New Courses on Scratch, Incunabula Offered this Fall


Students enrolled in the Master of Library and Information Science online program have the opportunity to study coding and early book printing with the addition of two elective courses offered for the first time this fall.

In keeping with the strategic plan “to deliver programs broadly across a diverse spectrum of audiences and subject areas,” and to “address the rapidly changing library and information science profession and evolving skill sets through regularly updated curriculum and programs,” the School of Information at San José State University is offering two new courses focusing on coding and early book printing this fall.

INFO 287 Introduction to Scratch was developed by Dr. Debbie Weissmann from her experience teaching INFO 287 Gamifying Information. As stated in the syllabus, the course is for “students interested in enrichment programming for kids in schools and libraries, or for students with a curiosity about coding. The course offers the opportunity to explore an introductory game making platform and learn basic coding structures using the tools of Scratch.”

“I found that students were glad for the opportunity to explore the Scratch platform but needed more time than we had in [Gamifying Information] to learn how to use all the Scratch tools,” Weissmann said. “Introduction to Scratch gives students eight weeks to explore Scratch as an introductory coding platform and as a community learning space.”

Scratch is used in more than 150 different countries and available in more than 40 languages. Aimed at teaching youth how to code, the computer programming tool can be found in K – 12 classrooms, colleges, libraries, and other  learning centers. According to the Scratch website, “When people learn to code in Scratch, they learn important strategies for solving problems, designing projects, and communicating ideas.”

“Scratch is a great platform to explore. It is designed to promote community-facilitated learning, which means that across all of the languages and Scratch communities everyone is continually learning from each other,” Weissmann explained.

Another course being offered for the first time this fall is INFO 284 Incunabula and Early Printing. Incunabula translates from Latin as “cradle” or “birthplace,” and is used to describe the birth of printing using moveable type and in general books published in Europe before 1501. Subjects explored in the course, developed by Dr. Linda Main, include:

  • The invention of printing
  • Key incunabula printers
  • The role of the manuscript as the design model for the printed book
  • Books as physical objects providing evidence of how the printers of the incunabula worked (vellum and paper studies, formats, gatherings, and signatures)
  • New features such as title pages, printed pagination, and spacing
  • Methods of book decoration and illustration (woodcut, illumination by hand or using stencils and model books, and copper engraving)
  • Binding
  • Labor, economic organization of the print shop, and distribution and readership
  • Identification of type and printing house practices
  • Dating and valuing incunabula
  • The role of printing in the spread of ideas, language, information, knowledge, and culture across many civilizations

“Students working in special collections and archives benefit from understanding about both medieval manuscripts and incunabula, as so many collections are being digitized and are now available for a worldwide audience,” Main said.

The new courses teach skills in high demand according to the iSchool’s spring 2016 report, Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals, which provides insight into the current job market. Students interested in pursuing a career that focuses on websites and social media would benefit from the INFO 287 Scratch course. Additionally, the INFO 284 Incunabula course is a good elective option for students preparing for a career in museums and/or heritage societies, as job duties often entail knowledge of historically relevant information collections.

Students enrolled in the iSchool’s Master of Library and Information Science online program can take the courses as electives, customizing their studies to individual career paths. Both courses are two units and eight weeks long. For more details, read the INFO 287 and INFO 284 syllabi.

Photo courtesy of Scratch website.