The program aims to assist children in rural areas and small towns to learn basic coding attending coding clubs activities in public libraries.
With the advance of the technology sector, coding is increasingly popular among children and parents and a new market of such courses for children has emerged. However, this is mainly limited to large cities and a segment of the population that can afford it. In rural areas, studies show that, despite a very high penetration of technology in the households of researched students (90% have a computer and 80% have internet at home), the digital skills are very basic (accessing internet, use of search engines, opening files etc.). Also, the computer is used mainly for entertainment, less for learning.
The Hour of Code initiative, which has a much wider spread (reaching out to 1.1 million people in Romania), but only allows for a very short encounter with coding, inspired some participants to remain engaged and even develop a more consistent coding program for kids. It is the case of a small rural library in village Pietrari – Vâcea. After participating in Hour of Code, the library created a weekly club for coding using resources available online. The experience of this library and the needs/challenges faced by the librarian have been the starting points for designing this program.
The program intends to use the infrastructure of public libraries that previously received support through the Biblionet Program (2009-2015) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition to endowing libraries with equipment and internet access, Biblionet provided training for the librarians and promoted public libraries as community centers.
The program will design a model of coding clubs and test it in libraries from rural areas and small towns. A partner organization (Asociația Etic) with expertise in coding courses for kids will design the content and will provide regularly the clubs with new activities and tasks (problem solving). The content of the coding course will use the most relevant resources existing online (code.org, bitsbox, scratchEd etc.). The courses will be organized weekly by the local librarians with the support of Coding Ambassadors (one-two children from community with high interest for the topic). Both the librarians and ambassadors will receive basic training in coding, before the start of program for children. In addition, employees of a partner IT company will provide remote mentoring for the clubs.