Author Archives: Hugh E. Williams

About Hugh E. Williams

Search engine guy, Engineer, Executive, Father, and eBay-er.

CS in Schools: September Update

CS in Schools is a not-for-profit initiative at RMIT University that’s focused on helping high school teachers develop their confidence and competence in teaching computer science.

September was our third month out of stealth mode. Since our last update, we’ve formally joined forces with RMIT and advertised for teachers to join our programme. Please share this link with teacher colleagues, friends, and anyone who might want to work with us.

We signed up an eighth school into our free pilot, and we’re at capacity for 2019. We’re now deep in the logistics of timetabling, resourcing, and planning.

Woman Programming on a Notebook

Summary

CS in Schools is part of RMIT‘s Policy and Impact Portfolio. It’s a charity initiative that’s focused on helping teachers confidently teach computer science to high school students in Australia.

Today, most schools struggle to teach coding: there’s a shortage of teachers who feel qualified to teach computer science, and most successful coding classes are run outside of school hours. We believe that today’s teachers can effectively teach coding if they’re supported through in-class professional development. Microsoft’s TEALS programme exists in the US, and we want Australian teachers to have a similar opportunity.

Many of the important and best paid jobs of this and the next generation will require computational thinking. Even if a student doesn’t study computer science at university, it’s essential they have the basics because just about every job will be changed by technology. We want every student in Australia to have this opportunity.

In 2019, we are piloting a programme with eight schools, and studying how successfully we can help teachers ramp-up their skills. Beyond 2019, we plan to launch this programme broadly.

We’ve had an exciting September. In summary, in the past month:

  • We named ourselves CS in Schools, and bought the domain csinschools.io. You can now contact us at hugh@csinschools.io and selina@csinschools.io.
  • We’ve signed-up our eighth school into our 2019 pilot, and we’re at full capacity
  • We’ve become part of RMIT University, giving us access to resources, educators, facilities, and enabling us to become a Tier 1 DGR charity (an important Australian tax status)
  • We’ve advertised for teachers to work with us
  • We’re refining a roadmap for what happens from now until we start the programme in February

To learn more about our programme, see the “Programme” section in our August update.

September Update

September was another terrific month for our programme: it’s all coming together, and building momentum towards our 2019 pilot.

This month, we formally joined RMIT University. We’re now part of the Policy and Impact Portfolio, and have an office inside RMIT’s Activator space. RMIT’s generosity has been amazing: they’re providing offices, finance support, HR and legal support, and support for philanthropic engagement. Of course, being part of RMIT also gives us enormous credibility and opens all kinds of doors. We thank Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean and his team for their kindness and support in helping CS in Schools take a leap forward.

We finalised the schools that we’ll be working with in our pilot in 2019. These are:

It’s likely that somewhere between 10 and 15 teachers will be trained through our programme next year, and over 1,000 Year 7 students will experience our course. We’re excited to be able to study the outcomes of the programme, and hopefully scale it in 2020.

We are working hard on finalising financial support for 2019. After building our draft timetable and revising our budget, we could do with more money. If you have corporate connections or connections to philanthropic donors, we’d love an intro!

We are now hiring teachers. We plan to hire up to three qualified high school teachers who have experience teaching computing. Our job ad is live, and here’s a link to the position description. Please share it broadly with your colleagues, family, and friends who might be interested. Hopefully, in our next update, we can share the news of who we’ve hired, and have made progress on developing our lessons.

The final news from the month is that we’re getting closer to Microsoft’s TEALS programme. Kevin Wang at Microsoft leads this initiative, and he’s been generous in sharing his time to help us learn about onboarding schools, curriculum development, and structure of their engagement with volunteers, schools, and universities. Under an NDA between RMIT and Microsoft, we’ve recently been able to access their materials, and this has helped us not reinvent the wheel from first principles. We hope to further deepen our TEALS engagement over the next month.

Thanks again for making it all the way to the bottom of the update. Let us know if you’d like to learn more about any topic. Cheers, Hugh and Selina.

 

 

Computing in Schools: August update

We are a charity that’s focused on helping high school teachers develop their confidence and competence in teaching computer science.

