The Flint Public Library staff wants to usher patrons into a new era. But just as important to its agenda, the institution wants to spark thoughts in the community about possible careers.
With the rapidly exploding computer tech industry’s swelling job landscape, the library’s leadership wants to help Flint get on the right pace. As part of the organization’s goal to create greater awareness of initiatives and opportunities, a program will be held at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 8. The “Hour of Code” is part of an international series described as “the largest learning event in history.”
Organized by the Hour of Code and Computer Science Education Week Advisory and Review Committees, the program is part of an annual observance scheduled Dec. 3-9.
“You realize that there’s a gap between people who grew up with technology and those who did not,” says Rick Dunning, digital initiatives manager at Flint Public Library. “A little kid can pick up my smart phone, for example, and figure it out in 60 seconds.”
Core areas of focus in the library’s service include promoting early childhood literacy, family literacy and digital literacy, which consists of “exposing the community to new, digital ways to learn,” Dunning adds.
Supported by such major partners as Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the College Board, Hour of Code 2018 consists of almost 200,000 registered events worldwide. Particularly in Michigan and the United States, a greater emphasis in schools and community institutions like the library is beneficial to youth and to adults seeking careers, Dunning says. Only one in four domestic computer science-related positions is successfully recruited, he adds.
“So we, at the library, feel like that is a hole that we should try to help fill,” Dunning says.
The Hour of Code consists of a 60-minute introduction to basic computer coding, which follows a video presentation including celebrities, athletes and politicians who all endorse learning technology. The Flint Public Library’s annual event attracts an average of 15 to 25 guests, but Dunning says the building’s second-floor Tech StudiOh! can accommodate, at least 30, who can be supplied with computers or iPads for the activity.
All ages of student and adults are welcome to attend the free event, which requires no registration, but middle-school youth are part of the library’s target audience.
“That’s where we feel the inspiration can begin,” says Dunning.
Flint’s Hour of Code activity and those scheduled statewide follow a recent announcement by Gov. Rick Snyder of new training and career initiatives. Snyder told the North American International Cyber Summit 2018 at Cobo Regional Conference Center in Detroit last month that launching cyber careers is the goal of a public-private collaboration. Merit Network, Michigan Economic Development Corp. and educational institutions including the University of Michigan-Flint are among partners and supporters helping to spearhead the effort in 10 regions of the state.
Merit Network’s Michigan Cyber Range, which offers cyber security training and certification, is positioned to qualify residents including citizens of Genesee County to enter the professional field.
For those who might fear a boring, clinical experience at the Flint Public Library’s Hour of Code, a guided, online presentation and instruction model help ensure that the event is interesting and enjoyable, Dunning says.
“No,” he says, “we never want our programming to feel like a classroom.”
Part of the event will also feature a look at some of the Tech StudiOh!’s tools and devices and their use during regular visits to the library. The digital division’s recent hiring of a specialist with a masters degree in video game design is just part of the library’s ongoing commitment to year-round tech literacy, Dunning adds. Assistance and support in using downloadable books, music and magazines is available daily to members and visitors of the facility, located at 1026 E. Kearsley St. Educational computer activities featuring the popular video game Minecraft are also among regularly scheduled programs.
Meanwhile, free resources like the code.org website are encouraged as ways families can explore tech learning outside the library, Dunning says. But he adds that it’s always rewarding to hear visitors who’ve attended the Hour of Code discuss returning for future activities or grabbing copies of the regular programming calendar.
“Often times we have people wanting to know more information as they leave,” says Dunning.
For more information about Hour of Code activities visit hourofcode.com
The Flint Public Library invites youth and their families to attend an international tech program Dec. 8 during Computer Science Education Week.