New York City VC and philanthropist Fred Wilson (Tumblr: fred-wilson) has a post today on his blog about the new NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education (website: http://csnyc.org/) and the fund they have put together to support efforts to teach kids to code in school.
I am a huge proponent of what Fred, Evan, and CSNYC are up to. It’s critical that we expand programs that expose students – elementary, middle, and high school – to computer science and especially coding. Initially the fund will be focused on efforts to build in-school (i.e., during the school day) capacity, especially but not exclusively first at high schools. But there is wide recognition that an “all of the above” strategy that includes in-school-day, after-school, and weekend programs will be needed to reach as many students as possible while the process of truly integrating CS into the core academic curriculum and class day happens.
I am trying to do my small part by advocating for increased CS in the area of Brooklyn in which I live, through bodies on which I serve such as Community Board 6 and Community Education Council 13. As possible I’m trying to connect programs (and funding) with schools. I’m doing this work in part to address the first of several challenges (all surmountable) I see that must be overcome:
- Expanding CS into schools – especially local, neighborhood, district public schools – cannot be seen as something done only from “on high”. We need to actively engage communities, community groups, parents, neighborhood associations, BIDs, PTAs/PTOs, CECs, etc. to get them behind these efforts and hear from them ideas for engaging young people. The grassroots, “on the block” component of this is crucial.
- Funding – Fred, Evan and others are on this and there are other efforts also in the works. I strongly encourage you to contribute to the Crowdrise campaign for CSNYC. I’d also suggest there are other models to explore, especially with and through PTOs/PTAs and BIDs. E-mail me at runderwood5 (at) gmail.com if you’d like to brainstorm on this topic. (I am co-VP on our PTO at The #ParkSlope School PS/MS 282 so this topic is close to home)
- Teacher Training and Professional Development – To teach computer science at scale, we’ll need to train a lot of people to be able to teach CS in schools. This can take (at least) two forms – CS professionals who need to learn teaching skills, and teachers who need/want to learn CS. I hope to help here a bit in my day job capacity, but in the meantime we need an all hands on deck approach to getting interested people ready to teach CS.
Whether you are liberal or conservative, #OWS or TP, plutocrat or populist, it’s tough to argue the importance of teaching our kids how to code and computer science overall. As Mitch Resnick discusses in this video, learning to code is not just a narrow technical skill, but a form of digital literacy important to all sorts of endeavors, not just the “job” called “computer programmer.”
Let’s do this.