“Code For What?”  Around The World

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From the heart of Downtown Oakland to the shores of Hong Kong: Youth Radio brings a message about Computational Literacy.


This week, Youth Radio Interactive Co-Founder Asha Richardson takes the learnings from our one-of-a-kind partnership with MIT App Inventor to the first International Conference on Computational Thinking Education (CTE2017) in Hong Kong. She’ll be a featured presenter at this “worldwide sharing of ideas” about how to advance computational thinking in students.

“I’m so excited to be representing Youth Radio,” said Richardson. “ It is amazing to bring our young people’s interactive storytelling and mobile apps to an international audience. I’m looking forward to sharing our youth-adult collaborative production model with educators from around the world.”

At the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Richardson will share Youth Radio’s signature approach to computer science education, which moves beyond the call to teach “Code for All” by insisting that we ask the question, “Code for What?”

That’s Youth Radio’s way of getting students to move beyond the idea that they should learn to code simply because it’s what everyone says they should do and instead see it as a way to solve problems in their lives and communities. By coming back to the question “Code for What?” students link civic and social problem-solving to coding, in the process building their “Critical Computational Literacy.”

More than a classroom exercise, this approach has helped young people under-represented in STEM fields acquire computer and data science skills, while developing professional products that are distributed in the marketplace. This process reflects Youth Radio’s best practices of melding education, civic engagement, and cutting-edge job skills.

In 2010, Youth Radio established our Innovation Lab with the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s App Inventor program and support from the National Science Foundation and other funders. Since then, the Lab has created a rich portfolio of apps that address pressing social issues including youth mental health, electoral politics, and environmental justice.

The end result: proof that conventional wisdom about teens and their phones–that they are sources of distraction, addiction, and abuse—doesn’t tell the whole story.

Richardson will share what Youth Radio has accomplished, and will connect with other innovators from around the globe in order to bring back their insights. Thus the virtuous circle of collaboration continues, preparing the next generation of Youth Radio-trained coders to tackle the next generation of challenges.

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