Celebrating CS Ed Week

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Venture capitalist Fred Wilson told the crowd at a launch event for Computer Science Education Week, at IN-Tech Academy in the Kingsbridge section of Bronx, how impressed he was with the coding skills of one of the students, and "almost offered her a job on the spot.”

Fred is the founder of both Union Square Ventures and CSNYC – The Fund’s lead partner in CS4All – and is committed to doing all he can to provide NYC students with computer science education. He found watching the kids understand, and have fun with, computer science to be inspiring. Fred added, “This is a big week for computer science education, but every week should be about computer science.”

CS Ed Week is an international effort to lift up the importance of CS in schools around the world. Schools mark the occasion with hackathons, guest speakers, or an Hour of Code. The NYC Department of Education kicked off their celebration at IN-Tech, a comprehensive secondary school serving a 6th – 12th grade population from within Community School District 10 under Superintendent Maribel Hulla.

“I’m excited to showcase what Ms. Colavito is doing with her 6th grade class,” said Principal Stephen Seltzer. “And I’m excited to see the direction that we’re taking with the technology curriculum that is being implemented in the 6th – 12th grade.”

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Ms. Colavito is Beth Colavito, who teaches 6th grade computer science honors. We had a chance to visit her classroom, where students were using a randomizer to determine how many of each color M&M candy would be in each bag. The funders, educators, and staff members in attendance talked to the students about their experiences in learning Scratch and creating the candy software.

“It’s pretty fun actually,” said Nailah, a 6th grade computer science honors student. “With science you usually start with a pen and paper but now Ms. Colavitio brought it to another level with us using the computer programming website. It’s a lot more fun.”

After leaving Ms. Colavito’s classroom, the group traveled to the library to engage with students participating in the new CS4All Hack League.

Through hackathons, students are encouraged to apply CS concepts and practices they’ve learned in the classroom to solve real world challenges by creating digital games and apps to tackle themes including news literacy, wildlife conservation, kindness and empathy, and connected cities. In the first-ever CS4All Hack League, winning teams from 75 high schools and middle schools across NYC will compete in borough-level brackets and then advance to a citywide final competition. The students excitedly spoke with the group about their CS Hack League exploits.

Raul, a 12th grade student at IN-Tech, thanked the academy for helping him realize what he wants to do with his life thanks to the CS programs available to him at the school. “It gave me a sense of direction. I knew I liked art and gaming and now I thought ‘why not include art with the game stuff – maybe be the art director.”

Raul looked around at the younger students and smiled. “There’s so much I want to do.”

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In the end, Phil Weinberg, deputy chancellor for teaching and learning at the DOE talked about the exciting momentum in classrooms across the city as we expand computer science. Deputy Chancellor Weinberg spoke about future plans to build on the success of Computer Science for All, “by supporting our schools to lead new types of learning, ultimately opening doors and expanding the options our young people will have after high school.”

CS Ed Week is celebrated as part of Computer Science for All, a public-private partnership with New York City supported by a range of foundations, corporations, nonprofits, families, and individuals. Major partners include CSNYC; Robin Hood; Math for America (M f A); Robin Hood Learning and Technology Fund; Oath Foundation; Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. and the Paulson Family Foundation. They are joined by additional partners such as Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, & Katz; Hearst Foundations; the Ron Conway Family; The Rudin Foundation and the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation; Accenture; and Arconic Foundation. The Fund for Public Schools, CSNYC, and the Office of Strategic Partnerships at City Hall work together to develop and manage these partnerships.

If you think you or your organization might be able to help make CS4All a reality, join our donors and supporters today.

David Belsky