Soldotna library receives tech grant

Jul 19, 2018

 

Open source hardware, like the Ozobot, provide a platform for learning to code.
Credit www.ozobot.com

Young or old, few of us can get by these days without at least some occasional computer work. The Soldotna library recently received a grant that will help with basic digital literacy all the way up to coding.

 

 


The ones and zeros of computer coding used to be the language of only the techiest among us. But increasingly, knowing how to build software from the ground up is becoming a baseline skill. The Soldotna library will soon have some new tools that will provide everyone a chance to develop those skills. City librarian Rachel Nash says that includes new laptops and other pieces of open-source hardware.

“The laptops will be used for both digital literacy classes, so basic computer classes. Anything from how to use a mouse to how to use Microsoft Office. The other components, the Arduino and the Ozobots are going to be used as part of our coding program. We did run a pilot program last spring called Code for Code. It’s for ages 12 and up and it’s where they can basically do anything. They can see if they’re interested in computer science, see if they’re good at it, they can build things with the Ozobots which are little robots. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The two pieces of kit Nash mentioned, Arduino and Ozobot, are universal platforms from which new tech tools and toys can be developed at each student’s own pace.

“If a student comes to us and says ‘I want to learn how to make a video game’, then that is the goal they would be working toward and we will have the tools to help them with that. The first course that we did, we used something called Google Code. It actually had a more formal curriculum that they went through. We didn’t have the laptops, we didn’t have all the components that we’re going to have this time, but I do think the students who worked through that, it gave them the basics. So if we have someone who comes to us and already knows coding, the sky’s the limit.”

And if that’s maybe a bit advanced, the library is also putting together a digital literacy program to help people hone in on the basics.

“There’s this interesting concept that we shouldn’t call it digital literacy. We should call it digital literacies. Because at any time, you’re going to need to use multiple different skills. It starts with basic literacy, being able to read, being able to understand instructions. Starting with that, that will help you to learn everything else you need to learn on a computer. But even with a computer, there’s a difference between knowing how to use a mouse to open a program and knowing how to use that program effectively. For instance, excel spreadsheets, if you want to do budgeting, that’s a great tool if you know how to use it.”

The library received more than $4,000 in grant funding for the state for the new tools. Nash says anyone can sign up at the library to put those tools to use.