PADUCAH, KY (11/27/2017) Todd Birdsong, adjunct instructor of photography and audio production at West Kentucky Community and Technical College's Paducah School of Art and Design, is a member of a McCracken County Public Library (MCPL) advisory committee formed to create computer coding programs for young people.
Google, the American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, sponsored "Libraries Ready to Code," an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) designed to promote computer science and computational thinking among youth. MCPL, one of 28 libraries around the country to receive the "Libraries Ready to Code" grant, received $20,075 in funding that will be used to facilitate afterschool coding classes for middle and high school students at both the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club and Sprocket located in the Paducah's Coke Plant facility.
As part of the MCPL eight-member advisory committee, Birdsong will help develop, guide and focus the implementation of classes and programs that will provide hands-on experience with coding in relation to video game design and music creation. Participants will develop coding skills, learn computational thinking principles, practice problem solving, and enjoy a collaborative, creative experience with their peers.
Birdsong learned to code for the web and creatively "break" that code in order to find new ways to use and implement it as part of his graduate studies work in new media and new media production. "This doesn't mean that I am an IT expert. It only means that an interdisciplinary approach to the creative process can yield some expansive results in any field of study," said Birdsong. "At the end of the day, I just hope to be able to help these kids discover their untapped talents and potential."
Birdsong said he is excited to be collaborating with other media professionals, educators and working artists on the library project. "An opportunity like this is rare. Not only am I helping reach local youth at a critical early time in their educational development, but I get to do it in a creative way with some of the best and innovative creative thinkers I know. I am honored to be working with them," said Birdsong.
Other members of the advisory committee are Jimi Gwinn, John Benjamin, Dean Hughes, Monica Bilak, Paul Lorenz, Kate Mayfield and Susan Baier.
Baier, the library director for the MCPL, said the library's program, dubbed the Next Level Coders Club, will teach important skill sets for twenty-first century jobs, empower youth to express their creativity through code, and provide opportunities for youth to interact with a diverse group of mentors from science, technology, engineering and math fields. Workshops for the Next Level Coders Club will begin in Summer 2018.
"Libraries are the cornerstones of our communities," said Google program manager Nicky Rigg. "We are proud to include the McCracken County Public Library in our cohort of Ready to Code grantees and support them with the knowledge and skills to do what they do best: empowering youth to create, problem solve and develop the confidence and skills to succeed in their future careers."
West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) has been recognized as an Aspen Prize Top 10 Community College each of the four times the Prize has been awarded by the Aspen Institute and has twice been named a Finalist with Distinction for providing students with strong job training and continuing higher education opportunity, for achieving high completion and transfer rates, and for providing strong employment results for its graduates.