Friday, August 04, 2017

MAJOR RANT and Girls Who Code

Here's the thing. Math class takes up a lot of time and requires a lot of expensive, full time teachers. Instead of scheduling all students for math, let's have a space in the library where students can drop by, work with manipulatives, read some math textbooks, maybe do some worksheets or Khan Academy online, and collaborate with other students on math that interests them. So that there's even more time for students to do math, there will be a Math Club that meets during lunch. Maybe a Day of Math once a year. We'll give the librarian a couple hundred dollars a year to buy supplies.

This would insure that all students would be exposed to math every day, that they would have a teacher at their disposal who is proficient in math (because all librarians are) and isn't doing anything else during the day like teaching research classes or helping language arts classes get books.

Test scores will go up, because this is the 21st century learning model, right?

See how silly that sounds? Now apply it to the way that technology is treated in most districts. Want middle school students to learn coding? Buy some Spheros and OzBots for the MakerSpace. Have a Coding Club that the librarian can instruct while wolfing down a granola bar. Have some community volunteers work with a Robotics Club. Now everyone in the whole school knows coding, right?

No. If we taught math or science, or even language arts or history the way most districts teach technology, there would be immediate public outrage. For one thing, only about 20% of the students would even get a chance to get into the library regularly. There would be no grades or accountability for subjects, and we all know how important accountability is.

So why are there DAILY technology classes for students? I don't mean word processing, although it would be nice if students could learn to keyboard before sixth grade. I mean all manner of computer functions, up to and including coding. If technology is going to be so important to children's work places in the future, why are we hoping that all students learn everything they need to know by dropping by a makeshift center in a library staffed by an overworked librarian who may or may not know how to code?

It's ridiculous. Librarians being willing to take the place of a proper technology course of study is not doing students any sort of good at all.

That being said, I did like these books.

Deutsch, Stacie. The Friendship Code
August 22nd 2017 by Penguin Workshop
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Lucy is excited to join the coding club in 6th grade because her uncle has cancer, and she wants to make an app that will help him remember his medicine. She's not happy with the slow start the club has-- Mrs. Clark has them writing directions for how to make a peanut butter sandwich and doesn't even let them near the computer! When Lucy gets a coded note late on, she strongly suspects her brother Alex is behind it, but follows the directions. She meets up with her former best friend, Sophia, who likes to play sports. The two mend their differences when Lucy tells Sophie that she just lost interest in sports, not in Sophia. More notes lead Lucy to seek help from Maya, who is very interested in fashion,  as well as Erin, who has just moved into town. When the girls can't quite figure out the code, they taking it to the next coding club meeting to try to get some answers, but by that time, the girls have become fast friends and have learned a bit about coding.
Strengths: This was a fairly standard girl group book, much like Kimmel's Forever Four, Maple's Roxbury Park Dog Club, McLean's Jewell Society, Santopolo's Sparkle Spa, Simon's The Cupcake Diaries, etc. The big difference, of course, is that the girls are interested in coding, which is a great thing. The group is culturally diverse, has supportive parents and some annoying siblings, and have a variety of other interests as well.
Weaknesses: I wish the coding club teacher was called MS. Clark, not Mrs. It is 2017. I ran out of patience with Mrs. in 1985. Also, see rant above.
What I really think: Very serviceable middle grade title that is engaging and positive. This should circulate well, so I'm glad to invest in the series.

35600823Deutsch, Stacie. Team BFF: Race to the Finish
October 31, 2017 by Penguin Workshop
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Sophia is the main character in this book. She's looking forward to the big hackathon on Saturday, and the challenge is to create a robot who can get through a maze. She and friends Lucy, Maya and Erin have great ideas to make the robot creative as well, and decide to include Leila on their team, since her team members couldn't make the competition. However, at the last minute, Sophia's parents expect her to watch her younger sisters, since they have to work and her abuela is going to visit her sister. Afraid to tell her team she must disappoint them, Sophia registers the group anyway. Now, if she doesn't show up, the entire group will be disqualified! Luckily, her friends pull together to make sure that Sophia gets all of her chores done and they even hire a neighbor girl to babysit! (With the parents' permission, of course!) In the meantime, Sophia (who works with the high school football team as a trainer) hopes that her friend Sammy will ask her to the dance, but when he doesn't, she asks him herself! All the girl power!
Strengths: This showed great team work, had lots of positive role models, and went beyond the stereotypical "girl"interests (fashion and baked goods) with Sophia's work with the football team. I liked the age appropriate romance as well as the look into Sophia's family life.
Weaknesses: As of July 1, there was not a print copy of this available. I hope this changes. This is now available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-399-54252-7) Sophia's parents had no better back up plan than to have her watch the younger siblings? No friends, neighbors, etc.? Seemed odd, but of course was a crucial plot device. Not only is it essential to have about ten different back up plans for babysitting on tap when you have small children, you also need to have a list of friends with large vehicles who can transport things at a moment's notice. And at least three neighbors who have your house key who are home right after school.
What I really think: I will buy this. After all, there is a token blonde girl with glasses in the group, so I feel represented.

33245570Saujani, Reshma. Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World
August 22nd 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
ARC obtained at ALA Midwinter

This was fine, and I would probably have bought it for my daughters when they were young, but it wasn't quite what I wanted. I've been looking for a good book to give to students who want to learn coding, and everything I've seen is waaaay too wordy and presupposes too much prior knowledge. This is a good start, but I'm still looking for the perfect book.

From the Publisher:
"Part how-to, part girl-empowerment, and all fun, from the leader of the movement championed by Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey, and other giants of tech. Since 2012, the organization Girls Who Code has taught computing skills to and inspired over 10,000 girls across America. Now its founder, Reshma Saujani, wants to inspire you to be a girl who codes! Bursting with dynamic artwork, down-to-earth explanations of coding principles, and real-life stories of girls and women working at places like Pixar and NASA, this graphically animated book shows what a huge role computer science plays in our lives and how much fun it can be. No matter your interest--sports, the arts, baking, student government, social justice--coding can help you do what you love and make your dreams come true. Whether you're a girl who's never coded before, a girl who codes, or a parent raising one, this entertaining book, printed in bold two-color and featuring art on every page, will have you itching to create your own apps, games, and robots to make the world a better place."

Ms. Yingling


  1. Pretty much my feelings about the maker space movement in public libraries...

  2. Fortunately, our school is much better about teaching technology although I think a lot of is still dumped on the librarian. The maker spaces at the middle and high school are separate entities and encompass more than technology, which makes me happy.