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Basic Concepts of Coding

Coding Is a Literacy

Most public library staff do not have a computer programming background, and it is daunting to consider inviting the public to learn a new skill that which we ourselves are unfamiliar. By thinking of coding as a literacy that anyone can learn, we open up the possible ways to think about, use, and explore coding concepts.


Defining “Coding”

When we say "coding," we mean not only coding and computer programming, but also coding as a literacy, as the ability to apply computational thinking for problem solving and stimulating creativity. More than anything, we want to increase awareness that coding concepts are for anyone and everyone. The Coding Initiative in Wisconsin Public Libraries is a campaign to help library staff AND library users learn about coding as it relates to our daily lives, library work, and educational and career opportunities.

Videos about Coding Concepts
  • What is Coding? (1:15 video) - An overview of coding concepts, terminology, and connection to everyday things.
  • 15 Facts About Coding (2:09 video) - This video demystifies and breaks down coding for complete beginners (or people who are just curious).
  • Scratch (2:14 video) - A computer programming language for beginners that displays binary code as "blocks" of instruction.
  • What Most Schools Don't Teach (5:43 video) - A collection of perspectives on the importance of coding and relevance to modern life.
  • How to Run an Hour of Code (3:05) - How to prep for an Hour of Code event, online or unplugged, with no experience necessary
  • An Introduction to Hour of Code (3:00)  - The essential coding taste test experience, this one featuring the characters from Disney's Frozen.
Coding and Public Libraries

Coding is an educational need for all ages

Consider how offering coding programs at your public library fulfills larger community needs. Currently, 71% of new STEM jobs are now in computing, but only 8% of STEM graduates are in a computer science field. As a public library, you have an opportunity to support the computer science public education offered in your district and for adults who want to learn coding.

Coding does not necessarily require any special equipment

Most instructional coding websites and apps fall into two separate categories. Many resources, such as, teach coding principles, without needing to purchase any specific equipment. Alternatively, companies who design coding devices, such as Dash and Dot robots, provide coding websites and apps that also teach coding principles, but require the purchase of their products. Knowing the audience you are trying to reach through your library coding programs will help you decide which option you choose to use. Remember, Coding can be presented in library programs regardless of how much time and resources you have to offer. 

Coding and K-12 Public Education in Wisconsin

Computer science is an academic standard in Wisconsin’s K-12 education. Public libraries provide a unique opportunity to provide coding education programs to all age groups that reinforce the education provided in the schools. In areas without a school computer science program, public libraries can introduce both students and adult audiences to coding basics.

Wisconsin defines Computer Science as "an academic discipline that encompasses the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their applications, networks, and their impact on society." The Wisconsin academic standards for Computer Science were developed by a statewide writing committee and submitted to extensive review by the public and the State Superintendent's Review Council. State Superintendent Tony Evers adopted the standards in June 2017.

In November 2017, the Wisconsin Standards for Information and Technology Literacy were adopted. Wisconsin defines Information and Technology Literacy as “the ability of an individual, working independently or with others, to use tools, resources, processes, and systems responsible to access and evaluate information in any medium, and to use that information to solve problems, communicate clearly, make informed decisions, and construct new knowledge, products, or systems.” The Wisconsin Academic Information and Technology Literacy standards are an important foundation to prepare students to be college and career ready.

The Wisconsin vision for CS standards is shaped by Wisconsin practitioners, experts, and the business community, and is informed by work at the national level and in other states. This vision for K-12 CS standards and the CSTA CS Standards is intended to:

  1. Introduce the fundamental concepts of CS to all students, beginning at the elementary school level;
  2. Present CS at the secondary school level in a way that will be both accessible and worthy of a CS credit, or as a graduation credit;
  3. Offer additional secondary-level CS standards that will allow interested students to study facets of CS in depth and prepare them for entry into a career or college; and
  4. Increase the knowledge of CS for all students, especially those from under-represented groups in this field.
Getting Your Feet Wet

If you have 30 minutes:

  • Dust off your checkerboard set for Table Top Coding from WisCodeLiterati. Using a checkerboard and two game pieces, your audience will move a game piece across a grid game board by randomly pulling code "instructions" from a deck, then organize the deck so the piece will move in a particular path.

If you have 60 minutes:

  • Host an Hour of Code event. Simply have your audience log into and choose from over 100 free tutorials that introduce basic computational thinking.
  • Play with Scratch, the fun coding program created by MIT. Tutorials are already provided to help your audience learn how to make Scratch, the cute cat character move, dance, or fly. Or, users can create a whole computer program by designing a birthday card, race between two characters, or designing a virtual pet. All tutorials are found under the “Create” tab on the home page.
  • Using an Hour of Code tutorial from Kahn Academy, create your own digital greeting card using HTLM and CSS, draw a snowman using JavaScript, and play with databases by creating your own store. Best for users ages 8 and up.

If you have limited access to computer and/or internet:

  • Computational thinking can be learned without a computer through “unplugged” activities. WisCodeLiterati challenges users to move a checker piece using only single instruction cards, program a friend by writing a program with individual steps needed to complete a simple task, and play a game where a frog will only get to the cupcake by moving forward, backward, and to the side one square of a game board at a time.
  • includes a whole section of lesson plans that link coding logic to real-world activities. Ideas include: learning algorithms by planting an actual seed, designing bracelets using secret binary code messages, and understand the basic idea of functions through songwriting.

For questions about this information, contact Tessa Michaelson Schmidt (608) 267-5077