Category: Education

Need mentorship to move from tech skilled to tech employable? LaunchCode can help

Even with all of the amazing code schools—both online and in person—there’s still a significant gap between being proficient in software development and employable in software development. But where are folks supposed to get the guidance and experience they need to close the gap? That’s what LaunchCode is working to do with its Liftoff: All-In<tech> initiative.

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How important was your K-12 education to your brave new world techie job of today?

But thinking that the technical proclivity of our region isn’t affected—and buoyed—by the kids coming up through the school systems is both myopic and dangerous. Especially when it comes to assessing the strength of our community as a tech hub, both now and in the future.

Portland tends to be a town of more imports than locals. But thinking that the technical proclivity of our region isn’t affected—and buoyed—by the kids coming up through the school systems is both myopic and dangerous. Especially when it comes to assessing the strength of our community as a tech hub, both now and in the future. And yes, I’ve ranted on the topic of K-12 education before. Read More

Portland startups: Get a paid intern for free, help some kids at the same time

“If I only had more time to do [x].” It’s a phrase the confounds many a startup. And truly, every once in a while, that confounding problem is something terribly technical that requires a specific level of expertise. But most of the time, it’s simply something that needs to get done. Yet something for which it is impossible to find the time. And that makes it all the more aggravating.

All it would take is someone to help you do it. But that—especially for bootstrapped companies and side projects—can make the problem even more insurmountable. The idea of paying someone to do the job? Usually, not an option.

You know what would be perfect for completing these tasks? An intern. Even better? A paid intern. Someone who was getting reimbursed to help you with your project. And someone who had some skin in the game to perform at a level that would help your startup improve. Read More

YottaByte Group: The future for Oregon tech education

When I first sat down with Derek Brandow and Jason Gallic of Eugene-based (but hopefully making the move to Portland) YottaByte Group, I didn’t know quite what to expect. And by the time we said our good-byes, I was shaking my head in disbelief.

And since that time I’ve been struggling to get this post written. Struggling because of that—literally jaw-dropping—disbelief.

Disbelief that something so obviously right, necessary, and critical for our community—and the future of our communities—hasn’t already been done. Disbelief that these guys would have any difficulty finding funding for something that promises to change the future of technology in Oregon and, likely, the rest of the world. Disbelief that educators everywhere wouldn’t be clamoring for this model to help students.

To put it bluntly, the conversation was quite the “Well… duh!” moment for me. Why wouldn’t everyone be behind this thing? Why aren’t we doing this already?

So what’s this exceedingly obvious—yet heretofore untapped—idea that makes YotttaByte such a winner in my book?

Well, to put it simply, they’re rethinking the educational system—especially as it relates to innovation and technology—in today’s K-12 environment:

The current model for both public and private schools has not changed significantly in the last 100 years. The longevity of that model is a testament to the greatness of its 20th century design. However, the design is beginning to crumble….

The time is now to create the schools we are going to need for our children to thrive (not merely survive) in the 21st century.

And the YottaByte team has a compelling vision for how this might occur.

From my admittedly ignorant standpoint, I see it falling somewhere between the concept of alternative schools and the traditional gifted and talented programs.

Like an art student focusing on painting or a musical student focusing on an instrument, YottaByte students would work in an environment that allows them to focus on technology and innovation.

Once up and running, YottaByte promises to create intensive and collaborative schools that help these students exercise their artistic talent—in this case an artistic talent that manifests itself as problem solving and technical discovery—with students around the world.

In their own words, YottaByte will be:

Preparing children for collaboration, innovation, and contribution in a global marketplace.

Hearing them tell it, it’s a compelling vision for how technology could—and arguably should—be approached if today’s students are to get the kind of technical grounding they’re going to need to manage the sheer bulk of digital information and power at their feet. And to wring every last ounce of potential out of the collaborative technologies we have at our disposal. To get the right people fixing the problems. Not just the people who happen to be there.

It’s a pretty powerful concept, and one in whose Kool-Aid I have deeply imbibed. Because what YottaByte is proposing is not only a brilliant idea, it’s just the right thing to do.

