Fostering Tech Talent at Inwood Academy

Preparing students for both college and careers is a priority for Inwood Academy. When we engage our students in thinking about a career opportunity, it builds a sense of hope and optimism about their future.

To foster this preparation, we bring in partners who volunteer their time to educate and inspire our students in the field of science, medicine, and technology—from the New York Restoration Project, Columbia University, Google, and Microsoft.

One of our newer partners is TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools). The TEALS program is part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative. They recruit, mentor, and place passionate high tech professionals in schools with two goals: help teach computer science, and inspire the students to pursue science and technology careers.

We are just one of 22 schools in NYC that is a TEALS partner school and are pleased to be entering our second school-year with the program. We are taking advantage of this amazing opportunity to bring computer science courses to our high school students.

The tech industry is challenged in finding and hiring qualified, talented employees. There simply aren’t enough candidates to meet the needs of the industry. With the TEALS program, they are providing rigorous computer science to high schools while tackling the shortage of computer science graduates.

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As the computer science teacher last school-year, I worked with software engineers from Facebook and Shutterstock to teach the Introduction to Computer Science course based off of UC Berkeley’s award-winning Beauty and Joy of Computing curriculum. This coming school year, we will continue to expand the program, bringing in a new partner teacher, a team of volunteers, and students.

Helping our students to identify where their passions lie is key to preparing them for future jobs and correlates to success in school. With the engineers in the class, our students were pushed beyond what I would have been capable of as a teacher, creating complex, multi-step projects, and using original algorithmic thinking to solve difficult problems. Even those students who decided by the end of the year that computer science was not for them benefitted immensely, as they were challenged to think computationally, developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills that will transfer across disciplines.

Perhaps most importantly, while talk of career pathways and critical thinking is crucial, the class was also fun! There was constant laughter in the classroom as students created a classic side-scrolling Mario game, animated the movements of their favorite professional wrestlers, developed humorous telemarketer programs, and coded games of Hangman. For fifty minutes each school day, we all got to engage in a fun, challenging, and truly unique educational experience. I am so pleased that we are continuing with the TEALS program for the 2017-2018 school year, and am excited to see how computer science can continue to grow at Inwood Academy.

 

Harvard University’s CS50

Inwood Academy scholars had the privilege of participating in a coding event this month—CS50 Hackathon NYC. We were just one of nine schools invited to participate in this Microsoft sponsored event.

The hackathon was more than a room filled with free t-shirts, bags, candy, and pizza. It was a collaborative computer science learning environment where students were helping students, educators from one institution helping students from another, and all making sure everyone was engaged and supported. I sat in on one of the pull out sessions that our three middle school scholars attended and I found it fascinating, as a non-computer science major, to see how CS50 first teaches students how to think algorithmically and solve problems efficiently, rather than to show them how to write a line of code. During this session, Isaac, one of our students, answered the instructor’s question and she said to him “I guess you could teach this class.” Did I mention that our scholars appeared to be the only middle school students at the event?

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Our students met Harvard computer science professor David J. Malan. He started CS50 at Harvard and it has become one of the the most popular courses on campus—yes, computer science. They now offer a free adaption of CS50 for high schools that will satisfy the new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles curriculum.

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Former Inwood Academy teacher and current volunteer Jeff Maxim started a CS50 course for Inwood Academy students and he graciously arranged with Microsoft to have our students participate in the CS50 Hackathon NYC. It’s volunteers like Jeff and partners like Microsoft and Harvard that are making a difference for Inwood Academy students. And it’s supporters like those who donated to our Classroom Technology Campaign that are allowing us to create a more effective personalized learning model for our students. Learn more about the campaign or donate to it here: http://www.inwoodacademy.org/donate/classroom-technology-campaign.html