Teaching Kids To Code: TechU.me Is Looking For Mentors

There's this fantastic local program in Ottawa called TechU.Me that I've been fangirling ever since I heard about it last year. If you're a regular reader, you've probably picked up on the fact that I'm a strong advocate for early childhood tech education whether that's engineering concepts taught through Lego, robotics and computing taught through hands-on workshops, or creativity and innovation taught by visiting a maker lab.

Bring on the tech and bring it early.

Which is why TechU.Me is right up my alley. They teach high school students to program in a very hands-on, user-driven way: by pairing them up with elementary school student-clients. Basically, the big kids have to solicit requirements from the littles, and then build it. User-centered design and development taught from day one. Oh, and if that's not enough, they also run an AppJam, basically a student hackfest for educational mobile apps.

In their promo video (below), they link together the entire experience: "Imagine if you started your tech career when you were 8, working with older students..." Exactly! Everyone benefits on all sides of this program.

So. Much. Like.

Become a Mentor!

The program runs in 50 schools right now: 25 elementary and 25 high school. When I told the Dude about it, he totally wished it was available at his school. And who knows, with more mentors, maybe it can be in all of our schools around Ottawa eventually... But, let's be honest, what they're doing is pretty huge already.

Which is why TechU.me needs us. They need mentors for the Fall program. The commitment is 15-25 hours of class time, and the promise to share all your awesome knowledge about design and development. Here's how the site describes it:
Mentors – acting as assistants to teachers – are crucial to the success of the Mentor Program: they assist the students throughout the development process, sharing best development practices and helping resolve problems encountered. Most importantly, the mentors act as role models and champions for tech careers and for local Ottawa-area companies.
Worried about the time commitment? According to Maria Smirnoff of TechU.me, "(the) mentoring arrangement can be very flexible. For example, you can share your mentoring responsibility with one or two other mentors, and you can also use the Facebook Mentor App to answer students’ questions off-site & off-hours." An hour and a half a week for 4 months... it's pretty manageable when you think about it...

Need moar info? There's a mixer with past mentors coming up on Tuesday, July 30th. You can RSVP and find out more details at the TechU.me site.

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