It’s our second month out of stealth mode, and it’s been a good one for us. We’re exploring becoming part of RMIT University, and SEEK and REA became supporters of our programme. We have committed donations from generous supporters, and the first year of our programme is completely funded. We’ve been learning from a similar programme in the US that’s supported by Microsoft. We’ve refined our plans, with a sharper focus on Year 7 teacher professional development. We’ve signed up seven schools into our free pilot, and we’re in discussion with three more — we are pretty much at capacity for 2019!

Summary

We’ve launched a charity that’s focused on helping teachers confidently teach computer science to high school students in Australia. Today, most schools struggle to teach coding: there’s a shortage of teachers who feel qualified to teach computer science, and most successful coding classes are run outside of school hours. We believe that today’s teachers can effectively teach coding if they’re supported through in-class professional development. A somewhat similar and successful programme exists in the US, and we want Australian teachers to have this opportunity.

Many of the important and best paid jobs of this and the next generation will require computational thinking. Even if a student doesn’t study computer science at university, it’s essential they have the basics because just about every job will be changed by technology. We want every student in Australia to have this opportunity.

In 2019, we are piloting a programme with up to ten schools, and studying how successfully we can help teachers ramp-up their skills. Beyond 2019, we plan to launch this programme broadly.

We’ve had an exciting August. In summary:

  • We’ve signed-up seven schools into our 2019 pilot, and we’re speaking to
    two or three more
  • We have committed donations from generous supporters, and the first year of our programme is completely funded
  • We’re exploring a partnership with RMIT University
  • We’ve made progress on becoming a charity
  • We’ve signed up corporate supporters
  • We’re developing a roadmap for what happens from now until we start the programme in February

Programme

Our programme continues to evolve. We’ve refined our goals to:

  • Trial a novel teacher professional development pilot programme in 2019
  • Work with between five and ten schools in 2019. This means we’ll work with between seven and twelve school teachers who’ll teach over 1,000 students
  • Study how effectively we can develop computer science teaching skills
  • Develop teachers who can continue to independently teach computing in 2020
  • Make this programme free for schools in 2019, supported by generous donations

Our plans to deliver the programme are as follows:

  • We will hire two or three teachers who have a computing background, and they will be paid by generous donations to our charity
  • Our teachers will be paired with teachers from the schools in the pilot, and will meet for background workshops between November and January
  • From February, our teachers will work in the classroom with the teachers from the
    schools in the pilot
  • In our first term (or semester) working in a school, our teacher will deliver the syllabus to the students and the school’s teacher will learn through observation and by providing some student support
  • In our second term (or semester), it’s anticipated we’ll switch the roles: the school’s teacher will be the primary driver, with in-class support and training from our teacher
  • We’re hopeful that beyond the first two iterations, the school’s teacher will be independent, and require limited support from our programme

Our pilot is focused on:

  • Helping Year 7 teachers in Victorian high schools
  • A one-term (or semester) Year 7 computing subject of two or three hours per week
  • Providing everything that’s needed to teach the subject, including lesson plans, assignments, hardware, and software
  • Covering the “harder parts” of the Victorian DigiTech curriculum, especially the coding skills. In total, we’ll together deliver around half of the recommended 40 hours of the curriculum, and expect that the other half is delivered in other subjects

August Update

We have made significant progress in August, it’s been an exciting month.

SEEK Australia and Real Estate Australia (REA) have endorsed our plans.  We’re now able to tell schools that SEEK and REA stand behind what we’re doing, and endorse the industry relevance of our programme. We’re also meeting and learning from other organisations, including Google and Microsoft.  In particular, we’ve been meeting Kevin Wang at Microsoft who developed the
incredible TEALS programme in the US; it’s likely we will visit Kevin later this year.

