Digital Media Academy

Coding on the Southside

Hey, what’s up, everyone! My name is Andrew Malo. I am an early childhood educator and a DMA veteran. You may have seen me teaching the little kids the past 6 summers at the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Duke, or University of Texas – Austin! I’m going to talk to you about one of the schools I taught Kindergarten in – Wadsworth STEM of Chicago Public Schools!

We all love to code! Just a mile south of the prestigious University of Chicago stands the neighborhood of Woodlawn on the south side of Chicago. Woodlawn is a place that has seen troubling times since the 1960s. Population decline, lack of resources, and general community welfare are often lacking. In neighborhoods such as these, schools are a beacon of light to the community and what is being taught in the school can be, as Nelson Mandela puts it, “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” One of the elementary schools here in Woodlawn is putting an emphasis on coding to change their students’ world.

I’ve worked in schools all over – Japan, Chicago, rural New Mexico, and St Louis – and Wadsworth has the most interesting and effective coding and robotics programs I’ve seen in the public education system. They have a FIRST LEGO League team, along with programs centered around various programming languages, and schoolwide support of coding activities such as Hour of Code and Pi day (3/14!). And it isn’t done with financial resources but by the dedication of the administration and teachers who believe that code is important to these students’ lives and futures.

Wadsworth STEM competes in the FIRST LEGO League.

“Coding teaches these kids to persevere. You might not get it right the first time, or even the second, but eventually, you’ll get it (sic) exactly what you want, how you want it,” says Mr. Reese Hobbs, Integration Specialist and Team Leader for the Wadsworth FIRST LEGO League Team. Hobbs and others at the school give the weapon of education to change the world of these students’ through the systematic methods of programming. By the way, last year, Wadsworth’s team won first place at the Illinois State FLL competition for perseverance!

Beyond the intelligent benefits of learning to code (i.e. learning about how things work, logical thinking, makes math fun, etc.) there is a very real benefit to learning it – jobs. Every job sector, from energy to accounting, will incorporate more and more code-related jobs in the future. Many feel it will become as essential to learning as literacy, mathematics, and science. Luckily for the kids at Wadsworth, they have the weapon of code available to them to become apart of and shape the changes of the future.

And that is the future of education. Like the awesome classes DMA offers over the summer, more and more public and private schools are picking up on the importance of computer literacy and incorporating code into daily curriculum. It’s exciting, engaging, and super encouraging for our future!