An Hour of Code at McKinney Secondary School

Yesterday, I had the amazing privilege to help bringing this year’s Hour of Code to Dr. Susan S McKinney Secondary School of the Arts in Fort Greene, Brooklyn as a volunteer. This is me, wearing my nerdy Stack Overflow gear, going over the Minecraft tutorial in front of a class of 7th graders:

Notice those MacBook Pros? Those were borrowed from a different school.

It was fantastic to see how excited those kids were to learn how to code! The folks at code.org did a great job putting together a set of fun tutorials which make it really easy to get started with basic coding concepts. In fact, I could literally watch some of the students grasp the idea of a loop right in front of my eyes.

Unfortunately, this will have been the only day during the whole school year the great students at McKinney school will have gotten exposure to any kind of formal computer science education. Like many schools in rather underprivileged neighborhoods, McKinney currently has neither the funding nor the equipment for teaching CS on a regular basis. Computer Science For All, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s initiative to “give every public school student access to computer science education within the next 10 years”, hasn’t trickled down to this particular school yet. And the great teachers I spoke to weren’t particularly optimistic that it would happen any time soon. “Schools like us just get lost in the shuffle”, as one of them expressed it.

This needs to be fixed urgently - there were a lot of very smart, talented kids in those class rooms. They quickly got the basic concepts, finished the tutorials, and many of them were eager to learn more. Unfortunately, without more frequent encouragement, I’m afraid chances are rather slim that many of them will find their way into a technical career.

Initiatives such as Computer Science For All shouldn’t take 10 years to implement. There’s raw talent sitting in class rooms today, and as a society we can’t afford not to give all those smart kids access to computer science education as fast as possible.

Thanks to Mr. Carrion, Ms. Travis, and Tim Dussinger (another volunteer from General Assembly) for an amazing and eye-opening day at McKinney Secondary School of the Arts!

Written on December 10, 2015. Please subscribe to my blog.