We are hopeful of joining forces with RMIT University, and have met twice this month with Vice Chancellor Martin Bean and several times with his leadership team. This would be an amazing outcome, helping us in several ways:

  • It’d enhance our credibility, opening doors more easily to schools, academics, and
    government institutions
  • It’d improve the breadth and depth of our pilot, by giving us easier access to relevant academics, policy experts, and education professionals
  • We’d have access to facilities, including an office, meeting rooms, payroll support, and rooms for running teacher workshops
  • We’d be a “Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) Charity”, a desirable status for receiving donations
  • We are optimistic we will finalise this arrangement and announce it at the end of September.

We have signed up several more schools. With some help from good friends, we’re now working with three schools on the Mornington Peninsula: Toorak College, Mount Erin College, and McClelland College. We are working with two schools in Sale: Gippsland Grammar School and the Sale Catholic College. We have also signed up two suburban schools,  Greensborough College and Haileybury. We are in discussions with three other schools, including two public schools and one large private girls school. We’re excited to have a mix of public, private, Catholic, city, and country schools to work with — we know this’ll help us better understand the effectiveness of our programme and provide a more persuasive argument as we go forward in 2020.

We’ve begun to work on our roadmap from September to February. This includes planning for hiring, syllabus development, and teacher workshops.

We look forward to an exciting September, and sharing even more progress at the end of the month. Thanks for reading all the way down here!

Cheers, Selina and Hugh.

Computing in Schools

This is the first update on our plans to improve computing education in Australian high schools. We look forward to sharing an update every month.

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Summary

We are focused on building and delivering a new computing subject for high schools, and helping teachers become successful at independently and confidently teaching the subject. The programme costs nothing for schools or students in 2019 through the generous support of donors.

Our model works like this:

  • We are hiring teachers who are experts in computing
  • We are planning to put a teacher in a classroom with a teacher from a school that we’re helping
    • In the first term, our teacher teaches the students, and the school’s teacher learns in a support role
    • In the second term, the school’s teacher teaches, and our teacher is there in the classroom to provide full time support
  • After two terms, the school continues teaching the subject. We’re available on call to support the school
  • Our teacher moves to a new school and repeats the same process

Our programme is built around a new foundational computing subject:

  • A compulsory Year 7 computing subject of around two teaching hours per week for one term
  • An introduction to coding and other computational-thinking fundamentals
  • Coverage of around half of the hours required by the Victorian Digital Technology Curriculum for Year 7, and focused on the “hard parts” that school’s struggle to teach
  • A fun, engaging programme that shows kids how computing is important in the real-world

In 2019, we will pilot this new subject and teaching model. The goals are to:

  • Teach kids how to write code
  • Help teachers in schools become confident at teaching coding
  • Teach the subject in seven to ten Victorian high schools
  • Teach at least 1,000 students, and help at least 10 teachers
  • Assess the learning outcomes to understand whether we’ve been effective in teaching basic coding and computational thinking skills, and whether we’ve taught teachers how to confidently deliver the materials

After 2019, we plan to roll this programme out across Victoria, expand to other Australian states, and begin work on subjects for Years 8, 9, and 10.

Why are we doing this?

Computer science is as important today as Maths, English, and the (other) Sciences. We believe it should be compulsory at school.  Even if a child isn’t going to become a Software Engineer, they are almost certainly going to work in a field that will be revolutionised by hardware and software. It’s critical to understand how software is built and what’s possible using a computer.

Most Australian kids aren’t learning the fundamentals of computing at school. There’s often a 3D printer or robots at a school, and maybe the kids have been on an excursion where they’ve built something technical. But that’s not even close to what’s needed if we’re going to help our children be ready for the jobs of the future. Our kids need to learn how to code, in the same way they need to learn how to read and write, and understand mathematics fundamentals.

Kids need to know how to break down problems into steps, and how to represent those steps in a programming language so that a computer can solve a problem. Building on these basics, students can learn how to write applications that do everything from play games to automate common tasks to solve real-world problems. More broadly, they need to know how to create software, so that they can be part of creating new jobs, industries, and technologies that are changing our world.

Nine of the ten most valuable companies today are technology companies including Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. These companies are full of computing professionals, and they’re creating the software and hardware that is changing our world. The next generation of companies could be here in Australia, but that’ll only happen if we have the people with the skills and talents in computer science. Fixing computing education in schools is a critical first step.

