Disrupting the classroom - Page 2

Tech companies teach city kids programming skills


That brings us to our last problem. Until recently, the SFUSD only taught computer science in three of its 17 high schools: Balboa, Galileo, and Lowell. There's a tech training gap in San Francisco, making the leap for SFUSD students to the tech sector all the less likely.

The SFUSD is now taking steps to rectify this, but the change will take time.

"SFUSD sees teaching coding, digital literacy and computer science as critical to preparing our students for success," SFUSD spokesperson Gentle Blythe told the Guardian. "We have a long-term plan in place for how we are phasing in teaching computer science, including coding, throughout a student's K-12 career."

SFUSD launched computer science courses in two additional schools last year: Wallenberg and Washington. More are on the way, Blythe said. Other schools host coding tutoring programs. One organization, Code.org, led a "day of code" where thousands of SFUSD students to tried a hand at rudimentary programming exercises.

But in order to really tackle the gap, SFUSD teachers and students will need hands-on training with coders and software engineers. That's where Mission Bit and HackReactor come in.



Tyson Daugherty founded Mission Bit after a startling realization: San Francisco schools weren't prepared to teach his children how to enter the tech industry.

Daugherty was on the business side of tech, starting his first company in 1999. After moving to the city he wanted schools where his children, ages 5 and 2, could one day train to join his industry.

"I became incredibly frustrated with what I was finding in public schools," he said, sitting with us in HackReactor's Market Street office. "These kids are learning fundamental material in science and math, but there's a disconnection to application and purpose."

Mission Bit was born, with a simple objective of increasing coding education in local schools.

Gisela's Lowell High School classes were rigorous, she said, but while programming her first game she relearned physics all over again.

"I'm making a game where each player has a ball, they bounce against each other to bounce the player into the hole," she told us. Her technical mentor, Kwyn Alice Meagher, gave her a physics crash course to get the ball to bounce just right.

"[In school] I learned the logic of physics but not the application," Gisela said. "Now that I understand the purpose of learning it, I'm figuring it all out."

The students start at Mission Bit learning HTML, Javascript, CSS3, Ruby, SQL and Sinatra, with instruction provided by volunteers from local technology companies. Daugherty told us over 60 volunteers emailed Mission Bit after they reached out for potential teachers, and the nonprofit could only utilize 30. Those additional volunteers will get a chance to teach students in the upcoming fall after school program.

Once students "graduate" Mission Bit it's time to join the workforce. Gisela and two other students jumped to an internship at HackReactor, where they're putting their coding knowledge to practical use.

Isaac Zimmern, a graduating Lowell senior, is one of those other students. He celebrated working side by side with mentors while he programmed, inspiring him to pursue computer science in college.

And though Gisela and Zimmern are both from Lowell, many schools were represented in Mission Bit's program. In one office a group of about a dozen students sat at computers, programming Android phones to play a simple game resembling "Doodle Jump."

They hailed from a myriad of schools: Raoul Wallenberg, Balboa, Lowell and more. Douglas Mejia, 18, let us see his "Doodle Jump" clone. Its theme music popped on loud, singing "I ain't sayin' she's a gold digger, but she ain't messin' with a broke — — -," and on-screen Kanye West hopped from platform to platform.


even when a more talented white candidate is available?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 2:42 pm

why do you think the white candidate is likely to be more talented? the whole point of this is addressing that issue so that it is a level playing field for all who wish to learn.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

Of course the subjective nature of the hiring process produces crisp objective discrete outputs that can be evaluated according to an objective reproducible formula.

There are more considerations than just competence along an axis or two when building a tech team. The job involves abstract problem solving, many disciplines can prepare a candidate for that. In building a team, the more, diverse perspectives, the better and more well rounded the product they produce.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 7:12 pm

The more talented candidate is the one who got into a competitive, well paying field in the first place by taking their education seriously, working hard in school and studying a subject that provides employable skills.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

"Though the Asian population is 30 percent of its workforce, that's still out of line with the significant Asian presence in the Bay Area." You're absolutely right, but not in the way you meant it. The 2010 Census showed that the Bay Area has a population of 23%. So that means Asians are OVER-represented in the tech industry. So there is a significant minority population in tech. That means the companies appear to be hiring the best qualified applicants. If there aren't enough qualified black or Latino candidates, how is that the fault of the tech companies for not hiring "enough" blacks and Latinos?

And problem solving is an excellent skill for a person to have in any field, but if a black candidate can't solve a Rails problem given by a potential employer for a coding position and a white candidate can, who the hell do you think he's going to hire?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

It's people like Daugherty that are making a meaningful difference in our communities and schools. Years ago I volunteered with minority teenagers, we discussed their dreams, desires, hopes, and opportunities. It was clear they were limited by the environment that they are exposed to. It's programs like this that will give them an opportunity to think outside of their circumstances. SF schools need to implement opportunities like this that are an obvious fit with our corporation that make SF their home in all schools. There is no reason our big internet/ tech companies should be hiring foreign workers from China and India to do the jobs that we can/ should be doing.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 11:04 pm

yall are stupid arguing about the diversity aspect. Essentially, MissionBit is providing coding opportunities to all youth whom are interested no matter what their ethnicity is. There saying that this will in turn help the racial gap in programming. That's it.

Posted by Me on Jun. 18, 2014 @ 8:38 am

card-playing will shame their opponents into demurring.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 18, 2014 @ 9:02 am

right on.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 19, 2014 @ 6:49 am

I think I distinctly remember Splunk doing something like this last year.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 18, 2014 @ 9:28 am

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