It’s not every day South Bronx middle schoolers appear on TV screens across the nation (though hopefully it will happen with increasing frequency and not just during Black History Month…) Thanks to Verizon, six students from the aptly-named Bronx Academy of Promise are enjoying the spotlight in a three-part series of commercials as winners of Verizon's 2013 Innovative App Challenge. The team developed QuestMath, an app that uses Greek mythology to help students improve their math skills (a very cool idea.) The game has eight levels of increasing difficulty named after Greek gods such as Zeus, Aphrodite and Poseidon, and players learn about Greek myths while solving math problems that cover basic skills like multiplication and addition. As a kid who loved Greek myths, this would have been a powerful motivator for me.
The ad campaign is called “Opening Doors,” and engages with how this contest is impacting students’ career goals for the future and their confidence in the present (one student—the only girl on the team!— talks about evolving from being a self-described shy student to the current Student Council president.)
The goal of the Innovative App Challenge is meant to increase student interest in science, technology, engineering and math by putting students in teams and having them come up with a concept for an app that addresses a need in their school or community. Math was the subject Bronx Academy students described struggling with the most.
This team was chosen for the commercial (among the top 10 winners nationally) because they embodied how finding one's passion can help lead to success, according to company spokeswoman Ellen Yu. I couldn’t agree more—but passion doesn’t lead directly to success, particularly in under-resourced environments, without a lot of interim steps that I hope we can increasingly architect and make accessible.
It’s exciting to see how many code-based learning opportunities are being created for young people. My hope is that these will increasingly lead to seamless sequencing of experiences to deepen skills. While things like an Hour of Code are wonderful catalysts, we need a Lifetime of Code, ensuring that students know how to find and “latch” with next level opportunities ideally chosen from menus that provide choice and meet students’ situations (in terms of schedule, location, cost.) Having “brokers” who can help provide this service beyond beleaguered, overburdened teachers and family members is key, hence our formulation of CITY Coaches who Connect Inspire and Trailblaze with youth. More on that coming soon….