By Anders Hjortskov Larsen, CUDiM, Aarhus University / Photography: Benjamin Pomerleau
Aarhus Public Libraries play an important role supporting the childrens’ club: Coding Pirates – Team Leader in Team Family and Children at Aarhus Main Library, Louise Overgaard, talks here about the importance of the collaboration underpinning the initiative.
This autumn, more than 30 active children and their interested parents have gathered every Wednesday for a creative session in computer programming and design thinking thanks to Coding Pirates Aarhus. In Coding Pirates you see a lot of creative work with LEGO Mindstorms, Makey Makey, 3D printers, Scratch and many other playful technologies. Children aged 7 to 17 get a hands-on experience when learning to design and being creative with technologies.
Aarhus Main Library is one of three partners in Coding Pirates Aarhus. The partners are Coding Pirates, Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media / Aarhus University and Aarhus Main Library. The partners opened their first branch of Coding Pirates Aarhus in September 2014 at Aarhus University and, in January, Coding Pirates Aarhus will open a new branch this time at the Main Library. The new department gives yet another 30 children the possibility to become coding pirates. Louise Overgaard, who is Team Leader of Team Family and Children at Aarhus Main Library, sees a clear connection between the library’s ambitions to create vibrant knowledge environments and the fundamental values of the Coding Pirates initiative.
“The key purpose of the library is to be a democratic platform that enables people to be part of their community. Whether it is by being able to partake in Democratic processes, being able to read or being able to use different digital technologies is not the primary issue. The most important thing is to create the platform, where learning and exchange of knowledge can occur,” she says.
“We think the most interesting thing about the concept of Coding Pirates is that it contains a very playful and developmental approach to learning. The coding clubs are based on the fact that the kids think it is fun and that they learn to invent. It is all about creating the processes and creating ideas about what you can use the technologies for – rather than a focus on learning the technology or learning to code without direction. It is the idea of being able to realize and construct interesting ideas that is the main goal. We think that this focus is really important,” says Louise Overgaard.
In the concept of Coding Pirates, the various workshops create spaces in which the adult volunteers can learn from each other and also learn together with the children, and this fits very well with Aarhus Main Library’s aim to be a place where you find informal learning activities for and between all ages.
The concept is that children participate in closed workshops once a week and they pay to participate. Being a library representative, Louise Overgaard is very aware that it is necessary with a combination of the closed workshops and open workshops where everybody can try out new technologies.
She points out, that: “The library must be the place that broadens people’s horizons, and a place where people can be inspired in encounters with different aspects of knowledge, also aspects they do not necessarily have sought out. We want to be able to direct people to the various environments according to their needs. That is also why we have made this setup in Coding Pirates, which contains both the closed workshops and open workshops here at the library.”
Dokk1 as a future medium for coding activity
Louise Overgaard points out that Coding Pirates has great potential and is growing rapidly all over Denmark. In Aarhus, it is already so popular that Coding Pirates Aarhus is now able to open the newest branch in January 2015. The ambition is to have regular weekly Coding Pirates activities in the library – also in the new premises at Dokk1. This is good not only for the children participating in the Coding Pirates workshops, but it will also create possibilities for greater collaboration with various scientists and, with that, the possibility to present even more interesting events about learning and digital media for the public.
“Libraries must be a melting pot of all relevant offers and services, and that is a task we can not solve by ourselves. Cooperation with research institutions is a way to create a gateway between users and new knowledge. Therefore, the cooperation with the Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media is exciting because it is making a concept like Coding Pirates possible, but is also giving rise to other formats and collaborations in the future.”
According to Louise Overgaard a library must not only be about books, but also offer many different media platforms to the audience. The new Dokk1 facilities are offering increasing possibilities for users to have open access to knowledge in various ways.
“Denmark needs to be an innovative country and to be that we need massive offers and services that address the ability to innovate and to use technology. The library must take these societal needs seriously and Coding Pirates is one way to create a service that supports this need. But of course as a library we have to remember to focus on our individual citizens – some need to learn to use the computer mouse, others must learn to build with Arduino – it depends on the level of the users and it is a huge task for the libraries”.