Our 2019 plans

In 2019, we’ve committed to teaching 1,000 students, training 10 teachers, and working with 7 to 10 schools. Success is not only hitting these goals, but leaving these schools and teachers with the skills and confidence to continue teaching the programme in 2020 and beyond. RMIT University has agreed to independently assess whether we’ve been successful at the conclusion of our 2019 pilot.

When we work with a school, we’re going to provide the full teaching materials, hardware, and software that are needed to succeed. More importantly, we’re also providing a teacher who’ll help in the classroom and who has two goals: make sure the students have fun learning new skills, and make sure the school can confidently continue teaching computing without our hands-on support.

Progress so far

We started this project around three months ago. So far, we have:

  • Signed-up three schools, including Toorak College and two others that we will announce soon
  • Raised money. We have promises of nearly enough money to fund out 2019 pilot, but we’d always love more (because it makes more possible — we’re happy to think bigger)
  • Focused our plans. There were many possible starting points, but we have decided on a Year 7 compulsory subject for our pilot
  • Sought corporate support. We want industry to stand behind what we’re doing, so that schools are confident the programme is helping their students develop real-world skills. We will announce corporate supporters soon
  • Received a commitment from RMIT University to independently assess the educational outcomes of our programme

Focus for August 2018

This month, we are focused on the following next steps:

  • Signing-up more Victorian schools. We are particularly looking for public schools, but we’re open to working with any school. It costs nothing. Can you help introduce us to a school? Send us a note at hugh@hughwilliams.com or selina@selinawilliams.com
  • Establishing our venture as a formal entity. We are exploring becoming a registered charity, which means that donors can give us money and receive a tax deduction. It turns out this isn’t easy, and we’ve enlisted the help of lawyers who specialise in establishing charities
  • Hiring teachers. Now that we’ve signed-up a few schools, we’re ready to hire our first teacher. It’s critical that they’re a great teacher with a computing background. Their role will be helping build materials, as well as teaching and training in 2019. If you have any referrals, send us a note at hugh@hughwilliams.com or selina@selinawilliams.com
  • Wooing corporate supporters. It’ll make a huge difference to everyone if they know that major names believe in our programme. This will help us with funding, signing-up schools, and developing the programme itself

Perhaps surprisingly, the hardest thing so far has been signing-up schools. Many schools don’t even bother to respond to an email. Once they do, it’s a long “sales cycle” from a first meeting to convincing a school to make room in their Year 7 curriculum for computing. We’re pretty surprised about this, but perhaps this will change as we sign up more schools, have more corporate support, and our programme gains a reputation. In any case, if you’d like to help, the most valuable thing you can do today is introduce us to a decision maker in a Victorian public school — we need to sign-up another four to seven schools over the next month or two.

If you’d like to join our mailing list to receive this monthly update in email (and a little more information), send us a note at hugh@hughwilliams.com or selina@selinawilliams.com

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom. We’ll post another update in a month.

Best wishes, Hugh and Selina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One more race to go…

Updated 1 January: we raised almost $60,000 for the GBS/CIDP Foundation! The campaign is now over, and regular blog posts will resume sometime soon.

Updated 23 December: we’ve now raised over $53,000 for the GBS/CIDP Foundation! Thank you to all of you for your generosity since I wrote this blog post. You can still donate: let’s see how much we can raise! The new deal is I’ll donate $1 for every $1 you donate, and Google will match my donation. So, every dollar you donates results in $3 being donated!

Cliff notes version: donate now to our fundraiser for the GBS/CIDP Foundation, and we’ll donate four two dollars for every dollar you donate! There’s only 11 days to go!

Zoom Turkey Trot 2015

Zoom Turkey Trot 2015

Help us raise $6,000 more for a good cause

It’s been ten months since I shared the story of having GBS in 2009. Six years later, I’ve decided to turn a negative experience into a positive one. It’s been quite a journey — we’ve now run 51 races of the 52 races I promised I’d run to raise awareness for the GBS/CIDP Foundation, and we’ve raised $46,000 $53,000 of the $52,000 I’ve promised to raise. Pretty good news! But the problem is there’s now only 11 days left to raise the remaining $6,000!

