learn / 2014

Coding is Cool Workshop & Initiative!

Coding is Cool Workshop & Initiative!

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by The Children's Lifesaving Foundation

Coding is Cool will show that LA students can help make LA the tech capital of the country, while training for the very best jobs out there.


Please describe yourself.

Solo actor (just us on this project!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Coding is Cool will show that LA students can help make LA the tech capital of the country, while training for the very best jobs out there.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The Children’s Lifesaving Foundation (CLF) wants to take our Care through College Program Students to the next level with our newly created Coding is Cool Workshops and Initiative – to make computer science and programming cool, fun, highly teachable and accessible! These workshops will further help to transform our at-risk students’ lives, and help to position LA as the Tech Capital of the West Coast!

Coding is Cool will teach the CLF’s very low-income, at-risk students enrolled in our Care through College Program in LA all about computer programming in a fun and highly engaging way. We will show them how to code and program, and show them how to create their very own computer app-a supreme academic edge. It’s going to be AMAZING!

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

The CLF will hire a staff of the very best computer science instructors who know how to engage and help stimulate the creativity of our middle-to-high-school age population of “low-income, at-risk” students- and inspire them to learn not only coding and programming basics and more- but how to create their very own apps in the process! We want to enlighten our students to the fact that computer science is THE industry of the future- and that THEY- regardless of socio-economic background, can help make LA into the next Silicone Valley! The CLF will also hire additional STEM-focused tutors, in order to further aid with the increasing interest and application in all levels of their math and science subjects, and to further inspire them to get excited about learning more about Math, Technology, Science, and make certain their GPA stays at not only an acceptable place- but at a highly competitive one.We are also calling this an “Initiative” because we also want to help remove the stigma of both intimidation and exclusion from learning about computer science- (It is NOT as hard as one thinks in today’s plugged-in world!) and that learning about it and how to do it IS cool, not geeky or difficult. Don’t bully something you know nothing about, and this is something we want to get across- just give this a chance, and see what happens!

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

Today, our Coding is Cool initiative will help make LA into the best place to learn because our Care through College students will be studying for the career of the future- the field of Computer Science. This initiative will not only make them MORE competitive and viable in the job market when they graduate college, but will help make LA the place where tech companies will want to expand and grow and find the best, most innovative programmers in the country. (Because here in LA, they start learning to code and to program as children and young teens!)

By 2050, the CLF sees LA as the second Silicone Valley, and having students coming from lower-income backgrounds being able to attain AMAZING jobs, right out of school (and earn up to three times the average salary!) This would be a highly tremendous boost to the community on ALL levels- and we are EXCITED to see it become a reality!

Coding is Cool Goals are Three-Fold:

  1. To allow the students on our Care through College Program (who are middle school to high school age, at-risk and primarily Latino youth in LA) access to actual Coding and Computer Programming Workshops- so that they may learn the fundamentals of computer science, coding and programming and building apps-culminating in creating their very own app at the end of the first year’s CIC workshop.

  2. The CLF will hire a staff of awesome STEM tutors to instruct our students specifically in Science and Math- to demonstrate just how fascinating these subjects truly are, to insure graduation rates and good college entry prospects, and- to further inspire and augment their interest in our new CIC workshops.

  3. The CLF will endeavor to inspire our students to think of a career completely outside of what they may ever have imagined- one in the fields of computer science and technology-and provide these future LA residents and taxpayers with the very means to have an impactful, meaningful, fulfilling and prosperous career.

We will also be connecting and hiring the best instructors to connect with our students, and give a fresh group of instructors the opportunity to impact an entire generation of young Angelenos!

Whom will your project benefit?

Our Coding is Cool Initiative will greatly benefit the primarily Latino, “at-risk,” and very, very low-income youth we serve in the Mar Vista, Palms, Venice and Culver City areas of Los Angeles. They all reside in LA county. The Census Bureau identifies them as very, very low-income. These students are enrolled in LAUSD schools, and are a part of our larger Care through College Educational Program. A majority of these students are also a part of the CLF’s Vita Network, which allow their families to achieve more, and to experience a far better quality of life in Los Angeles through our three Program Platforms.

This population is so in need of Coding is Cool for some very specific reasons:

-In 2012, according to CollegeBoard.com. LESS THAN 3,000 Hispanic and African-American Students took the high school AP Computer Science Exam. This is a STAGGERING, and staggeringly SAD, fact.

According to Forbes, Computer Science is the high-paid college degree. And according to NSF.gov. less than 2.4% of college students graduate with a degree in it! 9 out of 10 K-12 schools don’t even offer computer-programming classes, according to Code.org.

And then there’s this, from Time.com’s own Keith Wagstaff: “If technology is the future, however, we are doing a woeful job of preparing our kids for it. Computer science is the only one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields that has actually seen a decrease in student participation over the last 20 years, from 25% of high school students to only 19%, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics. Take a look at the curriculum of many classes labeled “computer science” today, and you’ll find not much has changed from the days of dial-up modems. Most cover the basics: Learning how to type and use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. “ (itals ours) Not encouraging!

But Coding is Cool can help change all of this, and change the entire trajectory of an at-risk child’s young life and future career.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Our students will be primarily enrolled in LAUSD schools. This is a collaboration by means of our offering LAUSD students these workshops absolutely free-of-charge, and to supplement the few computer science classes they have (if any).

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Learn” metrics?

