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Douglass Library featured in News Gazette

Our partner site, Champaign’s Douglass Library was recently featured in the News Gazette. A “small but mighty” place indeed, Douglass is the site of the App Authors summer session, with kids working on a variety of apps, including one with a snow ball throwing penguin and another Q&A app with some “mind blowing” answers. Check back to see more of the students’ projects and get updates on the session!

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Find us at ALA!

Come check out more details of the App Authors project as well as other research happening at the iSchool at ALA. We’ll be at booth 4742 on Friday and Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and on Monday from 9am to 2pm. See you there!

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Latest press release

App Authors Project expands its reach, bringing coding to kids at new sites

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA CONTACT: Kate Quealy-Gainer (kqueal1@illinois.edu|217-265-0608)

Champaign, IL (May 10th, 2017)—The App Authors project has been underway for over a year now, bringing kids and technology together to create apps through a child-centered curriculum at Douglass Branch of the Champaign Public Library and Kenwood Elementary. The program, developed by the Center for Children’s Books and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is offered to kids regardless of experience level and gives them familiarity with problem solving and the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills. App Authors is now expanding its reach, working at sites in Maryland and Oregon as well as remaining in Champaign.

 

“We’re excited about expanding our reach this year,” said Deborah Stevenson, PI of the project and director of the Center for Children’s Books. “Our partnerships with the Frederick County Public Libraries in Maryland and the Springfield Public Library in Oregon will allow our curriculum to serve more youth, and input from these partners will help us refine and improve our curriculum for the future.”

Douglass Library will be again offering its summer session of the program, this year from June 5th to July 21st, with a showcase session on July 27th. CCB volunteers and research assistants will be on hand, helping participants move from predesign, through the construction of their app, and then to the revision process over program’s durations. The curriculum focuses on the play aspect of building apps, using the kids’ own ideas (i.e. a jumping horse, a school day, a nail salon, etc.) as a springboard for their creations and then teaching the students the technical skills to turn their visions into successful apps.

“The process of creation and revision are as much, if not more, important than the final product. Our goal is to communicate to the kids that coding is not necessarily about the finished app. We try to emphasize the notion that the creative process is not a straight line but one that includes visits back to the drawing board and lots of modifications,” says Lauren Gray, the research assistant who has led the curriculum development and on-site sessions this year.

This is the second phase of the CCB’s Closing the App Gap three-year project, which addresses the app gap, the income-related disparity in young people’s access to handheld technology. The project will develop curricula for app-building in school and public libraries and will see the program repeated at the above mentioned sites plus two to five new library venues, allowing us to reach hundreds of children directly and to refine a program that other libraries can adopt for their own use. The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded the Center for Children’s Books $248,205 to support the project.

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App Authors Hits the Road

In the coming weeks, App Authors research assistant Lauren Gray will travel to our partner sites in Maryland and Oregon to provide training in the App Authors curriculum. App Authors summer sessions will be offered at the Frederick County (MD) Libraries and the Springfield (OR) Public Library. We’re looking forward to extend our outreach and work towards making App Authors the best it can be.

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Kenwood wrap up

We closed out or session at Kenwood Elementary on March 15th with much success. All participants finished their apps and the last day was particularly exciting as they were able to show off their products to families and friends

Among the things we learned is the fact that kids really enjoy the “unplugged” brainstorming and planning in the beginning weeks of the session. They indicated that it was easier to work things out on paper, bounce ideas off each other, and revise their work before getting starting on the actual coding.

We’ve also got plan in the coming session to include PlayLab as a tool for coding; this tool is more focused on creating apps that are more game and play oriented. We’re excited to offer further options to the kids to make the experience more appealing, enjoyable, and stealthily educational. Look to this blog soon for screenshots of the kids’ creations.

We’re looking forward to our next session at Douglass Public Library this coming summer!

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Kenwood Update

Our seven week program is just about to wrap up at Kenwood Elementary. This week, the students will be showing off their apps to friends and family and then heading back to do a few refinements based on their feedback. The apps run the gamut from practical to playful, including a time management app, one that focuses on the effects of pollution, and another features jumping horses. The kids are looking forward to sharing the results of their hard work!

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U of I News Feature

Our work at the Douglass and Kenwood libraries is featured by the U of I News Bureau, “App Authors gives elementary students programing experience.”

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App Authors press release

Students Create Apps in After School Program through the App Authors Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA CONTACT: Kate Quealy-Gainer (kqueal1@illinois.edu|217-265-0608)

Champaign, IL (January 18th, 2017)—After the success of the 2016 summer program of App Authors: Closing the App Gap II at the Douglass Branch of the Champaign Public Library, the Center for Children’s Books returns to Kenwood Elementary, where the App Authors curriculum will be offered through the school’s after school Tech Time program. App Authors gives students a chance to explore, play, and eventually create their own apps through a child-centered curriculum that engages participants regardless of experience level and gives kids familiarity with problem solving and the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills.

The seven week program began Wednesday, January 25th, and CCB volunteers and research assistants will be helping Kenwood students, mostly fourth graders, move from predesign, through the construction of their app, and then to the revision process over program’s durations. The curriculum focuses on the play aspect of building apps, using the kids’ own ideas (i.e. a jumping horse, a school day, a nail salon, etc.) as a springboard for their creations and then teaching the students the technical skills to turn their visions into successful apps.

This is the second phase of the CCB’s Closing the App Gap three-year project, which addresses the app gap, the income-related disparity in young people’s access to handheld technology. The project will develop curricula for app-building in school and public libraries, working with Kenwood Elementary through the Champaign School Unit #4 District through the school year and with the Douglass Branch for summer programing, and eventually expanding to include the Frederick County Public Libraries in Frederick, MD and the Springfield Public Library in Springfield, OR, in this coming year. 2018 will see the program repeated at those sites plus two to five new library venues, allowing us to reach hundreds of children directly and to refine a program that other libraries can adopt for their own use. The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded the Center for Children’s Books $248,205 to support the project.

The project is led by Dr. Deborah Stevenson, Director of the Center for Children’s Books, with co-PIs Dr. Kate McDowell, Associate Professor, and Dr. Rachel Magee, Assistant Professor, all at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Center for Children’s Books is a research center devoted to the study of youth, literature, and media. To learn more, visit the App Authors site at http://appauthors.ischool.illinois.edu/, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact Kate Quealy-Gainer at kqueal1@illinois.edu or 217-265-0608 for further information about App Authors.

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We’re on Social Media

We’re on social media! You can find updates and info about current programs through Twitter and Facebook. Check out our tutorials on YouTube.

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Spring semester at Kenwood

App Authors will start a seven week program at Kenwood Elementary School beginning in the spring semester. We’ll be working with Kenwood’s school librarian and media specialist Miriam Larson during the after school Tech Time hours; the program is geared for fifth graders but younger students are welcome. We’re excited to be part of Kenwood’s technology vision to create immersive technology environments where students will transcend simple usership to become digital producers.

This session will be focusing on student collaboration–kids will be working together throughout the design and evaluation steps. Lauren Gray, CCB graduate assistant, will be leading the program, walking student and volunteers through the seven steps of predesign, brainstorming, coding, feedback, redesign, and sharing. We’ll also be instructing kids on giving helpful, specific feedback and honing their critique skills.

Our volunteers will be serving as research and note takers as well as classroom aides. If you’re wanting to volunteer, please contact the CCB staff at ccb@illinios.edu.

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