Coding, Making, and the Arts: Essential Tools for Students

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Some of the most important subject areas and activities we want students to learn are the very ones that are left out of many schools: the arts, computer programming, and learning to making things by hand.

We know that arts integration can open all kinds of opportunities for learning and fostering creativity. We're learning why computer science is an essential skill for every student to thrive in the digital world. And we're understanding how allowing kids to get their hands on do-it-yourself projects shows them the value of designing, creating, and the process of making.

Until such time that schools provide these essential skills to all students, certain individuals and organizations are stepping in to fill the void. We met a few of these changemakers who are bringing these essential tools to students recently at the Big Ideas Fest in Half Moon Bay. Here are their stories. Perhaps their work and influence will make progress towards bringing these skills from outside the school system to where it belongs.


SMARTHISTORY: Making High Art Accessible

Steven Zucker and Beth Harris, the creators of Smarthistory, a huge collection of videos that take you inside the most important museums in the world, talk about how their explanations of significant art work make otherwise abstract or hard-to-understand concepts more accessible to students.



BLACK GIRLS CODE: Teaching a New Generation of Innovators

Moving from being consumers of media to creators is the goal of Black Girls Code, an organization devoted to teaching girls of color in-demand skills when they're thinking about what they want to be when they grow up, says Kimberly Bryant



CAINE'S ARCADE: Showing the Value of Making By Hand

Nirvan Mullik, the creator of the wildly popular video Caine's Arcade, about a young boy who built an arcade out of recycled cardboard boxes, talks about the importance of knowing how to make things by hand, and how the video has helped propel the Maker Movement in schools.



STARTUP WEEKEND EDU: Entrepreneurs Helping Educators

While these organizations provide tools and opportunities for students, another group is attempting to bring innovation from the fringes directly to teachers. Introducing educators to the world of technology and innovation is the goal of the grassroots movement called Startup Weekend EDU, and the organizer, Khalid Smith, talks about what teachers can learn from tech entrepreneurs, and what educators want from entrepreneurs that can help them be better teachers.

[Videos co-produced with Matthew Williams]