I spent more days at Google this week than I did at school, 1 day for excursion and another 2 to attend the Digital Technologies Curriculum Summit. I took away heaps of ideas and inspiration but here’s one that stands out: Google has a lot of initiatives to promote Computer Science (not just coding/programming) at school, uni and industry levels. Let’s just say that, from a Design process perspective, I’m hopeful that my question of why it’s so hard to get girls into computing is shifting from ‘understanding the problem’ to ‘ideation’ – generating some possible solutions.
This post will focus on the excursion as I’ve promised a few of you that I will share how I got there and suggest how you could do it, too.
How it happened
It all started with a question in the NCSS Challenge forum (yet another perk of joining the challenge – do eeet). I noticed that one of the tutors, Sam Thorogood (@samthor), worked at Google so I asked about the possibility of an excursion there. I’ve since found out through Sam about Google’s culture of do-ocracy and what people might actually do for their 20%. Sam helped me arrange to get this happening including enlisting Lisa Zhu and Valley. I get to do the fun part of following the protocols of school excursions (oh joy!), find another teacher (lucky that @townesy77 said yes), arrange public transport (a story and half, right there) and announcing it (using Python just for fun).
What was it like?
There were 4 agenda items: Computer Science workshop, site tour, Q&A panel, lunch with the panelists.
Lisa was the MC as well as facilitator of all of the above. Sam and Valley were there, too, helping things run smoothly; it was really good to meet them. Lisa used a few activities on binary and hexadecimal numbers, from the CS Unplugged resources (a free open-source gem which was a key part of the Summit, but more on that at a later post).
The site tour made it evident that Google values creativity by providing different spaces for people to chill out, escape, and/or work. Sorry, no pics of this one but trust me, you will want to see for yourself.
The Q&A panel consisted of female engineers. This session made it evident that Google values degrees/careers in STEM and diversity in the workplace.
Morning tea and lunch were yummy though some of my students thought these were too gourmet-ish. Having panelists join us extended the conversation at a more informal level. It was evident that Googlers do enjoy working at Google and the food there is yummy.
My students and I and @townesy77 all had a wonderful time. We learned heaps as well. It was affirming to have current IT professionals (as against ex, i.e. me) say things I’ve been saying in class. And yes, we also got Google merch – a delightful surprise. There was no spruiking of Google products at all – I guess they don’t have to; they know the students there use Google for searching, YouTube for videos, Maps for directions, etc.
How you could go there, too
Apart from not having time to write this post straight away, another reason why I delayed writing was figuring out exactly how this excursion could be replicated. I have 2 answers, in fact, though there may be another option as there was another school there when we went and they had even more students…a coach-load as against my 17.
You could wait until Sally-Ann Williams (Engineering Community and Outreach Manager) comes out with a scalable program to make excursions easier to organise with set agenda (maybe several options). I have no doubt that this will happen since at the Summit, it was clear that Google is committed to scalable practices as a good approach to making Computer Science more accessible.
You could also contact Sam (@samthor) who kindly reminded me of Google’s do-ocracy culture. Depending on what he can pull together, the agenda may be different from the one I mentioned above.