It’s not professional basketball. It’s not astrophysics. Not even Shakespeare. It’s coding.
In a recent survey of library directors and children’s librarians, the number one reason for not hosting computer coding clubs was a lack of technical expertise from anyone in their staff.
So instead of enjoying the buzz and excitement of running a coding program, most librarians have succumbed to feelings of being “in over their head.” They have judged themselves incapable of running a coding program.
They’ve got a valid point. Coding can be technical and unintuitive at first. Even if a staff member was lucky enough to take a class in high school or college, they probably feel rusty and unqualified to begin teaching others. To imagine coding live in front of a room full of kids is horrifying, and may seem downright impossible.
That’s where Fiero steps in.
We knew coming in that library staff would not feel comfortable giving lectures on coding. But the hope of seeing libraries explode into the 21st century by creating the next generation of innovators propelled us to design a program that needed no expertise to run.
Imagine a self-learning environment, where software provides the course outline and necessary knowledge, and adults are acting more as facilitators and encouragers. That’s a Fiero code club.
These clubs are run by facilitators – usually a librarian, paraprofessional, or a volunteer. Facilitators function as guides, not teachers. They never lecture because lectures are a terrible way to learn coding. It’s a highly collaborative, interactive environment. The adults are cheerleaders and mentors that encourage kids and guide them along their journey of self-learning.
In fact, we believe so strongly in a self-guided, peer-assisted model of learning that we train facilitators never to directly answer questions when the kids are stuck. The adults ask questions and guide the kids to resources so they can solve the problem themselves. Not only do kids learn significantly better this way, but it makes for a stress-free experience for our facilitators.
Early in my code club adventure, I began receiving emails and phone calls from librarians that wanted me to come provide the program at their location. At first, I assumed that the best approach would be to have professional software developers in the room, so I started “matchmaking,” sending my friends from the local tech scene to help run code clubs.
At one library, we struggled to find a tech pro to volunteer. While we searched, the club was running with Marie, a library volunteer with zero experience in technology. Marie told me that she makes her adult children handle the tech needs in her personal life, and that her grandchildren were more proficient than she was with technologies like phones and tablets. She desperately asked me to find a technology expert to help at code club.
I never found that tech expert. But I was surprised to find that Marie’s code club was outperforming several other clubs that had expert volunteers.
How is this possible?
I found out when I visited her code club. She knew the kids by name. She asked with amazement about the projects they were working on. She sat with them and tinkered when they were stuck. The kids noticed. They kept coming back. They worked at home. They progressed. And they were so proud to show Marie the latest project they built.
A better world.
Our goal at Fiero is to change the world through coding. Really, it is. We have found that the best way for kids to learn coding – facilitated, self-guided learning – is perfect for libraries. Kids meet together in person and learn online and from each other. They “level up” in the software we created. They build projects we suggest, or something entirely new that they dreamed up. And the best part – any library can run a code club, even with no technological expertise.