Community Spotlight: Link Clark

Code/Interactive (C/I) is a NYC-based non-profit that focuses on inspiring youth to learn, build, and collaborate with technology. In Austin, TX, C/I operates Coding4TX, a computer science education program that serves teachers and students statewide. Coding4TX has partnered with  Mozilla Hive Austin to contribute to allied educational efforts across the city.
Mozilla invited Link Clark, C/I Austin Program Manager, to bring C/I’s expertise to the second annual SPARK! hackathon, a collaboration with St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Virginia. SPARK! will bring together over 65 students from 16 area high schools to imagine how they might address local community needs through the Internet of Things (IoT).
We had the opportunity to chat with Link to learn more about C/I, Coding4TX and their work to spread web literacy through hackathons and code jams. Here is what Link had to say:

Coding4TXhackathon, December 10, 2016

Coding4TXhackathon, December 10, 2016

How did C/I Austin’s Coding4TX program get its start?
Coding4TX is a coding and computer science education program serving teachers and students in the state of Texas. The initiative, organized and initially funded by the KLE Foundation, is operated by C/I, a NYC-based non-profit focused on inspiring the next generation to learn, build, and collaborate with technology.
Coding4TX launched in August 2015 in seven schools across five districts in Central Texas, successfully introducing coding and computer science to 225 students in middle and high school. During the 2016-2017 school year, C/I became its operator. Currently, we serve 16 schools across nine Texas districts, reaching over 1,500 elementary, middle and high school students.

How does this work align with promoting the general health of the Internet?
Our organizational mission of diversifying the tech pipeline will increase participation in the industry that is integral to an Internet open to all, not just for entertainment and consumption.
How are Hive Austin & C/I working together? Any plans for 2017?
Hive Austin and C/I are symbiotic in our organizational missions as we work to bridge the digital divide in Austin and Central Texas through our respective efforts in digital literacy and coding education to shape the web. Hive Austin’s event,  “Empowering Educators to Shape the Web Empowers Learners to Shape Society“, was an excellent way to identify and grow our resources for a new era that will help teachers provide students the tools to shape the internet and society. C/I was fortunate enough to pull from Mozilla’sHack the Newsactivities for a part of our Hour of Code, because the teachers we support understand that learning to code does not happen in a vacuum and digital citizenship is shoulder to shoulder with computer science education. The next step in our plan is to co-host a hackathon based on what we learn at SPARK and Mozilla’s curriculum and expertise in web literacy.
Tell us more about the goal and purpose of the Coding4TX hackathon that happened in December.
The hackathon provides innovative real-world training for a new and necessary generation of tech builders and leaders from low-income communities. Students get a chance to work hand-in-hand with some of Central Texas’ most successful technologists to define, design, develop, and deploy real tech products to solve issues that are negatively impacting the community of our students and their peers.
What is one stand-out project that resulted from the hackathon that has made a positive impact on the local community?
Since the theme of our hackathon is to solve an issue that negatively impacts the community, it’s hard to choose just one! Projects from our December hackathon included: a babysitting app for teen mothers based on grades, crowd funding for low-income students for school uniforms, how to manage stress and mental health and balance school success, and a project by the “Coding Queens” that addressed racial cyber bullying. These girls knew firsthand the pains and danger of cyber bullying and decided to solve the problem themselves by building an educational and actionable tool to counter the increasingly hateful language found online. You can read about the event from one of our judges, Hugh Forrest, here.

What have you found to be the best way to connect learning with preparing for real-world careers and community impact?
The most successful connection tool, by far, has been the tech office visits we set up for the schools we support. Each semester, a school is able to visit a tech office at businesses such as Samsung, Whole Foods, Facebook, RetailMeNot, Oracle, etc,  that includes a tour and a Q&A with a diverse panel of employees, diverse in terms of background and role at the company. One of the most salient examples took place at Whole Foods Market, where the panel included folks from five different positions connected to their digital presence and an in-depth presentation of current work with two students at a time. The teacher told me multiple students said after that, “I can see myself doing that job,” having been given the chance to learn about it in detail by someone from a similar background.
How do you expect next generation networks to support C/I Austin’s efforts?
The more students that can engage computer science/coding education increases the number of citizens that participate in the building of the internet, which the Gigabit will contribute to immensely. Also, internet speed will be the next phase of the digital divide, so increasing fuller participation in all aspects of digital/internet community permits a greater opportunity to tap into potential.  
What are you most excited about in working with Mozilla and bringing web literacy work to Austin?
Web literacy will help students fully utilize gigabit internet and the multitude of opportunities that come with understanding how the internet can change our communities. For example, Coding4TX and Austin Public Library developed a program, Juntos Online, to encourage families to embrace digital tools at the library.
Learn more about C/I and Coding4TX here, follow them on Twitter @weareci.