This pathfinder is for adults who want to learn where they can get more information on the basics of coding and how to teach coding to kids in a way that is engaging and interactive. Primary users would be teachers, librarians, and parents of school-aged children. Other users might include the students themselves or adults who want to learn to code in a low-stress way.
The first resource is one of many books currently available that walk the learner through the process of learning a programming language using an interactive approach. These books are designed to be used alongside programs and applications that provide online environments for creating projects.
Scratch is a graphics-based coding language that was created at MIT to help young students learn the basics of coding such as iterations and conditionals. Woodcock’s book gives step by step instructions for building games on the Scratch platform using concise directions, engaging graphics, and quality content. This book is geared towards children 8-12 years old. They will learn how to create puzzles, navigate mazes, and add animation, among other projects. This book is published by DK, a company known for high-quality non-fiction children’s books and is one of many worthwhile coding related titles for children that the publisher has printed. A new edition will be published in the Fall of 2019, but this iteration should be useful for some time to come as Scratch is a mostly stable coding language at this point. This book would be well placed in elementary and middle school libraries as well as the children’s section of public libraries.
This book is designed for pre-school and early elementary aged students. It teaches “un-plugged” learning of coding concepts, meaning that no computer or robots are used. Students learn about sequencing and loops as they work through the book, reading about the importance of checking for bugs, evaluating and repairing faulty code, and paying attention to detail- all of which are concepts with implications that reach much further than coding alone. The bright colors and simple graphics in this board book make coding exciting and less intimidating than if a student were to be introduced to coding later through a text-heavy instruction manual. Coding is a valuable skill in and of itself, but the concepts can help students learn tenacity and collaboration, mathematic concepts, and creativity along the way. This book just goes to show that programming is not something that needs to be “held off” until a student is old enough to understand higher level processes and would be a great addition to any children’s library or elementary school library.
Dorling Kindersley Publishing Staff (2017). Coding Projects in Python. Dorling Kindersley. New York, NY.
Python is quickly becoming the number one coding language in the software development world. Once a student has learned the basics of coding using a visual tool like Scratch, learning Python is a logical next step. Python instructional texts like this one are usually suggested for students 10 and older. There are many worthwhile texts that teach Python in engaging and easy to understand ways. This text was chosen because of its engaging, interactive style and the reliability of the publisher, DK. With this text, students will build a code cracker, a quiz, and a matching game. In the process, they learn the basics of Python while practicing logic, creative thinking, and scientific process of creating, evaluating, and revising. This book is well suited to public libraries as well as middle and high school libraries.
Peer-reviewed Journal Articles:
This peer-reviewed journal article was written by a college math teacher in Australia. It gives step by step instructions for a lesson plan that starts with pen and paper and then transitions to coding on a computer to create a snowflake pattern. The lesson plan uses the principle of the Infinite Snowflake Curve and the programming language Scratch. Students who complete the assignment learn hands-on mathematics, practical coding, creativity, and the scientific process of design, creation, evaluation, and refinement. The article includes an appendix with all of the necessary tools and references for a teacher or librarian to implement on their own. While the original students were in college, this project could be done by high school students or even some middle school students who are drawn to coding and programming.
Kvenlid is a prolific writer on librarianship and leverages her extensive knowledge and experience to show librarians how they can create and leverage buy-in for robotic learning toys in the library setting with administrators, library support staff, students, and community members. This peer-reviewed journal article offers a step by step guide for creating a circulating robotics kit and utilizing it to support programming learning in the library. Also included are practical ways to use specific robots and an extensive resource list for programming and robotics education at the end of the article. The article focuses heavily on collaboration as both a necessary element of success and a positive outcome when robotics tools are used in a school library setting. The practical steps she outlines would be most beneficial to library staff and school faculty in middle and high school settings.
Matrin, C. (2017). Libraries as Facilitators of Coding for All. Knowledge Quest. Vol 45, No. 3, pg. 47-53.
Martin is a post-doctoral student at UCLA Irvine who’s work focuses on teaching underserved students the technical skills that will help them in today’s job market. This article starts by discussing the importance of programming and coding education and the large gap that exists in access to technology-based education. She posits that librarians can help bridge this gap, bringing coding to under-represented students so long as they are willing to teach a subject that they may not be experts on and learn and correct course on the fly. The article goes on to discuss an experiment where librarians were asked to teach Scratch coding. The study found that even without in-depth subject knowledge, librarians were able to facilitate learning and encourage students to work creatively and collaboratively through the projects. The article lists a multitude of resources for further reading on the subject, making this a valuable resource for those new to teaching coding with Scratch.
