Today’s Contributor: Andrea Houdek
Andrea is the librarian and CIC at Houston Elementary School.
I’ll be the first to admit that while I have an interest in technology, it is not my passion. I had a desire to introduce technology into our library program, but was unsure of my ability to lead the charge. I knew our students needed exposure to 21st Century skills and the 4 C’s. After all, 80% of all jobs today require computer skills and the jobs they’ll fill haven’t even been created.
Starting coding in the library has been a three year journey. I had seen Hour of Code implemented at my former school and decided to start with that small commitment. My first step was to take the Code.org class offered by AISD and taught by the very inspiring Vanessa Jones. The curriculum is easy to follow. However, lack of a fully functioning computer lab prevented me from implementing anything my first year.
The next year (Year 2) my desire was there and we had received the Tech Bond equipment, but I was overwhelmed and afraid to integrate teaching technology into the library program. I wasn’t sure I was up to the task of teaching students using my lovingly dubbed “Frankenstein”cart of 6 Latitudes, 9 chromebooks, 7 iPads, and of course the 8 Mandas already in the library. All year there was a voice in the back of my head nagging me to take the leap. Maybe next year.
Last year (Year 3) I took the leap. I started with a commitment to Hour of Code. Wow! What a game changer! I decided to introduce coding to 3rd -5th grade. After seeing the excitement from the students, I made a commitment to code once a month. Now the students walk into the library and ask enthusiastically if today is coding day when they arrive. If they see the computers set up, I often hear exclamations of “YES!” and see fist pumps. My end goal for the students is to complete Course 1 and then apply their knowledge of Blockly to programming our new Dot and Dash robots.
Final admission, I’ve spent most of last year feeling guilty for not giving this opportunity to learn coding to PreK – 2nd grade. Thanks to the Library Media Center, I was able to assuage this feeling. At a professional development in March, I learned that we could check out Bee-Bots, which I did immediately. No turning back now. They are so easy to use! All I had to do was take them out of the box and put them into the kids hands. I began with a mini lesson on algorithms where we wrote an algorithm (a series of steps to complete a task) to brush our teeth. Next we created several algorithms for Bee-Bot to get to a flower that moved around the grid I’d created. And then I set the students free to explore their Bee-Bots. I’m so happy PreK – 2 is solidly on the road to code.
I love how coding has brought out the communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking skills that will enable our students to succeed in a global society. The students enthusiasm is fueling my desire to introduce and expand our technological exploration.
I am now moderately confident in my ability to lead the charge on our road to code and if we hit any bumps in the road, I know my students have the skills to see it though.