In 2020, our reliance on technology and its role in our ability to stay connected to essential services, school, work, and family, highlighted the technology gap in society. This gap is seen in access to technology and connectivity, and also in digital literacy. This year we focused on strengthening the portfolio of Digital Skills ideas on the ChangeX platform, to inspire, educate, and equip children and underrepresented groups with the computing skills needed to thrive in an online world, and on supporting people to get these ideas started in their communities.
FIRST LEGO League is a powerful program that engages children between the ages of 4 to 14 (16 in the UK) in playful and meaningful learning while helping them discover the fun in science and technology through the FIRST LEGO League experience.
Discover is geared towards 4–6 year-olds to engage in STEM activities and learn early. Students use LEGO STEAM par brick packs/kits to design and build new models with those bricks. Explore is geared towards 6–10 year-olds to recognize STEM learning and gain other useful skills while working on a non-competitive challenge. Challenge is geared towards 9–14 year-olds to gain useful STEM skills crucial in their future careers. Students use LEGO kits to build a robot that can autonomously complete tasks/missions. Sam Gabriel is starting FLL Challenge in his community in Des Moines:
“At Genesis Youth Foundation, we work to level the playing field for immigrant and refugee youth, with emphasis on African Youth through educational opportunities. With that, we believe that starting a First Lego League Challenge will provide a new avenue to youth to explore their talents and gain interests in technology.”
Girls Who Code is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology, leading the movement to inspire, educate, and equip young women with the computing skills needed to pursue 21st-century opportunities. GWC provides members with sisterhood, supportive peers, and role models, and opportunities to use their skills to impact their community positively. Benita Riesgraf, who previously started a Sow it Forward school food growing project in Arizona, is now starting a Girls Who Code Chapter:
“My daughter is a home based learner using all AI to help develop her skills in reading and writing. Being a dyslexic learner there have been many tools that she has access to that I did not but we are both growing together! She chose the project … because she did not know what “coding” meant and I hope to introduce her and some new friends to the world of computer science.”
Hour of Code has introduced over 100 million students to computer science to date and partnered with 70 public school districts nationwide to expand computer science programs. It’s all about giving kids the all-important first introduction to computer science, to demystify code and hopefully pique their interest, in the hope they might consider pursuing it further. Mateen Diop, in San Antonio, chose to start Hour of Code “to introduce my mentees to a possible career in STEM- by showing them what happens “behind the scenes” when they click a computer button.”
We are so excited to support Sam, Benita, Mateen, and all of those who are stepping up to bring digital skills opportunities to their communities and we are infinitely grateful to Microsoft who are making this possible.