Category Archives: Digital

Coding in Schools Follow-up to October CEC Calendar Meeting

Thank you to everyone who came out and attended our CEC calendar meeting. Thank you in particular to our special guests Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Fred Wilson, Chair of CSNYC.

To follow-up on Fred’s talk about expanding coding education and computer science in schools, here are some upcoming events for teachers, principals and parents to check out:

We’ve listed these events and other coding in schools resources on our Coding in Schools page.

TONIGHT: CEC Meeting w/ NYC Schools Chancellor Fariña followed by CSNYC Chair Fred Wilson. 5:30pm, PS 307.

REMINDER: Our CEC 13 meeting is TONIGHT (10/20) at PS 307 [map] in Vinegar Hill at 5:30pm. Chancellor Fariña will be joining us at 6pm sharp for a one hour town hall. Submit your questions for the Chancellor here.

Immediately after the Chancellor, at 7pm, we will be joined by Fred Wilson, who will discuss initiatives in the city, including the foundation he started, CSNYC, that are working to expand coding education in NYC public schools.


Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding



MILL VALLEY, Calif. — Seven-year-old Jordan Lisle, a second grader, joined his family at a packed after-hours school event last month aimed at inspiring a new interest: computer programming.

“I’m a little afraid he’s falling behind,” his mother, Wendy Lisle, said, explaining why they had signed up for the class at Strawberry Point Elementary School.

The event was part of a national educational movement in computer coding instruction that is growing at Internet speeds. Since December, 20,000 teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade have introduced coding lessons, according to, a group backed by the tech industry that offers free curriculums. In addition, some 30 school districts, including New York City and Chicago, have agreed to add coding classes in the fall, mainly in high schools but in lower grades, too. And policy makers in nine states have begun awarding the same credits for computer science classes that they do for basic math and science courses, rather than treating them as electives.

There are after-school events, too, like the one in Mill Valley, where 70 parents and 90 children, from kindergartners to fifth graders, huddled over computers solving animated puzzles to learn the basics of computer logic.

It is a stark change for computer science, which for decades was treated like a stepchild, equated with trade classes like wood shop. But smartphones and apps are ubiquitous now, and engineering careers are hot. To many parents — particularly ones here in the heart of the technology corridor — coding looks less like an extracurricular activity and more like a basic life skill, one that might someday lead to a great job or even instant riches. The spread of coding instruction, while still nascent, is “unprecedented — there’s never been a move this fast in education,” said Elliot Soloway, a professor of education and computer science at the University of Michigan. He sees it as very positive, potentially inspiring students to develop a new passion, perhaps the way that teaching frog dissection may inspire future surgeons and biologists.

But the momentum for early coding comes with caveats, too. It is not clear that teaching basic computer science in grade school will beget future jobs or foster broader creativity and logical thinking, as some champions of the movement are projecting. And particularly for younger children, Dr. Soloway said, the activity is more like a video game — better than simulated gunplay, but not likely to impart actual programming skills.

Some educators worry about the industry’s heavy role: Major tech companies and their founders, including Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have put up about $10 million for The organization pays to train high school teachers to offer more advanced curriculums, and, for younger students, it has developed a coding curriculum that marries basic instruction with video games involving Angry Birds and hungry zombies.

The lessons do not involve traditional computer language. Rather, they use simple word commands — like “move forward” or “turn right” — that children can click on and move around to, say, direct an Angry Bird to capture a pig.

Across the country, districts are signing up piecemeal. Chicago’s public school system hopes to have computer science as a graduation requirement at all of its 187 high schools in five years, and to have the instruction in 25 percent of other schools. New York City public schools are training 60 teachers for classes this fall in 40 high schools, in part to prepare students for college.

“There’s a big demand for these skills in both the tech sector and across all sectors,” said Britt Neuhaus, the director of special projects at the office of innovation for New York City schools. The city plans to expand the training for 2015 and is considering moving it into middle schools.

The movement comes with no shortage of “we’re changing the world” marketing fervor from Silicon Valley. “This is strategically significant for the economy of the United States,” said John Pearce, a technology entrepreneur. Heand another entrepreneur, Jeff Leane, have started a nonprofit, MV Gate, to bring youth and family coding courses developed by to Mill Valley, an affluent suburb across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

Parents love the idea of giving children something to do with computers that they see as productive, Mr. Pearce said. “We have any number of parents who say, ‘I can’t take my kid playing one more hour of video games,’ ” he said. But if the children are exploring coding, the parents tell him, “ ‘I can live with that all night long.’ ”

The concept has caught on with James Meezan, a second grader. He attended one of the first “Hour of Code” events sponsored by MV Gate in December with his mother, Karen Meezan, the local PTA president and a former tech-industry executive who now runs a real estate company. She is among the enthusiastic supporters of the coding courses, along with several local principals.

Her son, she said, does well in school but had not quite found his special interest and was “not the fastest runner on the playground.” But he loves programming and spends at least an hour a week at CodeKids, after-school programs organized by MV Gate and held at three of Mill Valley’s five elementary schools.