  • Percentage of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years
  • Youth unemployment and underemployment
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • Academic Performance Index scores
  • College matriculation rates
  • Suspension and expulsion rates (Dream Metric)
  • Truancy rates in elementary and middle school (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

-Percentage of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years AND College matriculation rates: This is already the primary goal of the CLF’s Care through College Program, under which Coding is Cool will be operating. We are certain that CIC will only further, positively impact and greatly increase our students’ college graduation rates. ALL of our students in our Care trough College Program who have graduated high school are currently attending college (usually starting with SMC.) Coding is Cool will maximize these metrics. -Youth unemployment and underemployment: Computer Science and programming, being able to build and create a killer app or computer game- this is the future career for young adults, and will impact any job or career in a positive way. (And did you know that skilled high school coders and computer engineer interns have earned over $5,000 per month?) Coding is Cool will not help them get “a” job, but get “the” job of the future in LA, if they want it. CIC will offer them an unparalled and very competitive edge. -District-wide graduation rates: Coding is Cool will exponentially amp up our students’ creativity, curiosity and very specific skills in both math and science, simply by breaking down both the stigma and intimidation factors typically engendered by both of these subjects. This in itself will greatly help raise high school grad levels in our districts-by allowing students to overcome their fears of succeeding in these subjects. (No more “I’m bad at math!” and “Science is so lame!” Nope!) Test scores will be higher, grades will greatly improve, and intellectual confidence will soar-these students will want to graduate and move forward. -HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math AND Academic Performance Index scores: Ditto the above, with the additional bonus of adding intellectual confidence in ALL subjects by mastering computer programming. I mean, how many sixth-graders can build their own app? (The President can’t! even do that!) The intellectual transformation will be so exciting to observe, and we cannot WAIT to experience and see it happening. Scores will be higher when learning about “difficult” subjects gets easier, updated, better. -Suspension and expulsion rates AND
Truancy rates in elementary and middle school : CIC will add the confidence and desire of mastering advanced subjects-school where they’ll EXCEL, NOT want to ditch out on!

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

The CLF will evaluate this project both internally and externally. Internally, our staff will sit-in on all Coding is Cool Workshops, and survey the students monthly re: overall participation and specific engagement levels. We will also be rating their specific skill levels with monthly exams, which will be built into the workshop curriculum. Externally, we will have the instructors score the students’ progress (for our purposes only- we want to keep the classes non-competitive and free of external stressors), as well as the usability of the apps they create themselves. We will also have the instructors submit monthly evaluations of each student, so we may see their progress, and also help guide the instructors on who to focus on, in a more one-on-one way. We will have a monthly meeting with all of our new instructors, in order to pinpoint which students need more specific help and/or motivation to learn and move forward within the CIC workshop. As this is a new project, the evaluation process will be absolutely crucial for us to make certain that is Coding is Cool is progressing as the CLF has envisioned it. We need that the project be feasible and valuable for our students to continue forward with-that they’re both learning intensely and enjoying it thoroughly- simultaneously.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

  1. To NEVER limit the opportunities, options and chances for this primarily Latino, at-risk and very low-income population of students. They deserve the VERY best, they can learn with the best, and they can BE the best. Our success stories are astounding- not because of us, but because of what our students are capable of dreaming of and going for in life. Their confidence informs us, constantly, and we want to make sure they are prepared and know they can follow their dreams. We want our students to have as many extra advantages in life as possible, despite what their circumstances may be conveying. CIC is one such incredible opportunity, and one that is not even offered in most local, private schools.
  2. We have to be forward thinking for them, and computer science, not only as a career choice, but also as a practical application in any real-life situation (career-wise or life-wise!) gives one an edge that simply will never be diminished. We have learned that it is CRUCIAL for us to seek out as many as these innovative options as possible for our students- especially those that students in different districts or private schools may take for granted-to give them the academic edge that they need to progress through a college degree, and beyond.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Implementing Coding is Cool in the next twelve months is totally and completely possible to implement successfully, and is already in motion, with a seed grant from Time-Warner’s Connect A Million Minds! To make Coding is Cool operate as a separate initiative on its own, this grant from LA2050 will allow the CLF to hire a larger staff of trained, local instructors and teachers who are waiting to help make this vision an amazing reality. We will also host some truly AMAZING guest speakers (like the blogger and world-class web developer Tynan, whose blog was voted one of the 50 Best Blogs by TIME Magazine last year!) and friends from local GOOGLE HQ and Electronic Arts. It will happen, with the help from LA2050, and it’s going to be wonderful.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

  1. Challenge #1: Keeping our students fully engaged in our Coding is Cool Workshop: This challenge is very similar to any other in K-12 education, of course. But, we feel that there is enough initial interest and enthusiasm from our instructors and staff, and since our students are so “plugged in” to begin with, it will hopefully override any initial resistance, and their curiosity will take over! However, we do plan to battle this, if it arises, with a Monthly Incentive Program.

  2. Challenge #2: Keeping the Workload “Enough” (but not too much) The CLF definitely wants the students to absorb absolutely everything they can from these Coding is Cool Workshops- but we want to be very careful that all regular and mandatory LAUSD class and homework is their primary priority, and any extra “homework” from Coding is Cool” can be done within the CIC Workshop itself. We don’t want to make these classes a burden; we want them to be fun and enlivening. Hopefully, with their new iPads, they will be able and willing to practice and work on coding and programming at home, when through with their regular homework, in their spare time.

That is the overall, main challenge for us within the context of this new workshop: To make certain our instructors are committed to be as both engaging and compassionate as teachers, as possible.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Education/training