Connecting STEM to the Community
Young people today are growing up in a new world; a world full of digital experiences, digital challenges and digital opportunities. The important things remain the same – values, beliefs, relationships, and our need to connect on a human level, but at the same time we have to be aware of the need to empower the next generation to better understand the technology they’re using on a daily basis, and become more than just tech consumers.
Tom Cannon, Director of ISV Tech Evangelism puts it nicely in his blog: “… it’s like being able to cook, you can go to the shop and buy yourself a sandwich, or even a full meal but it doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to make a meal yourself and how the ingredients work together. It’s about understanding the process of creating as well as enjoying the consumption.”
Initiatives that we’re seeing more of that help bridge the world of tech consumerism and tech knowledge include things like coding clubs, hackathons, ted-style talks and seminars. Individuals, not for profits, and companies are helping to facilitate these activities/programs and as a community network we’re getting better at widening our reach and developing programs to suit an increasing variety of young people’s interests
At Salesforce.org we try our best to partner with local organisations, and reach communities where we live and work. In Ireland, one of the organisations we work closely with is Citywise Education, an organisation that provides educational programmes for young people growing up in difficult or hostile environments. Our aim is to create a holistic partnership where we support the organisation both through the donation of Salesforce licences and pro bono support, and also by providing volunteers and running programs to help them better achieve their mission.
One of the ongoing programs we run in our Salesforce Dublin offices is CoderDojo. Before getting involved in the Salesforce program, Citywise had already connected to CoderDojo, but needed a little help in facilitating Dojos (clubs) for certain age groups and skill levels. Working with the Salesforce.org team and a group of CoderDojo evangalists in the Dublin office, a program was set up to run dojos for two age groups once a week. One of the classes would teach HTML and the other, Scratch.
Claire Whitehead, Associate Sales Support Engineer, and CoderDojo mentor tells us a little about the classes: “In my HTML class, which is web design – I build a new little feature for a sample website every week, and then explain to the students what I did. In the Scratch class we use Scratch, a block based coding tool to work on different creative projects, while learning real computational thinking. In my advanced group I’m currently working on a game week by week, So I’m writing a little bit more each week, and turning that into instructions for the kids to use. So far I have a squirrel that will run and jump when the arrow keys are pressed.”
Christopher Smith, IT and Academics Manger at Citywise Education shares: “Many of the kids come along to the CoderDojo session in Salesforce not really knowing what to expect to learn. Having a keen interest in using computers and playing video games has encouraged them to take part. I don’t think it has dawned on them yet that this could be a career changer, but I think when it does it will be spectacular!”
Creativity is really important, as groups are often full of different personalities, skill levels and interests. Claire explains: “The kids love the flexibility to adapt the lessons to their own interests, We try to keep the instruction general, so we can help them to understand how websites, or coding works, but we don’t tell them exactly what to create. CoderDojo is non-curriculum based, so the mentors need to put a little work in to organise a lesson ahead of time. We hope to get them comfortable and confident with the tools early on so that they can begin working on independent projects as soon as possible. We’re hoping to have a few entries for CoderDojo’s coolest projects this year.”
The Salesforce.org/Citywise parntership is just one example of how we’re giving back to our community through our 1-1-1 model. Sarah Lennon, Salesforce.org Programs Coordinator says: “It’s fantastic to be able to hold the Dojo in our offices with our staff as well as knowing that Citywise are using Salesforce to accelerate their mission. Such a fine example of a holistic partnership in all its glory.”
Check out some of the Salesforce.org impact stories, here.
Citywise Education does not receive any government funding for the programs it runs. To learn more about Citywise, or to get involved and support, please go to: www.citywise.ie
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