James, 8, explained that programming is “getting the computer to do something by itself.” It is fun, he said, and, besides, if he gets good, he might be able to do stuff like get a computer to turn on when it has suddenly died. His mother said he had found his niche; when it comes to programming, “he is the fastest runner.”

Other youngsters seemed more bewildered, at least at first. “The Google guys might’ve been coders, and the Facebook guys — I don’t know,” said Sammy Smith, a vibrant 10-year-old girl, when she arrived at the coding event at Strawberry Point.

But well into the session, she and her fifth-grade friends were digging in, moving basic command blocks to get the Angry Bird to its prey, and then playing with slightly more complex commands like “repeat” and learning about “if-then” statements, an elemental coding concept. The crowd had plenty of high-tech parents, including Scott Wong, director of engineering at Twitter. His 7-year-old son, Taeden, seemed alternately transfixed and confused by the puzzles on the laptop, while his 5-year-old brother, Sai, sat next to him, fidgeting.

The use of these word-command blocks to simplify coding logic stems largely from the work of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, which introduced a visual programming language called Scratch in 2007. It claims a following of millions of users, but mostly outside the schools.

Then, in 2013, came, which borrowed basic Scratch ideas and aimed to spread the concept among schools and policy makers. Computer programming should be taught in every school, said Hadi Partovi, the founder of and a former executive at Microsoft. He called it as essential as “learning about gravity or molecules, electricity or photosynthesis.”

Among the 20,000 teachers who says have signed on is Alana Aaron, a fifth-grade math and science teacher in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. She heard about the idea late last year at a professional development meeting and, with her principal’s permission, swapped a two-month earth sciences lesson she was going to teach on land masses for the curriculum.

“Computer science is big right now — in our country, the world,” she said. “If my kids aren’t exposed to things like that, they could miss out on potential opportunities and careers.”


NYC Announces Digital Ready: A New Digital learning Initiative


City of New York Launches New Digital learning Initiative to Help Prepare Public High School Students

NYC Digital Releases Update to the Digital Roadmap with 100% of the Objectives Achieved, Digital Education Programs Have Impacted over One Million New Yorkers

New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, Media and Entertainment Commissioner Katherine Oliver and Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot today announced Digital Ready, an intensive professional development and technology expansion program designed to help participating NYC public high schools use technology and student-centered learning to improve their students’ readiness for college and careers. Digital Ready introduces strategic digital teaching tools and connects students with New York City’s vibrant technology community to help them develop the professional skills and technology competencies that equip them for success in the new digital economy through partnerships with technology and media leaders. NYC Digital also released New York City’s Digital Leadership: 2013 Roadmap<>, which reflects that 100% of the 40 initiatives in the City’s digital growth plan, across areas of infrastructure, education, open data, engagement and industry, are now complete. It also details the recent Digital Cities Symposium and introduces new ideas for future goals. The announcement took place at Brooklyn International High School, one of the schools participating in Digital Ready.

“The Digital Ready program is a forward-thinking and beneficial addition to our school system,” said Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. “Through the use of technology and strong partnerships with outside organizations, Digital Ready provides our students enhanced classroom experiences and real-world learning opportunities that will support them on the path to success in college and careers.”

“It is essential to equip young New Yorkers with the skills they’ll need to pursue careers after they’ve finished their education,” said Commissioner Katherine Oliver, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “Digital Ready will help bridge the gap between lessons learned in the classroom with the valuable hands-on experience they’ll acquire through collaboration with our partners in the media and technology industries.”

“From kindergarten to senior centers, digital literacy programs in Mayor Bloomberg’s administration have impacted over one million New Yorkers, and this investment in education is crucial to the City’s Digital Roadmap,” said Rachel Haot, New York City’s Chief Digital Officer.  “Digital Ready illustrates the commitment of New York City’s thriving technology community to support the next generation of engineers by providing students with an invaluable opportunity to learn firsthand from local startups. In addition, I would like to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership and vision, as the 2013 Roadmap illustrates that 100% of the 40 initiatives introduced in 2011 to help realize New York City’s digital potential are now complete. To continue to raise the bar, the Roadmap also identifies opportunities to build on this progress in the areas of infrastructure, education, open data, engagement and industry.”

