by Jenny Krueger, Publishing Director for School and Library
I met Disney Coding Adventures author Allyssa Loya at the 2017 TLA (Texas Library Association) conference when she presented to a packed house about how she got a coding club up and running in her library. As she presented, I heard a familiar refrain from the librarians in attendance—they knew they needed to get started with coding in their libraries, but they didn’t know where to start. It’s a common problem, as coding comes with a fear factor for students and educators who aren’t familiar with it.
When I returned from TLA, we were just beginning a partnership with Disney Learning. While Allyssa got to work on a series of books about coding concepts, we realized that the beloved Disney characters and storylines would be a great way to help take the fear out of coding.
With Disney’s help, we designed a hybrid approach where a character-driven narrative leads readers to computational thinking exercises. For example, in Algorithms with Frozen, readers must design an algorithm (a set of step-by-step instructions) to help Anna get to Troll Valley. In Looping with Finding Dory, readers use loops (repeated instructions) in their algorithms to help Dory get to the Jewel of Morro Bay.
We also planned Conditionals with Incredibles 2 to be released with the movie when it came out this summer. Disney worked with Allyssa to give her advanced access to the script so she could complete the book on time.
Creating the series was a whirlwind from start to finish, and both Allyssa and Disney were great partners throughout the process. Allyssa brought her passion for bringing meaningful learning to students and her experience building a technology-forward library to enrich the series.
Allyssa will be presenting a webinar called No Fear Coding: How to Start a Coding Club and Why It Matters in partnership with School Library Journal on September 24th at 2 p.m. EDT—Click to register! Check out the interview below to learn more about Allyssa and her thoughts on coding, Disney, and the upcoming webinar.
Interview with Allyssa Loya
Where did your interest in coding start?
My interest in coding started when I was running a makerspace and realized that my students deserved to have more hands-on learning when it came to technology, coding, and gaining future-ready skills. I thought that starting a coding club would meet these needs.
What do you think is the biggest barrier kids (and educators) have toward learning coding?
To me, the biggest barrier to kids is access. Many students don’t have access to computers, tablets, robots, and internet. In these cases, I really feel that it is important for educators to step in and break the barrier for the students. For the students who do have technology readily available, they don’t access coding programs simply because they are unaware of them. This is where educators come in. Student need should override our fear of trying unknown things!
What was your favorite part of working with the Disney team?
The best part about working with the Disney team was the inspiration I got from their content. To have such wonderful stories to use for coding activities was an awesome experience.
What should people expect to get out of your September 24 webinar?
I hope people leave the webinar thinking that coding is a doable and worthwhile pursuit. Many people are interested, but simply don’t know where to start. After the webinar, attendees should have a firmer grasp on what they can do to begin implementing coding with their students.