When people think of computer coding they tend to think of lines of code like screens from the Matrix, and then panic when trying to adapt that to a teen program. There are TONS of visual programming languages out there, however, that are just waiting to be used in library settings- all you have to do is play!
Visual programming languages sounds fancy, but all it is as a language that lets people create things using graphics and visual expressions instead of the lines of codes and gobble-gook. Librarians have used professionally LARP and Raptor, and I’ve seen teen programs using Alice, Snap!, ToonTalk, and others, but the one I’ve had really good success with is Scratch.
Developed by MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group, Scratch was named after turntables, DJ’s and the ease of mixing music and sound together to create a project. Going onto the Scratch site, you can see that they’ve kept their base, because projects are able to be remixed by users and saved with those changes.
Every different category of option to use is color coded, from motion and looks to operators and controls. All the creator has to do is drag and drop what they want into the development window, connect the blocks, and set up the features to let it go. There’s an online community that shares ideas and helps creators when they’re stuck, and typically you can get help within a few hours. It’s monitored so there’s no nasties anywhere around- it’s safe for most ages, and aimed for all ages as well. You can use Scratch online so there’s no special hardware or software needed- just a computer with an internet connection.
I used Scratch in the second of my Pi classes, and the tweens and teens had a blast creating their own programs. We assembled the Pis (part of the class was the learning of computer hardware as well as software), hooked them up so they were good to go, then booted them up, and then the tweens and teens were lead into the Scratch lesson. Those that completed it earned a Scratch badge that I purchased from Adafruit.
The Slideshare link to my teacher notes are below (forewarned, they are teacher notes, so they’re technical).