April 10th, 2013 by Gage Pacifera
I enjoy public speaking. I get this really exquisite adrenaline rush from having hundreds of eyes bearing down on me while I jabber and flap my arms around. It’s the performer in me that causes this.. I love seeing what I do when I’m put on the spot, I love the attention and finally (and most usefully) I love communicating ideas to a large group of semi-attentive people. I enjoyed prepping for and delivering my WebVisions talk a few years back but hadn’t done much in the way of public speaking since.
So when the Tech for Tomorrow crew asked me to be the honorary first speaker to kick off their technology presentation series at local high schools, I of course said yes. Not only would this give me the chance to indulge my inner performer, but it would also give me the opportunity to inspire and educate a bunch of curious high schoolers about my chosen topic: apps.
I used Prezi and a Mondopad to present to a group of about 100 students. The presentation gave an overview of what apps are and how they are made, the latter part focusing specifically on process we used to create the FHS app. We did the presentation over lunch in the Franklin High School auditorium and sweetened the deal with free pizza. Here’s the presentation:
The kids dug it. Part of the goal was to drive participation in a follow-up workshop and other talks. The exit surveys indicated that over half of the kids who attended were interested in getting involved in a program where they could pair with an industry mentor to learn to code. I was happy about that! I was also stoked that half of those interested were girls.. I think it’s important to focus on getting more girls into technology fields, because currently the gender balance is pretty skewed.
In addition to the talk, I did a follow-up workshop a week later. About a dozen kids showed up and I guided them through an excercise using jsfiddle.net. The kids created step-by-step instructions to teach something. I created this page as a starting point and then they modified the content and layout to make it their own. The kids did great and seemed to learn quite a bit, although we were a bit hamstrung by some seriously slow and outdated computers.
Tech for Tomorrow will continue this pilot program at Franklin High School with hopes of expanding it to other schools in the near future.