding resource made by and for librarians: WisCode Literati. Their website hosts a growing number of CS activities, called "kits," that cover the full spectrum from no-tech to high-tech activities. Basically, there's something there for every library to offer, regardless of the tech you have at your disposal. Each activity has a thorough description, most often with helpful pictures, to get library staffers at a point where their comfort level matches their enthusiasm for offering coding activities. You should check out all of the great program and activity ideas, all of which have been vetted by librarians.

What are some of your favorite coding resources?

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