A local nonprofit and the Dallas ISD have come together to strengthen computer technology programs in local schools.
Hack My Future is a private nonprofit focused on creating a new generation of technological leaders through its programs, “one line of code at a time.”
Founder and CEO Shawn Scott is using his background in technology to work with local schools in order to make this possible. Scott has been coding since age 7 and has worked for companies such as Apple, Texas Instruments, and most recently served as chief technology officer for Dallas-based VenueCenter.
“We look at how the private industry can supplement what is happening in the schools and provide them with resources like Google software and more,” Scott said.
This spring, the nonprofit launched a pilot of its Whiz Kids program with Dallas ISD. The program allows students to attend an after-school computer programming club with their teachers to learn basic coding skills as well as problem solving and teamwork.
“We want to make sure that all of these kids are exposed to computer science.”
Layla Harrison is one of many Thomas L. Marsalis Elementary School students who attend the weekly program and is furthering her passion for math and science.
At 11 years old, Layla is using a program to create a story about moon monsters in outer space. She uses code blocks to command the characters that she created for her story.
Joseph Schelanko, the robotics coordinator for the DISD, works with teachers at the schools and shows them how to use Google CS First, the curriculum that is used in the program.
EXPANDING ACCESS TO COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION
The Dallas ISD was given a $5,000 grant from the DFW Alliance of Technology and Women that allowed for a stipend to be given to DISD teachers for their weekly contribution.
The program currently reaches 10 schools in the district, all of which were chosen for a reason.
“It was a strategy to be geographically diverse so the 10 schools are scattered around the city,” Scott said.
Schelanko notes that the selection, narrowed down from 156 schools in the district, also had to do with a school’s interest in the program, and is only the beginning.
“Starting this summer, we have a 30-elementary school cohort with approximately 630-650 teachers that we are going to train. That way, 30 elementary schools will have computer science as part of their curriculum by next year,” Schelanko said.
In three years, Schelanko intends for every elementary school in the district to offer the program with the help of Hack My Future.
“We want to make sure that all of these kids are exposed to computer science,” Scott said.
‘SUMMER OF CODE’ EVENTS
The nonprofit also is taking the programs outside of the classroom this summer, with a series of events called Summer of Code.
Taking place all over the Dallas area, these events form a program that allows children in every community to participate in several computer technology camps and learning sessions.
The organization partnered with the University of Texas at Dallas and the Dallas Public Library for several of the events taking place throughout the summer.
“The workforce is going to look a lot different in the future than it does today and this is how we prepare them for it …”
“The workforce is going to look a lot different in the future than it does today and this is how we prepare them for it, by teaching them skills and letting them choose what direction they’ll take it in,” Scott said.
Most of the events during the Summer of Code are free, but space is limited.
To learn more about Hack My Future and the Summer of Code, or to register for an event, visit the nonprofit’s website.
Photos by Julia Batlle.