Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I first heard about, "An Hour of Code" in November of 2013.  Curious to find out more, I began to read about the drive to learn computer coding. The thought behind having kids "code" for an hour was to get them to understand computer science specifically how computer programs work. Now, I am from the 80's generation where computer coding entailed all these weird signs and commands and encompassed symbols that took me hours to find on the keyboard; kind of like shorthand another "language" that mystified me. My first thought was either they have simplified the process or kids today are genius'.

My daughter, sadly the guinea pig in most of my experiences, was enticed to get onto and see what it was about. Tutorials by famous people and the lure of playing Angry Birds was enough to get her to try it. Soon we were both watching the screen and attempting to figure out how this new "edition" of Angry Birds worked. Well, it isn't truly Angry Birds but it was a lesson in getting the bird to get the pig through commands we were giving the computer. Notice how it went from "her" to "we." I was captivated. I could do this! This was fun and I could even show my students how it works!!

While we were playing games on the computer, I began to think about the advantages beyond learning how programming is done. I noticed that we had to slow down and think through each step. As an educator, this was fabulous. For years, educators have tried to teach kids to follow all directions whether  reading them on a paper or on a screen. I have been in numerous meetings lamenting the fact that kids don't "read" all the steps. Or if they do, they want to complete the given project making varied mistakes, usually because they have forgotten a step. You can't do this with computer coding. It makes you think, program, watch, evaluate, and sometimes redo your steps. It forces you go back and correct the problem UNTIL you get it right. You can't give up and furthermore, who wants to be beaten by an evil cartoon pig? You play until you defeat him. I love that you can see where you have gone wrong and easily go back and correct your mistake, hopefully learning from it.

I began to think of all the benefits, besides understanding how a computer works, that coding can provide. Knowing that I needed more resources, I began searching for more coding games. Trying several out, the one I liked was CargoBot for the iPad. I tested it and realized that even though we have gotten rid of all those confusing symbols, this wasn't my strong skill. However, I wasn't going to let a bunch of boxes beat me so I kept playing. I liked this app, not only because it was free, but it was engaging. It also taught me other ways to code.

So far I have introduced this to a small group of students and they are begging for more. The best part about doing coding with a class is it allows for all sorts of differentiation in skill levels. Students move at THEIR pace. However, students that excel can assist others, including the teacher, when they get stuck. Peer teaching and success is always a bonus. A student teaching a teacher is priceless.

I highly encourage looking into coding and seeing the benefits I haven't written about. It's fun, educational, collaborative, and gets you to slow down and THINK. I love it when it all comes together like this.

Try these resources
App: Cargobot

Keep reading,
(Code name) The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, January 19, 2014

BiblioNasium? Is that books and gym?

Nope, it's a free website for kids who like to read. I read about it in one of my educational magazines and decided to test it out on my daughter. As you can guess, we are avid readers. I belong to Goodreads and submit book reviews on a regular basis, however Goodreads seems to be for people in high school or above. Many of my friends use Goodreads and post their reviews on various social media networks. I only post mine on Goodreads so you would have to follow me (Jillcd) to see what I am reviewing.

BiblioNasium, in my opinion, is a great way to have kids safely review what they are reading and share it with friends. The website is easy to navigate, colorful, and lets kids make their page personal by choosing a background and avatar. Basically, kids log in books they have read. They have various options to record their reading such as using a star rating to review, optionally writing a review (or even choosing a prewritten one), and receiving awards for reading goals. There are premade goals/challenges such as: reading your first biography or completing your first book. Anyone can make the goals or you don't have to do them!

Books can be genre tagged allowing for easy sharing according to interest. Kids can also invite friends with email addresses to join and see their page. Children under the age of 13 need adult permission and verification to join as well as an email address. Once kids are signed up and have personalized their page, they can begin to mark books they have read. This will display on the opening page.  There is also a reading log feature which allows you to not only list titles but the amounts of minutes spent reading. What I really love about the reading log feature is that kids can print it out or email it. I find this a great way to keep track of school reading goals while being green.

Lastly, it recommends books to students and they can choose to mark them as read, want to read, own the book, have read it, or wish list it. When you put the cursor over the cover of the book, it gives a short synopsis of the book as well as genre. If they choose to want to read it, it is saved on their shelf so they can go back and have a list of books to read. They can also mark their favorites. If the books are on a  wish list, you as a parent, can get emails with the titles.This is great for purchasing the books or grabbing them from the local library. Theoretically your child will always have reading materials!

We have spent a lot of time on this site and as a parent I find it extremely useful and helpful. Kids love to be able to share their expert opinions on what they read, and this appears to be a safe and enjoyable way to do so.
Here's the link if you are interested.

Keep reading and up next my thoughts on coding.
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, January 6, 2014


Have you ever met one of those people that can't wear a watch or the scanner at the grocery never works for them? They seem to have some sort of force field that makes those things go haywire. I am one of those people. However, my problem isn't as simple as a watch or the grocery scanner. NO, mine happens to be computers. Any type of computer, iPhone, iPad, desktop (any brand) really any computer. Sadly, this makes my job difficult.

Librarians don't just read books anymore. We are immersed in technology and branded with the job of teaching information literacy. This is tough when you are tech challenged. I spend a large part of my time educating myself on how to evaluate web sites, cite sources, learn about copyright and creative commons, investigate apps, and play around on Google so I can keep stuff organized. In turn, I try and share my knowledge with staff and students. I teach the kids in class and run profession development workshops for adults. The problem is that every single device I use has some sort of issue. You know it's bad when one of the top tech people in the area says something like, "Wow, I have never seen this happen with an iPad before." No, I didn't drop or drown it, it just became stubborn. So we wiped it thinking that would solve things, ahh wishful thinking! I moved onto my laptop. On many occasions I have clearly overworked this apparatus since it needs a break and freezes in protest. This usually occurs right when I am the middle of something incredibly important. Thankfully, I have moved onto Google docs which saves my work automatically EXCEPT for that one time where the doc disappeared. I am probably the only human being to actually lose a Google doc but if you knew my record, you wouldn't be too surprised!

The point of this post? I love technology, I am not scared of trying new things. Error messages do not send me into a panic nor do lost files (anymore). I will keep pecking away at mastering the techniques and fighting my battle with the tech tools in hopes that one day they will give up and just behave for me. Perhaps one of the big corporations would like to hire me and give me free products to find the weaknesses. Until then, I'm going to keep teaching the kids and staff what I can glean from these impossible machines and leave you with app that I love.

App of the week: Book Creator: there is a free version and a paid version. It allows you to create a book using art, pictures, and text. The books can be saved online, emailed or printed. It's a great way to share stories with those relatives who live far from you.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian