Libraries may soon be supplementing schools in helping students learn how to code.
The American Library Association and Google last week announced the next phase of its Libraries Ready to Code program, which trains university faculty members to teach future librarians how to deliver coding programs to public and school libraries.
The goal, according to program officials, is to get young children and teens excited about computer science by training graduate students enrolled in Library and Information Science programs to design ways to help students learn how to code.
The first phase of the program analyzed how the nation’s 115,000 school and public libraries currently engage students in extracurricular activities like coding and computer programming, and how they promote computational thinking (CT) and computer science. But through this research, experts found that the activities available were not sufficient, and librarians need to develop more intensive coding programs to increase opportunities for youth.
“Without the ability to analyze and formulate problems and express solutions through CT, young people are severely limited in their college and career options, which hinders our global competitiveness,” said American Library Association President Julie Todaro.
Addressing the next installment, Todaro said, there is a “critical need for graduate-level curriculum dedicated to teaching LIS students how to design and implement these innovative programs.”
“Ready to Code 2 will address this deficiency and build capacity of pre-service and in-service librarians to move CT activities forward,” she added.
As part of Phase Two, seven participants will be selected by ALA officers, learning consultants and other experts to redesign their current technology and media courses, and then they will pilot the revamped classes at their higher education institutions. Ready to Code faculty fellows, who will receive a $1,500 stipend, will offer feedback and guidance throughout the project, and evaluate the course offerings. These courses can then be used as models for classrooms across the country.
Applicants should be full-time faculty members teaching technology or media at ALA-accredited graduate schools of Library and Information Science as well as schools that offer school library certification programs in the U.S. Their courses should be tailored to master’s students who plan on working with children and teens.
“LIS faculty need to re-envision our approach to teaching technology and media courses because we bear the responsibility of educating the next generation of children, teen, and youth librarians,” said Mega Subramaniam, a principal investigator of the project. She is associate professor and associate director of the Information Policy and Access Center at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies.
“Ready to Code 2 will transform current MLIS youth course offerings and produce course models that will prepare librarians to foster the development of computational thinking among youth, and to integrate coding programs seamlessly — bringing us all closer to the goal of having all libraries ready to code.”
The findings from Phase One of the project were laid out in a report, Increasing CS Opportunities for Young People, which was released earlier this month.
According to the report, libraries need to build up capacity to provide high-quality coding activities, and offer staff professional development and training. Other challenges include funding for and access to technology.
“Decision makers need to expand their
understanding of what libraries provide to
communities,” according to the report. “To succeed in integrating computer science
with personal interests, the library must engage
with community agencies and partners.”
Hai Hong, who leads U.S. outreach on Google’s K-12 Education team, said the report offers a road map for how the rest of the program should be designed.
“We’re excited to double down on the findings of Ready to Code 1 by equipping librarians with the knowledge and skills to cultivate computational thinking and coding skills in our youth,” Hong said. “Given the ubiquity of technology and the half a million unfilled tech jobs in the country, we need to ensure that all youth understand the world around them and have the opportunity to develop the essential skills that employers – and our nation’s economy – require.”
More information about the program, including eligibility requirements and an application, can be found here.