Never did I ever think there would be a “part deux” to blogging about speaking in the White House, until it happened again. Most people don’t get invited to the White House even once, let alone twice. It’s humbling; it’s surreal. It’s one of those experiences that you get to share with your kids and their kids.
About a month ago, I received an invitation from the Office of Science & Technology to attend both the #CSforAll forum and a PD session on what other districts from around the US and its territories are doing. These meetings are the results of numerous initiatives from the President with the goal of getting computer science classes, programs, clubs, activities, or all of these into all schools. If it sounds like a very broad and ambitious goal, it is. To give every student the skills needed in order to succeed in today’s society has always been prized as a local initiative. However, when the President of the United States sets an initiative, you want to follow through on it and use every resource you can.
The morning workshop was fantastic! It contained leaders, teachers, government officials, and students from around the country, US territories, and Native American tribes. I was able to hear about how uber wealthy, dirt poor, gigantic, and minuscule districts all had students writing code from grades K to 12. I heard how a southern California high school rolled out a series of CS classes and how a school district in Florida started an hour of code and turned it into a massive community outpouring. I was floored with how a tribe in Oklahoma has kindergarten students coding on the reservation. Meeting students where they are is an understatement.
The afternoon was a summit with national partners that highlighted how students, companies, colleges, public & private schools, and the government have come together to promote computer science for all. From the Girl Scouts to Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, it was a fascinating afternoon.
The event was live on whitehouse.gov; you can watch the summit here:
We finished the day with a student exhibit in the Old Executive Office Building. Besides seeing our future working on computer science projects that would take me days to figure out, we were also treated to some White House cupcakes. Hey, cupcakes are cupcakes, but they are much cooler when the seal of the President is on them.
Three takeaways from another fantastic day in the world of education…
1. Computer Science is real, and it is easy for all ages. Like all things new, it takes a bit of time to adjust. CS classes are no longer “dehumanizing” (as one teacher from the forum put it) and can be injected into kindergarten classes.
2. Socioeconomic factors are finally starting to “not count” when it comes to trends in education. The fact that Native American tribal schools are achieving success with kids from 5-15 should be a giant wake-up call to all blue-collar & white-collar school districts that say, “They can’t do that,” or “We don’t have the resources.” Newsflash: They can, and the last time I checked, free resources don’t cost anything.
3. Regardless of who becomes President next, this project will continue to move forward. It was adamantly clear that regardless of what happens in November, the star power and drive of so many Americans is obvious. Computer science is a skill set for all learners and will only become more important as we move on in the future.