Almost a year ago, I had just wrapped our final workshop (A Star Wars Galaxy of Code) for the summer at Herndon Fortnightly Library, the site of our original summer and web development programs. In the weeks before, we coded with Anna and Elsa from Disney and explored MIT AppInventor in 3, 2, 1, App That! with dozens of students from the D.C. metro area. In the year since, we’ve reached a few hundred students in the D.C. area and in online education, most of whom are from a low-income background or are members of an underrepresented group in technology. But beyond the numbers and statistics, here are just a few the future coders we reached:
A brother and sister who are both homeschooled by their dad — we’ve helped them integrate computer science into their curriculum so that they can embed computer science into everything they do and truly embrace the power of computing as an interdisciplinary tool,
And most recently, ten girls from an elementary school in D.C. where almost all of the students are on free and reduced-price lunch — they’ve been able to explore computer science through a fully-funded app development camp on a college campus, mentored by students who they can relate to.
From our original camps at Herndon Fortnightly, we’ve been able to reach so many more students from coast to coast — this January, in fact, we’ll be sponsoring PixelHacks II, the second iteration of the Bay Area’s original hackathon for high school girls. And our focus, as with all of our programs, has been to tap into the community network and find the students who need our programs the most. By working with members of our team from Georgia to New York to California, we’ve seen the importance of creating flexible curricula and empowering our program coordinators develop their own initiatives that are uniquely poised to address the issues within their own communities.
So, in honor of a year of inspiring students to see the magic that a single line of code can have, Teens Transforming Technology is launching our new CS Chicas mentorship program — high school girls (anyone 8th grade and above is eligible to apply) selected for this program will have the unique opportunity to develop their own initiatives (hackathons, workshops, after-school programs, or anything they choose!) to expand access to computer science within their communities while being mentored directly by our team. We’ll work directly with students to provide logistical and financial support for initiatives by harnessing our network of sponsors and team members who currently coordinate logistics for our programs. Our hope is that by providing these resources, student leaders can embrace curriculum development and build their team management skills through the implementation of their initiatives. When I first founded Teens Transforming Technology, I had no idea where to start, and over the past year, it’s become a learning process, and I’m eager to share that knowledge and guidance with the social entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
This blog post was written by Alianza Clyne, a Program Coordinator for Teens Transforming Technology.
I recently had the opportunity to host an Hour of Code session at my school. It was truly a phenomenal experience that made me view teaching other students how to code in a different light. Nevertheless, as with everything, this session and my reason for hosting it has a back story. It all started with a life-changing experience at Girls Who Code last summer.
Although I never envisioned myself enjoying coding (yet alone teaching it), I unexpectedly came to view coding in a positive lens after attending the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. For seven weeks last summer, I had the opportunity to not only surround myself with a community of fellow girls who, like me, were trying to sway through the complexities that surround computer science but to also create projects that I never knew I could be capable of creating. Since attending this program, I have not only come to view coding through a different lens, but a fire has ignited within my soul to ensure that more girls (particularly those who are racially underrepresented in tech) get to experience the power of code.
MAKING A CHANGE
This led me to launch Hour of Code (HOC) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Week initiatives at my school, Georgia Connections Academy. As a virtual student, running such an initiative online was challenging, but it was also very rewarding because I had the opportunity to teach fellow students from all over Georgia to code. The road to launching these initiatives began in November of 2016 when I pitched them to our school’s administration. After they were approved, I started planning them out. Taking place March 27-31, each day of STEAM Week was used to honor some part of STEAM. Members of my school’s Student Council, National Math Honors Society, and National Art Honors Society all worked together to craft PowerPoints that highlighted either science, technology, engineering, the arts, or math that would be sent out to the entire student body via email. The purpose of these PowerPoints was to not only emphasize that STEM can be fun, but it can also be combined with the arts. By intertwining STEM with the arts, I hope to be able to inspire other young women to view STEM in a different light and realize that they can pursue both fields. Monday was used to honor science (I had the pleasure of creating this PowerPoint), Tuesday honored technology, Wednesday highlighted engineering, Thursday highlighted the arts, and Friday highlighted math. Along with the PowerPoints that were sent out each day, we also included a link to an interactive tutorial from the Hour of Code website .
