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Coding at the library? Join the 2016 Congressional App Challenge

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Last week marked the official start of the 2016 Congressional App Challenge, an annual nationwide event to engage student creativity and encourage participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and computer science (CS) education. The Challenge allows high school students from across the country to compete against their peers by creating and exhibiting their software application (or app) for mobile, tablet, or computer devices. Winners in each district will be recognized by their Member of Congress. The Challenge is sponsored by the Internet Education Foundation and supported by ALA.

Why coding at the library? Coding could come across as the latest learning fad, but skills developed through coding align closely with core library activities such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaborative learning, and now connected learning and computational thinking. Coding in libraries is a logical progression in services for youth.

If you’ve never tried coding before, the prospect of teaching it at your library may seem daunting. But even a cursory scan of libraries across the country reveals that library professionals everywhere, at all levels of experience, are either teaching kids how to code or enabling it through the use of community volunteers.   Teens and tweens are learning to code using LED lights and basic circuits, creating animated GIFs, designing games using JavaScript and Python in CodeCombat and the youngest learners are experiencing digitally enhanced storytime with apps and digital media at the Orlando (FL) Public Library. Kids at the Onondaga (NY) Public Library learn coding skills by developing a Flatverse game over the course of a 4 day camp. Girls at the Gaithersburg (MD) Public Library are learning to code in “Girls Just Want to Compute,” a two week camp for teen and tween girls. These programs and many others are a prime way to expose kids to coding and inspire them to want to keep learning.

The App Challenge can be another means to engage teens at your library. Libraries can encourage students to participate in the Challenge by having an App Challenge event-  host an “App-a-thon,” have a game night for teens to work on their Apps, or start an App building club.

At the launch, over 140 Members of Congress from 38 states signed up to participate in the 2016 Congressional App Challenge.  Check to see if your district is participating and if not, you can use a letter template on the Challenge Website to send a request to your Member of Congress.

If you do decide to participate we encourage you to share what you’re doing using the App Challenge hashtag #HouseofCode and ALA’s hashtag #readytocode @youthandtech. The App Challenge runs through November 2. Look for more information throughout the competition.

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Marijke Visser

Marijke Visser is the associate director and senior policy advocate at the American Library Association’s Washington Office. She is involved in all stages of Libraries Ready to Code, E-rate, and Connect Home projects. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Peace and Global Studies/Sociology and Anthropology from Earlham College in Indiana. Before joining the ALA in 2009, Marijke earned her master’s in Library and Information Science from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.

3 Comments

  1. […] “Last week marked the official start of the 2016 Congressional App Challenge, an annual nationwide event to engage student creativity and encourage participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and computer science (CS) education. The Challenge allows high school students from across the country to compete against their peers by creating and exhibiting their software application (or app) for mobile, tablet, or computer devices. Winners in each district will be recognized by their Member of Congress. The Challenge is sponsored by the Internet Education Foundation and supported by ALA.” (via District Dispatch) […]

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