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New York

Want to boost students' tech skills? There's an app class for that

Adam Israfil pitches his book reviewing app to peers at NYC Generation Tech. "Have you ever worried about lost papers?" Steffany Ceron read from a notecard to three fellow students powwowing in a semicircle of desks. "Well don't worry, this app can help." Ceron and her peers were among a half-dozen groups of high school students feverishly preparing to present their ideas for mobile phone applications designed to help students stay organized, prepare for exams, or make clothing and food choices. Together, the 29 students are enrolled in New York City's Generation Technology, a fledgling summer program that teaches city high school students how to design and market apps that solve common educational problems. Over two weeks this August, the students — who range from native New Yorkers with experience building digital tools to recent immigrants — are receiving a crash course in digital entrepreneurship, funded by the city's Economic Development Corporation. The program represents one prong of the Bloomberg administration's recent push to remake New York City into a technology hub to rival California's Silicon Valley. Like the computer engineering-themed school that's set to open next month, Generation Tech aims to seed technology talent locally by investing in city students. During the day-long classes, the students review a manual on entrepreneurship, calculate the costs and benefits of various business models, and listen to lectures from the founders of local technology start-ups such as Kickstarter. The class is fast-paced and packed with group presentations and discussion questions designed to get students thinking creatively about business: What is the lifetime value of a New York Times subscriber to the company? How would you help a rapper promote a show in Queens? To be eligible, students must come from a low-income family or attend a school where at least half of students come from low-income families. Only a few of the participants had experience creating mobile apps before this summer, and many said the program also marked their first time practicing public speaking.
New York

Teachers use final days of this school year to prep for the next

Kindergarten teachers at P.S. 11 plan their curriculum for the coming school year. Principal Bob Bender wanted to make sure his teachers started planning for September before they left for summer vacation. So P.S. 11 joined more than 600 schools in scrapping classes on Monday and Tuesday in favor of adding prep time for teachers. Department of Education officials extended the option, which parents were supposed to approve, to all schools late this spring. Many schools took the time to give teachers a crash course in new learning standards known as the Common Core. The Common Core emphasizes "deeper" thinking and problem-solving skills. Next year's state tests will be based on the new standards. P.S. 11 routinely earns A's on its city progress reports, and Bender said he is not worried about its performance next year because his staff has been thinking hard about the instructional shifts they will have to make. "It's not going to be asking 'What is 8 times 5?' It's going to be 'I have 8 bookshelves, and 40 books, so how many books go on each shelf?'" he said. "We spend a lot of time on problem-solving, giving kids strategies to solve problems." This year, the city asked schools to practice with the new standards in one math unit and one literacy unit, and next year, they'll be expected to roll out two Common Core-aligned units in each subject. But at P.S. 11, Bender asked his teachers to plan their curriculums in teams made up of teachers at each grade level — and align every one of their units to the Common Core.
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