Digital Service Fellows Serve in Philadelphia Schools for Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week’s Hour of Code initiative, a national educational movement that introduces and demystifies computer coding and computational thinking, has just concluded. The event ran from December 9-15, 2013. The Hour of Code initiative was created to address the lack of formal computer science education in K-12 schools in America and empower students to be creators of digital media, not just consumers of it.
As part of the initiative, over 16 million students were engaged nationally in a variety of online and offline educational tutorials. Computer Science Education Week was supported by organizations and individuals such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the College Board, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, President Bill Clinton, and over 100 others.

Numerous schools in the Philadelphia area participated in the Hour of Code initiative.  The Urban Technology Project’s Digital Service Fellows (DSF) an award-winning AmeriCorps program dedicated to improving digital literacy and closing the digital divide in Philadelphia, took this opportunity to help introduce students to  computer science in schools throughout the city. The Digital Service Fellows assisted teachers by serving as technology specialists and guides for the various activities. During Computer Science Education Week, the DSFs assisted 25 teachers and served over 900 students at ten schools throughout the city of Philadelphia.

Student "robot" following code to stack cups

Student “robot” following student written code to stack cups

These engaging activities inspired students, as young as first graders, and as old as 8th graders, to start learning about computer science.  The Hour of Code activity was well received by classes where Digital Service Fellows provided support; 85 percent of students polled expressed that they would like to learn more about computer science. The Hour of Code tutorials will remain online to encourage students to explore further and continue learning about code and computer science.   A link to the CSEdWeek tutorials can be found here:

Mentoring students

Keven Campana mentoring students

The Urban Technology Project’s  Digital Service Fellows worked hard to provide service during Computer Science Education Week. However, it would not have been possible without all of the teachers, administrators and parents, who welcomed the Urban Technology Project into their schools and communities.  We thank everyone for their
passion and support during this last week. The Hour of Code initiative allowed us to address the need for greater digital literacy. Computer Science not only prepares students for college degrees or careers that utilize technology,  it emphasizes creative problem solving and persistence. Computer Science is applicable in hundreds of industries and areas of focus.  A workforce that is highly skilled and tech savvy is required for the twenty-first century.  The Digital Service Fellows were proud to help engage students in using computers and technology to code. Our hope is to continue these connections so that we can mentor students in coding and application design on a regular basis.

We  served in the following schools:

Edwin M. Stanton School A.B. Day School James R. Lowell School Jay Cooke Elementary School Dr. Ethel Allen School Thomas K. Finletter School Horatio B. Hackett Elementary School Woodrow Wilson Middle School Luis Muñoz- Marín School Gen. G. A. McCall school

Digital Service Fellows ‘Hangout’ with Google Recruiter

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work at one of the largest tech companies in the world? This past Friday the Urban Technology Project’s Digital Service Fellows (DSF) had the unique opportunity to speak with Chris Watkins, an employee with Google. Chris was able to meet us from across the country through a “Google Hang Out” from their Mountain View Campus in California. Jay Cohen, public school parent, Google Doc and apps developer and long time friend of the Urban Technology Project, connected with Chris when he traveled to Google’s Mountain View campus in California for a development event last month.

Google’s Mountain View campus

Chris spoke with the Digital Service Fellows about his experiences and the importance of persistence in achieving one’s professional goals. He talked about his experiences growing up outside of Chicago, attending college and working at Google as a recruiter focused on incorporating minority populations in the tech industry.

Asking questions

Dylan explaining our program to Chris

The DSFs had a chance to introduce our program and what the Urban Technology Project does,  and how they develop their professional skills and provide service to parents, students and community members in Philadelphia. The DSFs had a chance to ask Chris questions about how he came to work at Google, what it’s like to work with a big tech company and what the server room looks like. He said he hasn’t seen it, due to high security.

Chris received the questions openly and responded with great advice. He  expressed the importance of enhancing one’s versatility by beginning to learn coding languages, and emphasized the utility of scripting and how prevalent languages like Java, Python and Bash are in the tech industry. He advised that the DSFs do the best job they can, and take advantage of all the learning opportunities they get, because down the line it will pay off in getting a job or recommendation for another employer. The meeting with Chris left the DSF’s feeling energized and gave them an insight into the process of getting a job and what it’s like at one of the largest tech companies in the world. At the end of our discussion he said, “it’s like any other job” there are days when you don’t feel like going, and there are days when you enjoy it.

DSF group