I’m sure there’s no lack of desire from many of you to donate. I know, I know: you keep forgetting and you’re really busy. Well, let me try and help get you motivated: if you donate a dollar, I’ve orchestrated a scheme to donate another four two dollars. That’s right, your $1 results in $5 $3 going to the GBS/CIDP Foundation, and your contribution is tax deductible. (Small print: I’ll do this for the next $1,500 that you donate.)

So, donate now by visiting this link. If everyone donates a total of $1,200, we’ve met our goal! We’ve met our goal, but let’s keep going right up to December 31!IMG_7203

How are we doing this?  I recently received a $1,500 per diem for advising work, and I’ve decided to put it up to match your donations to the fundraiser. I’ve also decided I’ll put in one more dollar of my own hard-earned savings to match it. Then, my fantastic employer Google matches donations that I make. So, all up, when you put in $1, I put in $2 $1, and Google puts in $2 $1 more to make it a total of $5 $3.

That’s it. Eleven days to go, let’s get this done!

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Thank you…

 

We’ve had amazing support throughout this fundraiser. Almost 200 people and organizations contributed, and I owe them all a ton of thanks for helping raise awareness of GBS and related conditions, and helping the important work of the GBS/CIDP Foundation. A complete list of contributors is here.

 

 

 

$42,000 raised for the GBS/CIDP Foundation

After suffering from GBS in 2009, I’ve been on a mission to raise $52,000 for the important work of the GBS/CIDP Foundation. They’re a small non-profit with an enormous heart, and they do genuine good for people suffering from rare, debilitating conditions.

You, yes you. You should donate!

You, yes you. You should donate!

We now have less than $10,000 to go to raise our goal of $52,000!  Here’s your big chance to donate and drive us home to the goal, or to convince that family member, friend, or your workplace to help us get it done. We won’t stop when we get to $52,000 — just imagine how much we can raise if we make the goal with four months of the year left!

These feet are ready to race

These feet are ready to race

What’s been happening?

I’m not just raising money, I’m running 52 races this year to raise awareness of GBS and related conditions. We’re now 25 races of the way to our goal of 52 races. I’ve written a report about races 5 through to 25, and you can read them here: http://fiftytwofives.com (just scroll down the home page). My favorite race so far is the Presidio 10k just for the beauty of running around and across the Golden Gate Bridge. The most exotic has to be a 10k race in Buenos Aires, which might also have been the toughest on a hot and humid day while I was jetlagged. There are two races that have surprised me: the Double 5k where I won $50 in prize money, and the St Lawrence Run for Fun where I accidentally won the race.

One US-stralian in a sea of Argentinians before the start of a 10k race in Buenos Aires

One US-stralian in a sea of Argentinians before the start of a 10k race in Buenos Aires

I think a lot about raising money, and I’ve learnt how hard it is to get people to open their wallets and donate. You know, I often think: what if every LinkedIn and Facebook connection I had donated just $1? We’d be about $3,000 further ahead, that’s what would happen. And imagine if they each donated $10. Wow. It’s really the smaller donations from more people that could make the difference — so please do encourage folks to donate, even if they can only afford $1 or $10. And if you haven’t donated, and you’re suddenly feeling inspired, just click here.

To those I owe thanks

We’ve had amazing support throughout this fundraiser. Almost 200 people and organizations contributed, and I owe them all a ton of thanks for helping raise awareness of GBS and related conditions, and helping the important work of the GBS/CIDP Foundation. A complete list of contributors is here.

 

$27,000. 17 Races. 98 Generous Friends!

I’ve been learning about fundraising by experience, and I now know you should lead with the donation link. So here it is! Head on over and help support my fundraiser: http://igg.me/at/fiftytwofives

A Few Thoughts on the Backstory

Crossing the line in the Bay Breeze 5k

Crossing the line in the Bay Breeze 5k

It’s almost six years since my encounter with Guillain–Barré syndrome began. I remember it well, I doubt anyone who’s had GBS would forget it. I’m happy to have it in the rear vision mirror, and to see it fading into history. I reassure myself that I’ve now got as much chance of getting GBS as anyone who’s never had it.

