"Shhh, sit down and quietly read a book" said no tech-librarian ever.
In an ever evolving world of technology, libraries have begun to make a shift from the silent, book filled rooms we once knew. In fact, when a big-box bookstore at 72nd and Dodge went out of business, a new sort of community center went up in its place.
The Do Space is the first of its kind in Omaha. Think of it as a digital workshop designed to bring technology access and education to all people, from all walks of life. The large community center boasts a fully upgraded computer lab, a 3D printer, video games, robotics, and plenty of educators on staff to guide you. Whether you're looking for help creating a resume, want to learn to code, or need a place to take your preschooler to play, the Do Space ought to be what you do!
The kids and I are in love with their Littles Lab. The room is filled with brightly colored bean bags and pillows, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) toys abound, and the programs are top notch! Grayson's favorite thing to do is play with Dot and Dash, two robots you control with an app. Aurora enjoys lounging on the built-ins and playing with one of the many iPads you can borrow.
Like most kids of their generation, Aurora and Gray are pros at figuring out technology. They have no fear when it comes to learning something new or experimenting with with a device until they figure out how it works. So, when the opportunity to test a coding subscription box came up, they were all in! As their mother, I wondered if they were really old enough to learn how to code (I can barely do it!), but these two led the way with undaunting enthusiasm and all three of us ended up learning along the way.
Bitsbox is a Colorado based startup with a passion to teach kids how to code. Each month, subscribers receive a yellow box in the mail with a book full of apps to create, posters, tattoos, stickers, project cards, and a mystery toy. Our box arrived last week, it didn’t make it more than a few minutes before the kids had it torn open and spread out across the living room floor. They were so eager to get started!
The bright colors and fun graphics are really eye catching! We explored the contents of the box and then headed to the Bitsbox website to play. An email address is all you need to register, and from there you just start typing.
Much like learning anything new, the best way is to start by imitating and repeating. The kit comes with dozens of apps of varying complexity that really work. Kids copy the lines of text and then change the variables to make it their own. They're rewarded with the instant gratification of seeing their project change at the touch of a button!
Our experience went something like this… We opened the pre-built "Crazy Driver" app and several lines of text were already typed out. We were instructed to turn the steering wheel and drive the car on the roads, which was pretty fun. But then, we were told to change the speed. We tried it really fast, then we tried it really slow, it was fun to see the difference a couple of clicks could make!
Then, we were told to replace race car with a different word. Grayson loved this part, he spread out the giant poster that came with the kit. There are hundreds of coded objects you can use in your games. He yelled out robots, lions, and hot dogs! Each time we swapped the new noun with "race car" in the code a new image would pop up. Eventually we were told to swap the background from "streets" to something else… It wasn't long before we were driving a hotdog through the desert sky!
The kids also really loved the "Moon Blaster" game because they got to blow up flowers, puppies, and yes, more hot dogs! They had a lot of fun being exceptionally silly. I really liked that it was teaching them critical thinking skills. And, I was surprised, they caught on faster than I thought they would considering neither can read yet. Once Aurora saw where I changed the speed she was able to increase and decrease it on her own.
It was adorable watching her hunt and peck around for certain letters. She would copy the text from the book or cards and could do most of it on her own (albeit, slowly!). At five, she's already learning computer skills such as typing and mouse control. Grayson was also able to hunt and peck the letters that he knows, but at four, I think his biggest take away was just seeing the cause and effect happening within the digital world we created.
I like the way Bitsbox talks about code as just being another language. It truly is, once you learn how to manipulate it, the possibilities are endless! And, like all other languages, the younger you are when you learn, the easier it is. For our tech savvy world today, coding is becoming a necessity for most, and not just geek-speak for some. Bitsbox does a great job of introducing the key concepts in a really engaging way. Whether you’re four or 44, these neat, little apps will certainly teach you a thing or two about the tech we use daily.