Apps & Maps summer program

From July 1, 119 Philadelphia area youth (13 – 19 year old, 69 of them are girls!) are learning various digital literacy skills through projects, lectures, field trips and workshops. They spend six weeks on Temple campus,  working in different groups throughout the campus to work on various projects: designing small business app, exploring culture and youth in Philadelphia, creating heart monitoring and music app, designing monopoly game with Philadelphia map, and creating community-based book sharing site. All of them received basic web programming including HTML and Ruby. They also have a chance to listen to various speakers including a world renowned English literature scholar, a TV producer, a venture capitalist, a technology social entrepreneur, Philadelphia’s Chief Data Officer, and a digital media entrepreneur. 

Supported by the generous funding from Knight FoundationEDA, and PYN, the program’s goal is to reach out urban youth during the summer and teach them with digital literacy. The three core components of digital literacy are design thinking, computational thinking and spatial thinking. Through design thinking, we help students to gain contextual understanding of intractable complex social challenges from multiple stakeholder perspectives and their unmet needs. They learn how to visualize their ideas and the value of rapid prototyping. By computational thinking, we teach them basic pattern of complex problem solving approaches through abstraction, decomposition, and iterations that allow algorithmic approaches to a problem. To teach computational thinking, we draw on various wonderful on-line resources including Hackety HackCode Academy and W3 Schools.

A group 24 participants (dubbed as “coding group”) learned HTML5, CSS, MySQL and PHP – a basic suite of web programming languages that are used for virtually all web sites. They also learned information architecture and database design. They learn through collaborating with each other. Some kids are clearly faster learners and better coders than others. Yet, they are asked to help each other, pulling those who are falling behind.  What is truly amazing is that these students all learned how to set up an interactive dynamic web site using PHP and MySQL in four weeks! Some are now sweating to figure out how to integrate Facebook and Twitter into their sites. Watching them working on these projects is just simply inspiring. 

A group of girls working with Professor Li Bai and his graduate students learned how to program Arduino.  They figured out how to write code to monitor hear rate. I will write more about them later. Their work is truly amazing. I think they can introduce a completely new product that companies like Samsung or Nokia should be interested in.

We will have our open house to celebrate their great work next Thursday. I will post more detailed information about our open house here soon, along with many other great stories about our students. So, please stay tuned. 

Professor | Writer | Teacher Digital Innovation, Design, Organizational Genetics Case Western Reserve University

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