It was great to be back at the Boulder Public Library. Bitsbox is lucky enough to be good friends with the staff at our tech-forward local library. Kathy Lane—the Programs, Events, and Outreach Coordinator—has worked with hundreds of kids and she's an expert on the best kid tools in the tech space. She was nice enough to sit down with me recently to chat about how BPL started using Bitsbox, and why it's a great activity for kids to do after school.
Kathy and Emma, post-doughnut.
Emma: How did you hear about Bitsbox?
Kathy: Christy Spielman is the person who helped us initially get the coding club for kids off the ground. We try to support local companies, so it was just a perfect fit. Scott had given Christy some books to get started as well as the subscription she already had, so she was bringing in her books. Of course, now, the library has our own subscription.
Is Bitsbox in any after-school programs at the library?
Youth Maker Hangout meets every Tuesday afternoon during the school year for 90 minutes. Kids come in and they decide what they want to work on. So for Bitsbox, we make the app cards available for coding, and now we're doing an informal checkout of the materials as well.
The kids use Bitsbox to learn the structure of computational thinking, and then it's great because they can change the stamps to customize the apps. So we're finding the beginners often will type it in as written, like a recipe, but then they'll use their imagination to adapt it to other fun things.
By attending the Youth Maker Hangouts, what gaps would you say grownups are trying to fill in their kids education?
Access to tools they don't have at home or at school. Motivation for collaboration—it's a social environment, so some kids come because they're already coders, but they need that social environment for their own enrichment. And to support their kids and their creative endeavours.
What would you say to grownups that are hesitant about Bitsbox because it means more screen time for their kids?
I would encourage them to actively engage with their kids while they use Bitsbox. Find out what it is they're doing on the screen, what they're learning, and challenge them to use it in different ways than just what's in the box. It's an opportunity for creative expression.
It is screen time but they're not zoning out. They're engaged, it's not like their eyes are glazed over. They actually have to do some thinking to interface with the screen time.
How does Bitsbox lend itself to kids that are consistently working ahead of the rest of the group?
It's not linear, which is one of the things I love about Bitsbox. The kids choose what they want to work on and you don't have to go in a sequence to make it work. It's all learner-driven, so they don't have to wait for someone else in the room to catch up with them and they can collaborate and share ideas.
Kathy and I conclude by laughing about some of the funniest apps she has seen kids build at the Youth Maker Hangouts. I'm not surprised at all when she tells me fill('flush') is a crowd favorite.
Kathy said it best—Bitsbox is the perfect after-school activity because it gives kids a creative outlet while still being on the screens they love, and learning at their own pace.
Start this school year right by introducing your kids to coding! That link has all you need to get started—a free coding project + instructions on how to make your account. :-)
If you're a Boulder local (or live nearby), check out the Youth Maker Hangout at the Main Branch of the Boulder Public Library on Tuesday afternoons!