To top it all off, on April 13th, I hosted an Hour of Code session via Adobe Connect (an online conferencing room). To start, I showed the attendees two videos. The first video featured leaders in tech and celebrities talking about the importance of coding and how it can change the world.
Another video featured Maddy Maxey discussing the ways that fashion can be combined with coding. By showing these videos, I wanted to show students that coding is not just a bunch of algorithms--it can truly be fun. I also wanted to emphasize that coding can be combined with almost any field that they are passionate about. Luckily, my mission worked since many students commented about how they were amazed by the fact that coding can be combined with so many fields. I then showcased a presentation created by Teens Transforming Technology’s founder, Niharika Vattikonda. In the presentation, she discussed why she became passionate about tech and gave tips to our attendees about how they too can get involved in tech. Not only was I inspired by her accomplishments in tech, but many students at the session felt motivated, too.
Following this, I directed attendees to a website with a Hour of Code tutorial called Programming with Carla. This interactive tutorial teaches students how to code a chatbot named Carla. Before having them start the tutorial, I sent them to a tutorial that I made myself where I explain what variables and conditionals are. I also walked them through each step of the chatbot tutorial. By the end of the session, many of the attendees were able to finish coding their chatbot and many mentioned that the session made them more interested in learning to code.
Hosting this session truly made me realize how much I loved teaching other students how to code. Seeing my fellow classmates get excited about figuring out how to use variables and conditionals truly made me realize that teaching isn’t just about bestowing knowledge onto others, but it’s also about learning about your own self and your passions. In the future, I hope to lead more of these initiatives both online and within my community.
Teens Transforming Technology is proud to be a part of the CSforAll Consortium, which launched today afternoon during President Obama's CSforAll Summit. The CSforAll Consortium is a network of computer science (CS) education providers, schools, funders, and researchers working to support the mission of expanding access to CS education for all students nationwide. And as part of this initiative, we are happy to announce that Teens Transforming Technology will be opening regional chapters in Houston and the San Francisco Bay Area to bring our workshops to more students - if you would like to have a workshop in your area, please fill out the contact form under the tab titled "The Team."
What is CSforAll?
Computer Science for All is a bold new initiative to empower all students from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science and be equipped with the computational thinking skills they need to be creators in the digital economy, not just consumers, and to be active citizens in our technology-driven world. Our economy is rapidly shifting, and both educators and business leaders are increasingly recognizing that computer science (CS) is a “new basic” skill necessary for economic opportunity and social mobility.
What is the CSforAll Consortium?
The CSforAll Consortium is a national organization formed in response to the growing CS education community, the broadly bipartisan support for computer science, and the President’s call to action to provide every student with access to CS. Led by CSNYC and a steering committee of ACM, Code.org, The College Board, CSTA, and NCWIT, and with a membership of more than 180 organizations, the CSforAll Consortium will connect states, districts, and schools with CS education curriculum and implementation partners, funders, and researchers. The CSforAll Consortium website provides searchable access to resources and the means to discover and contact relevant partners, and tracks the impact of CSforAll initiatives across the country.
The CSforAll Consortium website, csforall.org, will serve as a hub for families, schools, and districts looking for resources that match their needs, including content by grade level and target audience. The site will help connect members of the national CS education community, provide an avenue for disseminating their work, and track our collective progress toward the goal of giving every student a meaningful opportunity to learn CS.
Our Founder and CEO, Niharika Vattikonda, just wrapped up hosting the first session of her webinar series about CS Opportunities for high school students. This webinar series will be conducted in partnership with Inspiring Femgineers, a local nonprofit, and hopes to inspire more girls to pursue computer science in the future. Often times, girls who are new to computer science find that in high school, where some students have vast coding experience, they are overwhelmed. As a result, Niharika has listed many opportunities both to learn and to help others in the future. She also helped to clear some of the confusion about computer science classes at her high school, to help students who are interested in CS easily find the path that interests them, whether it be Computer Systems, Mobile/Web App Development, or Computational Neuroscience. The video is embedded below, and future sessions of the webinar series are being scheduled as well, due to popular demand!