Wrapping up Social Justice and Tech class at Foothill College

I’m so absurdly proud of my students from the Science Learning Institute at Foothill College; I just finished up serving as their Social Justice and Tech Facilitator. A little over a week ago, my community college students pitched their ideas to a room that included VCs and donors, the President of the college and Chancellor of the district, plus their peers, mentors, and friends.

They are all students from communities underrepresented in STEM who are working to build their careers in tech. They started my hackathon 4 weeks ago and most had never built a website, coded an app, or designed a social impact project. And last Friday, they did! Huge thank you to my friends who came to speak to my students: Ismail Smith-Wade-El and Jorge Pacheco Jr. and Lisa Dusseault and Nikki Hanson and Aer van de Water. The students loved you and learned so much from you!

Here are their final apps and websites:

I wrote a lot of toy apps using Code.org’s App Lab to teach myself the platform and JavaScript; I put my favorites up on my GitHub and linked to them under Projects>Apps above. I really liked using Code.org, though I would recommend start by teaching students the platform using their Dance Lab (complete with songs from Lil Nas X, Katy Perry, and Shawn Mendes and others) before diving into the whiteboard version of their drag-and-drop JavaScript tool. Code.org has a lot of good tools and they were responsive when I caught an issue with their Arabic language processing.

Teaching basic engineering concepts alongside social impact frameworks was such fun. Stakeholder interviews became user interviews, market research blended with program evaluation, good design principals tied in tightly with rules about how to represent vulnerable groups in an empowering way.

If you’re interested in bringing me in to teach a course like this (4 weeks ~ 2 hours a day for 4 days a week), I would love to do it again. If you’d like to run one like it yourself, here’s the handbook describing how to do it, all licensed under a Creative Commons noncommercial sharealike license. I’ve lightly edited the handbook to remove anything specific to this course. I’d love to know how it works in other environments!

PS: Since I was teaching this whole thing on Zoom, we opened up the room 15 minutes before class started and played this collaborative Spotify playlist; it really helped fill that awkward video conference space and gave everyone the same amount of control over the space. Check it out for a lot of cool music.

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