Consider Code!

There’s this idea that most teenagers are tech savvy. That since they grew up with WiFi and have had smartphones since they were wee babes, it means that each and every teen will become the next Mark Zuckerberg! The truth is, well, it’s just not true. I’m not saying this to be cynical, I do think that this generation will create something so amazing in the future that I’m actually simultaneously excited and scared for it. I’m just saying that, like most human beings, teens have their strengths and their weaknesses. And yes, I have encountered many teens who weren’t technological savants, and some who even had an aversion to technology. I’m sure that working in libraries, each of us have heard an adult patron exclaim, “Computers hate me!”. I’m just saying that some teens feel this way too.

People fighting back against the computers that “hate” them.

Enter the main topic of this blog post: Coding.

Coding is no doubt an important commodity; it is a great skill to learn for teens to be marketable in their future careers. It’s also a really hot library program idea right now—fitting right within the T and E categories in the STEM family. So how do we get teens of varying ability and interest in the subject matter to dabble in coding?

The answer: I’m not 100% sure. (Are you bummed that you wasted 2 minutes to read the beginning of this blog post? I promise, I’ll provide some ideas soon.)

It’s hard to give a definitive, magical answer to this question. What I do know is that sometimes teens, adults, and kids write technology off too quickly. They don’t give it a chance! Technology frustrates them so they automatically think I CAN’T whenever they come across a hurdle! But here’s at least an answer to that previous question on how we can get reluctant teens coding.

An answer to that previous question: Sneak it in.

OK, I’m not necessarily saying that you should bait and switch your teens, but then I kind of am. I mean, what if you host a music-related program and have an Arduino theremin on display and let teens edit the Hz range in the code? Or you can quickly show off a resource to teach teens how to code an online portfolio during a career program like this one on Lynda.com. How about during your video gaming tournament, you include a station where teens tinker with different blocks in this Flappy Bird clone found on code.org? And what if you had teens code an Arduino [or this awesome Arduino simulator, if you don’t have a physical one] to make an RGB LED change colors during a crafting program where you made mood jewelry?

So that last suggestion is eerily specific because I just did that program in April. At the mood jewelry craft program, I noticed that every single teen there had never been to any of the tech and coding programs I’ve hosted in the past. Many of them even seemed hesitant to try the short, 10-minute exercise to code the Arduino. But with some encouragement and, more importantly, the opportunity to try it, each teen figured out how to make that LED change colors like a mood ring. What’s even better is that they were proud of themselves when those breadboards lit up.

I feel like I should let you know that I’m not so sneaky all the time. I’ve done coding programs that are purely promoted as such. I started teaching a coding series for teens this year, and it’s been awesome seeing those tech-inclined teens take to coding like ducks to water. But I wanted to take this time to give a shout out to those teens who are hanging out at the edge of the pond. Dip your toe in the water, test it out, tinker, explore, try!

Sloths are creepy and cute.

P.S.
Here are some resources that will teach you and your teens how to code.

code.org (free)
codecademy.com (free)
w3schools.com (free)
teamtreehouse.com (through your library)
lynda.com (through your library)

 

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