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SWON News: The Low Down

Tech Skills Wanted? Mentors Needed.

Friday, November 06, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Nathan Swartzendruber
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What's the secret to teaching web development to young people during a week-long DevCamp? For Nate Stone, Program Coordinator for the ideaLAB, Denver Public Library's makerspace in the Community Technology Center, the key doesn't seem to be fast computers or even fun.

The key is mentors. This isn't, really, a surprise. When you learn from someone who has experience in the field, you hear answers to important questions like, how will I use what I'm learning? How can I find help when I get stuck? And other questions, such as, would I be welcome working in this field? By recruiting a diverse group of mentors, DevCamp was able to serve a diverse group of students.

That's a real concern, considering that at tech companies as prominent as Facebook and Apple, workers are mainly male and white. So as Nate was planning to expand their DevCamp in its second year, he worked to make their program more diverse. He connected with a couple neighborhood schools that had reported low graduation rates and with library staff who worked at branches in those neighborhoods to invite tweens and teens for whom DevCamp might be a rare opportunity to get ahead.

DevCamp, which teaches HTML, CSS and JavaScript in one compressed week of four-hour sessions, isn't designed to turn first-time programmers into fully fledged front-end developers. But they do work on real web projects; where this year they created websites that addressed issues in their communities, the plan next year is to build a mini-site for a local non-profit. Programs like DevCamp are a great example of libraries responding to and serving their communities.

  • Nathan Swartzendruber, SWON Technology Educator

Hear Nate Stone talk about DevCamp

At the next Innovation Conversation, November 12, Nate Stone will share the story of DevCamp. Now planning for its third year, Nate has lots of details to share about how DevCamp grew out of patron requests to become a continuing program.

Want to know more about how he recruited mentors for the program? Or how much computer programming he needed to lead the DevCamp? There will be time to ask those questions and plenty of others during the conversation.

Pat Carterette Professional Development Grant

Applications are now being accepted for the Pat Carterette Professional Development Grant, offered by ALA. This grant awards $1,000 to attend a continuing education event, which can be used to cover registration, travel, lodging or other expenses. The application deadline is December 15. Click here to learn more or submit your application at the grant's online form.

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