akuchling: Sherlock Hemlock (Default)
[personal profile] akuchling
In her PyCon 2014 keynote, Jessica McKellar suggested several things that developers can do to help with the educational pipeline. One idea was to just go talk to a local high-school class about software or programming. I thought it was a good idea and something I could do, but after PyCon it never got high enough on the priority list.

Two weeks ago one of our local friends talked to a high school class about her job. That was the final impetus for me to look up the local CS teacher the PG County Schools site and offered to come in.

They started out with my personal background, discussed my current job at Cox, and ended with some general remarks on programming as a career. I tried to keep the formal talk portion short to avoid boring the students. (I won't post my slides because they feature photographs of some of my past and present co-workers.)

It wasn't an optimal time for me to visit because they're already in the middle of final exams. Also, the CS class is largely (only?) composed of seniors who are on the verge of graduating, so the teacher suggested they would be largely in the don't-care-anymore phase. That may well have been true, but their questions were actually quite good. I took a recording of my talk, so I'll try to listen to it and produce a list of what they asked.

After the Q&A, I gave the students URLs for the Architecture of Open Source books and for two PyCon 2014 talks, "Turn Your Computer Into a Server" and "Analyzing Rap Music Lyrics", that I thought would interest them. Two other candidate talks that I considered mentioning were the introduction to the k-Nearest Neighbour algorithm and the game programming tutorial.

I was trying to keep my talk short in order to avoid taking up an entire session, but in the end the teacher would have been perfectly fine with that. It's a shame that wasn't made clear to me, because then I could have shown them a PyCon video, presented a small coding example, or something.

So, it was a worthwhile experiment. In late August I'll contact the school's tech coordinator and make another offer to talk to the new CS class. Perhaps the career talk will be more effective at the start of the year, to help give the students some motivation for what they're learning. And if I get definitive confirmation that I have an entire session, I can use more time to prepare a coding example to walk them through.


akuchling: Sherlock Hemlock (Default)

September 2016

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