Digital Ready supports innovative educational practices in participating schools in order to improve students’ college and career readiness and help them to become digital citizens. Teachers build digital resources into their lesson plans, use new media tools to engage their students in deeper learning and work with partners to expose students to careers that rely on knowledge of digital technology. Students in participating schools develop essential digital literacies and skills, engage in high-quality learning and enhance their college and career readiness by participating in expanded learning online and outside of school. The program has launched in 10 high schools in fall 2013, and will expand in the following year to 10 additional schools, including middle and high schools. The 10 schools in Digital Ready for the 2013-2014 school year are:

•  Academy for Innovative Technologies
•  Bronx Academy for Software Engineering
•  Bronx Compass High School
•  Brooklyn International High School
•  City As School
•  Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School
•  Frederick Douglass Academy VII
•  Hillcrest High School
•  Hudson High School for Learning Technologies
•  Satellite Academy High School

As part of Digital Ready, teachers are trained and supported in the use of a wide range of technology-based tools and resources. Digital Ready also includes collaboration with external partners in the digital industry to create pathways for students and their future. Tech companies have the opportunity to mentor students, offer internships and contribute to the learning experience in a variety of ways. Partners involved with Digital Ready include: the American Museum of Natural History, Apple, Artsy, Beam Center, BRIC Arts Media, Brooklyn College Community Partnership, Eyebeam, Dream Yard, Global Kids, Google, Iridescent, the LAMP, Mozilla Hive NYC Learning Network, Museum of the Moving Image, NPower, NYC Salt, Scenarios USA, ScriptEd, Skillfeed and Tribeca Film Institute, among others.

“Artsy is thrilled to partner with NYC Digital to enable students in New York City high schools to discover art from museums and galleries around the world,” said Carter Cleveland, CEO and Founder, Artsy. “Education is fundamental to Artsy’s mission, and we’re excited to be a part of the City’s vital initiatives around tech education and provide students with the tools to learn about art.”

“Thanks to Digital Ready, students from Brooklyn International High School will learn programming, carpentry, metalwork and digital storytelling skills while building a giant interactive sculpture as part of our BeamWorks Project,” said Brian Cohen, Co-director, Beam Center. “We think this kind of mentor-driven collaboration enables teens to discover the value of meaningful work and passionate interests of their own. It’s incredible that Digital Ready and the Department of Education are making the opportunity possible.”

“BRIC is dedicated to integrating the artistic process to digital practices to inspire students to be creators with technology for the 21st century,” said Jackie Chang, Director of Education, BRIC.

“Brooklyn College Community Partnership has been delivering quality social justice, arts and college access programs to underserved youth in Brooklyn for over 20 years,” said Steve Ausbury, Deputy Director, Brooklyn College Community Partnership. “This year, we are excited to partner with the Digital Ready program to introduce youth from NYC public school to our experience-based College-to-Career program at Brooklyn College. The Digital Ready program will allow BCCP to build relationships with three tech-savvy high schools and offer their students a closer look into a bright future in college.”

“Mozilla Hive NYC is committed to creating transformative learning experiences for young people, and through our collaboration with Digital Ready educators and technologists from 11 non-profit organizations in our network will introduce essential 21st century skills to youth, teachers and schools throughout NYC,” said Leah Gilliam, Project Director for Mozilla Hive NYC Learning Network. “We’re excited to deepen our work with the Department of Education’s Office of Post-Secondary Readiness, by bridging the gap between formal and informal learning in the City and helping youth explore their interests while developing skills to shape their professional and civic identities.”

“I know that ScriptEd’s partnership with NYC Digital and the Department of Education will broaden our impact and help many more students learn the computer programming skills they’ll need to be creators, and not just consumers, of technology,” said Maurya Couvares, Executive Director, ScriptEd.

“Skillfeed is excited to be providing NYC students access to hundreds of online courses to help them hone their digital skills,” said David Fraga, General Manager of Skillfeed.

“Tribeca Film Institute is proud to support innovation in NYC schools through this innovative program,” said Beth Janson, Executive Director of TFI. “We are thrilled to be working with educators and students at Brooklyn International High School to develop student-led new media projects that help young people explore and engage in social issues that are relevant to their school environment and their communities at large.”

In 2011, Mayor Bloomberg introduced New York City’s first Digital Roadmap. Less than three years later, with 100% of objectives complete, New York City’s Digital Leadership<>, the latest update to the Roadmap, demonstrates the strides the City has made to date, driven by investments in infrastructure, education, open government, online engagement and technology sector support. Highlights include:

·         Enabling 300,000 low-income residents to access the Internet and adopt service since the introduction of the first Digital Roadmap;

·         Launching over 40 digital learning programs that have served over one million New Yorkers to date, including Cornell Tech NYC on Roosevelt Island;
·         Expanding the NYC OpenData platform from 350 public data sets offered at launch to over 2,000;

·         Relaunching a groundbreaking<> website and tripling the City’s social media audience;

·         Growing the City’s technology sector to over 1,000 Made in NY technology companies.

The new<>, which recently launched, anticipates user needs based on traffic and search data, responds to requests with improved search results, serves users with improved digital customer service functionality, informs New Yorkers of important news and programs and engages visitors on any device and digital screen.

The 2013 New York City’s Digital Leadership also includes ideas and recommendations that look to the future of the City’s position as a global digital leader, including how the City can work with local companies to increase the number of women and minorities in the tech sector. These recommendations were gathered through social media, public listening sessions and presentations that took place across New York City. To read New York City’s Digital Leadership: 2013 Roadmap in full,<>.


Contact:           Erin Hughes / David Pena – DOE  (212) 374-5141
Marybeth Ihle – Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (212) 669-7742<>