Disrupting the classroom - Page 2

Tech companies teach city kids programming skills

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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.

 

STARTING SMALL

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.

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