It took over five years to want to talk about it publicly. In hindsight, I’m not sure why. It’s been cathartic to share the story, and turn a bad experience into a fundraising experience that helps others. Perhaps it was just that talking about it brought it into the forefront of my mind, and it’s an experience I’d have rather forgotten for a while. Anyway, I feel great about doing something good with a bad experience.

Fundraising So Far

Since I began my fundraiser for the GBS/CIDP Foundation, we’ve raised over $27,000. That’s a solid effort for 4 months, but it’s still $25,000 from my goal of $52,000 in 2015. I’ve also managed to run 17 races to raise awareness of GBS and related conditions, about 33% of the way to my goal of 52 races in 2015. Running feels like a fine way to defy GBS, and I’ve heard from more than a few recovered and recovering GBS patients that they like the idea of running as a defiant act.

I maintain a separate blog about my fundraising and racing, and it’s over here at http://fiftytwofives.com. You can read the stories of my races, including my first ever unlikely victory in a race and my crazy time running in Buenos Aires. If you follow the blog, you’ll also get a near-weekly update on my fundraising escapes. If that isn’t enough, Like my page on Facebook, and you’ll get a nearly daily update in your feed.

There’s been some pretty amazing donations. I won’t pick a favorite, but I love the story of Norman Herms of Philadelphia. He mailed a check into the GBS-CIDP Foundation International with the following message: “Please give this check to Hugh Williams. I do not have a computer. I had GBS in 1988 at 55 years old. After 65 hospital days and ten days of therapy I recovered 100%”. That’s a pretty cool story.

Back when

Back when our fundraising began! January 1 in Phoenix, Arizona on a cold morning

All up, 98 people and organizations have contributed to the fundraiser. That includes 3 companies, Pivotal, Accel Partners, and Medallia. I owe them a special thanks for being corporate donors, and I hope other companies will join in too. If you’d like to be part of the story — maybe even our 100th contributor — then you can head over here and donate. There’s some cool perks too, just choose one when you contribute.

See you again soon.

 

Five races down, forty-seven to go…

I’m trying hard to get out the word out about my fundraiser for the GBS/CIDP Foundation. As I shared last week, I suffered from GBS in 2009 — and it was a tough personal experience — and now I’m running to raise awareness of GBS and funds so that the Foundation can help others. (Hopefully, I’m not driving you crazy — this is the first time I’ve attempted a personal fundraiser, and I’m feeling my way — shoot me an email if you have advice to share.)

The view at the Bay Breeze 5k -- race 5 on my way to 52 races in 2015 to raise awareness for GBS

The view at the Bay Breeze 5k — race 5 on my way to 52 races in 2015 to raise awareness for GBS

I learnt this week that three people in my network have been touched by GBS. I’m sure there’s more out there. While it’s estimated in only affects 1 or 2 people in every 100,000, it’s not that hard to find someone who’s personally experienced what it can do. But you have to be looking to find people: the scary thing about GBS is that most people haven’t heard of it (and most medical professionals don’t know the signs), and so it’s incredibly important to raise awareness and to have support from an organization that knows what to do.

Even the name of it is impossible. I had the condition for a few weeks before I could pronounce it properly. For what it’s worth, it’s GHEE-N BAR-A syndrome.

I’m sharing the stories of my 52 races through my Facebook page http://facebook.com/fiftytwofives, and on my fundraising blog fiftytwofives. I just published a new piece on my race yesterday — I hope you enjoy it.

I know you’re all busy, and it’s hard to find time to donate, but I’d really appreciate it if you can find the time and want to help out. I’ve got a long way to go to get to $52k. Head over to http://igg.me/at/fiftytwofives, and I promise it’ll only take 2 or 3 minutes to hand over some cash. Choose a “perk” while you’re there — my favorite is the t-shirt when you donate $100, which will include *your name* on the back as one of my major sponsors.

See you next time.