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Partner with AspireIT to offer coding programs for girls: Join May 23 webinar

An important focus for the Libraries Ready to Code community is to empower youth who may have fewer opportunities or exposure to coding activities, including girls – and connecting with the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) through their AspireIT program is one way libraries are reaching more young girls. Next week we are hosting a webinar for information about partnering with AspireIT to have coding program in your library this fall. (Note: this webinar will help you with your funding application, which is due July 1, 2018.)

Join Ready to Code’s May 23 webinar for information about applying for the next round of AspireIT funding before the July 1, 2018, deadline. Photo credit: Code.org

Join us on May 23, 2018, at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET for an informational webinar: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/107679832

But don’t just take my word for it! Here are excerpts paraphrased from a recent conversation I had with RtC cohort member Claudia Haines from the Homer Public Library about the hybrid (virtual and in-person) program they’re developing in rural Alaska:

Why is your library joining forces with AspireIT?  

My interest goes back three or four years as part of planning a multi-generational Hour of Code program for girls. The audience for the Hour of Code and also for our maker and Lego programs had been predominantly boys, and I wanted to figure out why that was – what was different about these programs. I used research from NCWIT and applied that to the program. The research was especially around what made CS or CT programs successful and attractive to girls. The program turned out to be full to capacity and very successful for the girls and the adults.

In rural Alaska there are not a lot of resources or a plethora of programmers working in town, particularly women. Our involvement in RtC touches on this lack of access to CS and broader engineering programs. No CS is being taught in schools here, and after school opportunities are pretty spotty. Part of my role in the library is looking for where the learning gaps are in formal school and how the library can partner to fill those gaps, or offer programs to fill them on our own.

AspireIT fits in nicely with being part of the RtC cohort. Both can start a community conversation not just around CS and computational thinking but also around what opportunities young people have from rural communities, and in this case, for young women from rural communities. And because this program will be partly virtual, we’re exploring how we can use digital tools to our advantage to create more opportunities and address needs within other careers/fields in our community for youth. Ultimately, this experience will be highly valuable however we can make it work.

What’s your advice for other libraries as they get started?

  • Figure out who your audience is. Girls in general? A specific age? Is there a specific part of your community you’re trying to reach?
  • Identify what part of your library’s goals this fits with so you can communicate this with the library administration or your community. This can help bring in partners you might not have thought of.
  • Know your specific challenges. For example, connecting rural kids in a virtual/remote model looks different from an in-person model. You have to be creative and figure out what is going to work in your situation.
  • Acknowledge this, and be open to getting help from other libraries and community partners. You don’t have to do it by yourself – there are other people out there to help.

Being part of the program opens up an opportunity for young people to explore their own interests. The support we can give them to pursue that interest – that is what the community can offer young people. It also creates a learning opportunity through the mentorship process that is part of the Aspirations program. The young women working with us, these girls will mentor other girls and so on down the line. The Aspirations community is really remarkable in how it gives young women support as they move through school into college and career…


The next round of AspireIT funding – for programs occurring between October 15, 2018 and June 14, 2019 – is open, with applications due on July 1, 2018.

Join us on May 23, 2018, at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET for an informational webinar: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/107679832

Working with the RtC cohort, I can say with certainty that libraries are extraordinarily creative when they design and implement coding activities for children and teens. The school and public libraries involved in the project demonstrate what computational thinking is, why it’s important for youth to exposed to such programs and how libraries can lead in providing those opportunities. The cohort connects with youth and families to incorporate youth interests and learning needs. They are also working with library staff and connecting to community partners to build capacity within their libraries. (Curious for more details? The RtC libraries are sharing videos and blog posts describing their experiences in the project.)

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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.

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