Michigan Makers (Winter 2013)

by Rachel Goldberg, Media Specialist, East Middle School (Plymouth MI)

Note from YALS: The winter 2013 issue of YALS focuses on technology and teens. Read this article to learn about more ways that libraries are integrating technology in programs and services for adolescents.

Michigan Makers is a collaboration between several graduate students at the School of Information at the University of Michigan, a faculty member at that school (Kristin Fontichiaro), and me (a School of Information somewhat-recent alum). During the 2011-2012 school year, I started an after-school computer club at the request of several students who enjoyed coming to the library to play on computers. These students had once taken an ed tech class with me in which I introduced them to Alice. From Alice, I showed them Scratch, and from there, I started teaching them Python. That year, I also taught them about computing basics, like binary code and what it means to “debug.” In order to plan for each week’s computer club, I relied on books and online tutorials (thanks to Dr. Chuck Severance, who made his Python course freely available).

But my students wanted to program and I am not a programmer. I am, however, approximately twenty miles away from the School of Information. I reached out to graduate students interested in community informatics and eventually found a core group of future librarians who were curious about new, inexpensive technologies designed with budding computer programmers in mind. The graduate students and I began to talk about the possibilities that tools like the Raspberry Pi or the Arduino had the potential to afford my curious middle school students and, in short, Michigan Makers was born.

Now, almost one year later, we’re at a place where we can look back, thoughtfully, and see what worked, what didn’t work, and what we can do differently as we move forward.
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