Midtown Wednesdays: Starting Early with IT Education for Kids

To begin, this week's session includes several updates and quick takes of information.

Rich Brhel, Dir. of Library, Myers University, reminds us of Myers' historical place in Cleveland history since 1848. Rich continues and provides a quick clip about the Ohio Memory Project a cool repository of Cleveland history.

Dennis Coughlin describes I-Open's mission to build collaborative networks to transform our region. He shares his experience and working knowledge of the InFlow software and I-Open's and the community's application of it to produce Midtown Innovation Zone maps. Dennis is becoming a resource for others who map open economic networks. I-Open has developed a process to build trust to accelerate the formation of these networks. We tell the story of the I-Open Innovation Framework, a strategy map developed by Ed Morrison, I-Open.

William Holdipp gives the basics about the Consortium of African American Organizations (CAAO), its history, services to members and the awesome connecting that happens for CAAO members and others who connect to CAAO.

At every forum we ask attendees to fill out a simple survey that will supply the data for our Midtown Innovation Network Map. (We'll be posting it here soon...) We look at one of the nodes which represents an individual attendee. The degree of connectivity is a visual display of knowledge and ultimately, opportunity and innovation .

Willard Brown, President, Black Data Processing Association (BDPA) and a founder of CAAO, continues. Williard's day job is as a technology officer at National City Bank. BDPA has 55 chapters in the US. Dell is one of the major sponsors and has built the tech lab facility at Case.

BDPA provides student information technology education for ages 11 to 17. The program offers kids working world experience in technology. The trainers are local industry who provide real application situations to build their education and a future career. The program goes from Feb through Aug. The organization hosts a state competition and participates in a national competition. Employers provide a problem and the kids need to create a program - data base script - to solve the challenge. The Sites program provides skill sets for kids from current employers. This is a good example of closing the gap between education and current workforce requirements. The sponsoring industries maintain a closeworking relationship with BDPA. This year's materials focus on .NET systems.

The kids naturally gravitate toward the different aspects of technology - from software to hardware. The national conferences take the kids on tours of major IT companies.

[Today's audience has a nice mixture of lots of different people: artists, IT, government, entrepreneurs, legal, advocates]

Ted Jordan, JordanTeam Learning LLC, tells us about creating Kids Funutation with the help of BDPA and running the test program in Beachwood 2 years ago. The Beachwood High School hosts the program. The goal is to get the kids even more motivated about technology. Kids start with the source code of Pong, for example.

Ted is looking for counselors and sponsors and places to go for field trips for the program. A new pilot initiative starting in April will leverage long distance learning with Michigan. In other classes, kids are taught source code - and once they realize the capacity for creating never ending lives of characters and other powerful effects - source code is no longer inconsequential but the gotta' know piece!

Ted has been connected with several organizations who have helped him to get started, such as CAAO & I-Open.

Audience suggestions and offers to contribute to building innovation in Midtown: contact local neighborhood centers; NASA has a similar program; Nine Sigma connects innovation networks to solve industrial challenges. We'll have a meeting on a Saturday morning in the next week or so at the Midtown Innovation Center with anyone who wants to plan next steps.

After forum discussions: connecting with the Midtown neighborhood community centers, starting a gaming competition lab, creating a committee to advise on criteria for creating innovation zones.


At 2:22 PM, Blogger Ted Jordan said...

I thot that the BDPA presentation was awesome. They are really getting teenagers ready for the working world.

Also, it was great to meet all of the gaming enthusiasts in the audience.

Great event!

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Kevin Cronin said...

Thanks Betsy for the event and Ted Jordan and BDPA for the fine presentations. We are in agreement that more opportunities for computers and education are important for the region’s future, not just for students but adults in need of current workforce skills to overcome the undereducation and low graduation rates in the City. The next question is how do we work on the problem.

One strategy at work in some low-income neighborhoods of Cleveland is to create free, public access computer labs to supplement activities at the library (see cleveland Digital Vision or local libraries, for more information). There are very good national models( the Community Technology Center Network as well, including a computer lab starter manual online. The strategy works, but it is a very significant commitment with a wide set of implementation challenges.

Cleveland actually was very forward-thinking on this point, using a cable franchise review to create the Adelphia-Cleveland City Council Neighborhood Technology Fund, a $3 million fund for neighborhood initiatives, distributed through the Cleveland Foundation. While labs vary, some of the components are the following:
§ Computers for free public use, available in the evening and week-end, with a strong internet connection;
§ Classes, ranging from entry level computer use for adults to more advanced computer subjects to interests/hobbies (limited only by the volunteer instructor and the response by the public);
§ After-school activities for students;
§ Distance education or academic support (study and homework hall);
§ Neighborhood Internet access source;
§ Business assistance for neighborhood businesses or entrepreneurs (printing, scanning, faxing, voice-mail, software for preparation of flyers/marketing material, high speed Internet access for more sophisticated online activities, like bid-submissions);
§ Digital audio/video editing, for entertainment entrepreneurs;
§ Site for distribution of donated computers to the home; and
§ Community assistance and education (online tax filing, financial aid forms and school registration).

The list is potentially endless, bound only by public demand and volunteer commitment and, in some cases, surprisingly expensive (printing costs for neighborhoods can be huge, as it would almost be a neighborhood copy center).

Here are some of the requirements of a public lab:
§ Space (including insurance, utility bills and commitments for physical security of the site);
§ Computers and other equipment (potential donations make this an easier requirement to fill then you might guess, but the more far-ranging the potential activities, the wider the draw and the easier to motivate students and volunteers);
§ Users of the facility (users can’t always mix, as adults and kids learn in different ways and to the facility would need to ensure a child’s safety and security);
§ Community relationships/ commitments to support the activity; and
§ People to teach, monitor, process information, market/ promote/recruit and answer the phone and email.

As with about any undertaking, the people are the most important component. The hardest parts are the recruitment and retention of excited, motivated volunteers to avoid burn-out over time and maintaining core funding as, sadly, other than the Neighborhood Technology Fund, the money to support core activities is difficult to find and maintain. Most labs in the City, ranging from church basements to the Magic Johnson/HP Inventor Center at University Settlement, have struggled with volunteers, stable funding and stable hours of operation. Reaching the community residents who need opportunities and assistance the most requires access to a lab in the hours the public has available (evenings and week-ends).

Funders give grants with the anticipation that, at some point, recipients no longer need the funder and can maintain themselves. In some cases, fees and charges can offset some costs, but there is a lot of volunteer hours and donations in the process.

These are some of the issues involved in creating and supporting a public computer center. A public computer is a very useful resource, but one that needs a lot of support. I’ve gone on long enough and welcome some further discussion. Thanks for the opportunity to add to the discussion.

Co-Founder and First Director of Cleveland Digital Vision
Former Community Technology Director,
Magic Johnson/HP Inventor Center, University Settlement


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