Websites and Online Platforms:
Scratch is a visual programming language that was created at MIT to teach programming concepts to young learners. It is now the gold-standard for introducing coding to young students and resources for learning and teaching Scratch abound in both print and online. Scratch.mit.edu is the primary source for this language and offers a user-friendly platform to learn a variety of coding skills and applications at any age or literacy level. Scratch 3.0 will be launching in January 2019 and can be used in its Beta form currently. The Scratch website has a wide variety of examples, design studios, and what they call remixes- where coders can adapt programs created by other users. This is a website that savvy students can navigate on their own or collaboratively with minimal input needed from the teacher or librarian, making it optimal for classroom use or as a tool meant to be explored at home on the students’ own time. While the colorful, visual elements of Scratch are designed to appeal to younger students, it is still a valuable and engaging website and tool for older learners too.
CodeSpark is an online, free, subscription-based platform where students can learn to code in Scratch. Teachers can sign up for a free teacher dashboard that offers curriculum, unplugged lesson plans, and an online classroom with student management. The website is easy to use for teachers, parents, and students making it a fantastic educational resource. The app for students can be used on tablets and smartphones. It is highly engaging and teaches kids coding concepts in a fun, video-game-like environment that guides them step-by-step through programming in a non-language format that is suitable for both pre-literate and literate students. CodeSpark has become well-known and is a trusted educational resource with endorsements by AASL, Parent’s Choice Awards, and Children’s Technology Review, among others. This website and app are suitable for use with pre-K, elementary, and middle school aged learners, along with the adults who guide them.
For those who are ready to go beyond the Hour of Code, from the Computer Programming landing page you can choose the course that appeals to you and work your way through a well-mapped learning pathway on the topic.
An additional resource provided by Khan Academy, in conjunction with Disney, is Pixar in a Box, a course in computer animation built on the methods and programming software used by Pixar Studios. This is a great way to integrate art with STEM learning.
There are no shortages of websites and blogs dedicated to reviewing and highlighting websites and apps for coding education. Common Sense Media offers a highly informative website for finding the right coding app or site for a student. The guide can be broken down into age groups for a more targeted list or one can view all of the reviews at once. Each program has a star rating, age range, detailed review, and list of compatible devices. Common Sense Media even offers tips on how to talk to your kids about each app and how to get started with the programs. While it is editorial in nature, the reviews are sound, and the detailed information provided about each application can be extremely helpful to the novice in coding education.
Robots That Teach Coding
Code-a-pillar is a toy designed to teach the basics of coding in a fun way to young learners who may still be pre-literate but can be equally engaging for elementary students who can program it to run through mazes that they have created. The code-a-pillar works by having connectable segments that tell the ‘head’ of the toy caterpillar what step to take next based on the order the segments are snapped together by the user. This is a sturdy toy meant to stand up to the rough and tumble play of preschoolers and elementary aged students and the wide, encased ports used to connect the segments are virtually fool-proof to connect to each other. The code-a-pillar is manufactured by Fisher-Price and runs around $50.
Cozmo is a small, programmable robot that uses its own programming software on a tablet or smartphone and comes with gaming cubes that it plays with and an ability to express emotions that evolve and personalize the more you play with him. Cozmo can play games such as Keep Away and Memory Match. The Cozmo runs about $180. Elementary aged kids find him engaging and easy to use but his limited capabilities may not be worth the cost for parents, schools, or libraries on limited or stretched budgets.
Dash and Dot are a pair of robots that are designed to be educational, sturdy, and expandable in their tools and capabilities. Schools can purchase the robot Dash for $120 and expansion pack bundles ranging from $120 to $280. At, $170, the Challenge Card Bundle is a card pack offering challenges that students can work through individually or collaboratively and the classroom or library that has more than one Dash can have multiple differentiated lessons happening simultaneously. As far as currently available educational robots go, this is one of the best. Dash and Dot are two of the several robots offered by Wonder Workshop.