March 13, 2015
Nicole MeyersStaff Writer
The room at the Arlington Hills Community Center library in St. Paul, Minnesota, was silent Wednesday while teens used tablets to learn computer coding on the popular game Angry Birds.
Determined fingers dragged and dropped parts of code, and strategically placed them in the right order to move on to next level.
“I completed puzzle eight!” one girl yelled out after finishing a tough round of code.
More than 3,000 schools and libraries across the country celebrated Teen Tech WeekTM, engaging in activities such as the coding game, provided by the nonprofit Code.org.
Geek Squad Agents and Blue Shirts helped out at numerous libraries all over the country for Teen Tech Week events under the theme of “Libraries are for Making…” as teens learned through numerous digital literacy activities. The week-long program encourages librarians and educators to work with teens and give them hands-on experience with technology and the 21st-century skills that come from using it.
Partnering with the Young Adult Library Services Association* (YALSA), Geek Squad held workshops with underserved youth in in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, New York, St. Paul, San Antonio, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Brittani Uribe, the lead Geek Squad Agent at the St. Paul workshop, shared an intriguing video from Code.org with the kids before kicking off the coding project. It showed a variety of important computer coding jobs, including website development, video game software, medical equipment development and app development.
“Did you know Chris Bosh is a coder?” Brittani asked, prompting some of the kids to light up, familiar with the NBA star who also has a techy side. “A lot of people code because it’s an important job.”
Most kids today don’t see a job in technology as an option, according to Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing students access to computer science training. The group’s “Hour of Code” is a global initiative that reaches students all over the world.
Harriet Cassidy, a Best Buy Corporate employee who volunteered at Teen Tech Week in St. Paul, said it helped to give students real-life examples of how code works.
“We related it to things like when you’re shopping online and hitting the ‘Next’ button. These codes help control everything you do on a computer,” she said. “Now if they ever hear about coding again they can say, ‘Hey, I’ve done that before.’ At least now they are familiar with it.”
Robert Thao, a mentor at the Arlington Hills Community Center library, said the “Hour of Code” was a nice change of pace for teens who visit the library.
“It’s nice to see them interested in something other than social media,” he said.
Anthony, a determined teen in St. Paul, was able to finish the Angry Birds coding program and received an official certification of completion.
Working diligently with Agents on his code, Anthony said not giving up was key. “I just had to keep thinking about it until I got it.”
He said he’s now considering a job as a coder someday.
*For more than 50 years, YALSA has worked to build the capacity of libraries and library staff to engage, serve and empower teens. For more information about YALSA or to access national guidelines and other resources go to www.ala.org/yalsa, or contact the YALSA office by phone, (800) 545-2433, ext. 4390; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.