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Computer coding for kids

  • Published at 03:05 pm September 17th, 2018

Libraries Unlimited launches new program in Munshiganj

On Tuesday, September 4, Munshiganj Public Library saw more people go through their doors in one day than they had in the last week, and its modest premises were packed to the brim.

The reason? Something that had never happened before in the history of the library, or in fact, in the history of any of the public libraries in Bangladesh – children were being taught introductory coding for free. 

A step towards tomorrow

The coding workshop was the first of many to be organised by Libraries Unlimited, a BMGF funded project delivered by the British Council in partnership with the Bangladesh Ministry of Cultural Affairs that aims to modernize the libraries of Bangladesh and improve public access to information and knowledge – a key part of which involves the introduction of coding educational resources in public libraries. 

The event was attended by over 150 children from ages 10 to 16from local government schools and provided the opportunity for them to learn some introductory programming using the latest in educational technology from the UK.

The workshop was assisted by a team of volunteers from Bangladesh Open Source Network (BdOSN) - a non-profit, voluntary organization which have been running coding events across Bangladesh for over a decade. The volunteers provided guidance to the students on how to use the new devices and create computer programs. 

Mishal Islam, a volunteer at the event, said “it was really a memorable workshop for me and our volunteers. We hope that both British Council and BdOSN will go a long way encouraging our enthusiastic children into programming.”

How do you get children interested in coding?

According to 14 year old Md Nazmul Hasan, “I’ve never done computer programming before. It felt really good doing it for the first time, I want to do it in future as well.”

14 year old Hridita Hasan also chimed in, “The coding workshop held at the library was totally different and will greatly help to develop knowledge about technology. It was a lot of fun and I am really happy I could be a part of it.” 

If the comments section in the library book was anything to go by – the event was a huge success. So how did Libraries Unlimited manage to get so many children interested in something that we generally consider to be a rather complicated subject? 

It was done through the use of the micro:bit and Kano, which were introduced at this programme for the first time in a public library in Bangladesh. The Kano is a complete computer built from a Raspberry Pi and designed to be assembled from scratch by people of all ages. It contains a variety of apps aimed at teaching kids to use code to create games and digital art. 

The micro:bit is a tiny programmable computer developed by the BBC to teach kids to code using simple block based coding. The devices, which respond to physical interactions in the way programmed, using the many in-built buttons and sensors, make learning to code more tangible and fun. The event at Munshiganj was only a preview of the devices, which will be rolled out nationwide to public libraries as an open resource for individual library users and teaching organisations such as BdOSN. 

Changing the role of libraries

Rafia Sultana, librarian to the Munshiganj Public Library, said “The programming workshop is a great initiative to introduce new technologies to school goers. This type of program will have a great impact in changing the common perception of libraries and publicize the library as a center for interactive learning.”

According to British Council’s Model Library and ICT Manager, Tamim Mostafa, “This workshop only marks the beginning of our push to get the children of Bangladesh interested in coding, and more workshops are already being planned for public libraries nationwide.” 

Speaking of the attendance, British Council’s Technical Lead for micro:bit, Dr Timothy Green, added “We were happy to note that over half of the participants of this event were female. We want kids to understand that coding is not something to be afraid of or is too difficult. If you’re interested – anyone can learn, and it really is an extremely useful skill to have, going forward in life.”  

These views were echoed by a good number of children at the end. According to 16 year old Tanzim Akhter Rafa, “Coming here, I’ve learnt something new and really had a lot of fun. This kind of workshop was not done before and it felt really good to learn something new.”  

Samia Islam Othoi, 14, also said, “I’ve felt something pleasantly different by taking part in this coding workshop. I think this workshop needs to be spread out all over Bangladesh so that students from different districts can take part in it.”