I’m looking forward to continuing my coverage of YottaByte’s progress as they continue pitching this story and building out their proof-of-concept schools.

It’s going to be an interesting ride.

For more information on the YottaByte Group and their vision for technology education, visit YottaByte Group.

Oregon technology startups and education: Being part of the solution

A few weeks back, I wrote a rant about the abysmal state of Oregon’s tech education in which I encouraged anyone in tech—but especially those folks at startups—to consider his/her potential role in helping to resolve the issues currently plaguing our educational system.

Talk, as they say, is cheap.

So how can we act?

Well, admittedly, this is an awfully big problem, but to wax—and perhaps unintentionally slaughter—more platitudes, the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.

And, I’m proud to say that we, as a burgeoning collective, have already taken two:

  1. Oregon Tech & Education is an online discussion group designed to gather interested parties, encourage discussion, and facilitate action. If you are at all interested in helping, participating, or just watching what’s happening. I encourage you to join. Even if you just lurk. And I encourage you to invite the teachers and administrators in your life to join, as well.
  2. Silicon Florist internship/mentorship challenge is a call to all Silicon-Forest-based startups to consider offering a summer internship for high school or college students in your area. No one knows more about what you do than you. And teaching someone who knows nothing about what you do could be one of the most rewarding things you ever accomplish as an entrepreneur. If you’re interested—not even yet to the “willing to participate” phase, just interested—please throw your hat into the ring as one of the participating startups.

From time to time, I’ll keep you posted on these steps, and other steps that the resourceful folks of the Silicon Forest are taking to resolve this issue.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.

Silicon Florist internship challenge

A week ago, I went off on a little rant about the sorry state of Oregon’s technology and education mix. And how I hoped that all of us startup types could use our creativity to figure out how to fix the problem.

Well, much to my surprise, nearly 30 people jumped into the comments, a number of folks contacted me on Twitter, and a bunch of emails came rolling into my inbox.

And while all of this was inspiring, it suddenly meant that I actually needed to do something.

The problem is a big one. And we’re not going to solve it tomorrow. But if we take small steps, we’ll get there.

But, we need to get the ball rolling. And quickly.

So I’m happy to report that I think I’ve come up with one of those small steps. I think.

I was going to announce this on Tuesday, but given the date, I was concerned about the announcement being perceived as a joke. And then I saw the hubbub about April 3 being Good People Day. And that seemed like the perfect day to announce the idea.

You let me know if this sounds feasible and we’ll go from there.

The Silicon Florist Internship Challenge

Summer break is right around the corner. And at the same time, most of the startups to whom I’m speaking are crunching on more work than ever.

Let’s see, underly busy people and overly busy people. What could we do with some of those smart kids and some of those startups needing help?

That’s right. Internships.

Just think. What if you had had the opportunity as a high-school or college student to shadow an entrepreneur like you? What if you had had the opportunity to learn some of the secrets of business or coding or planning or writing or whatever? How cool would that have been? How much better prepared would you have been to do what you’re doing now?

I think the value to the students is pretty obvious.

So, I’m suggesting that we all work to take on some interns this summer. Could be paid. Could be just a learning and experience kind of thing.

I don’t really care how you structure the compensation arrangement. I just want to see you do it.

Set up an internship. Make it 6 weeks or so. Get a few kids to spend 5-10 hours a week learning about your work.

You can do it. I know you can.

Oh, I hear you. “That seems like a lot of work. What—besides warm fuzzies—is in it for me?”

Well, you get some help doing some of your work for one thing. You get a fresh viewpoint, for another. You have to explain what you do and why you do it to someone else. You get to validate your reasoning. You get to teach. And, perhaps best of all, you get someone who actually wants to listen to you blather on and on about your project.

But, I’ll also work to throw in some other benefits. I’m not exactly sure what they are yet. But every company that volunteers to participate in the Silicon Florist Internship Challenge will receive something along the lines of:

  • A dedicated Silicon Florist article featuring your company and your internship program. Maybe I even let your interns post some entries about why your startup is so cool.
  • A mention in the press release I plan to put out when I pitch this program to the traditional media and schools. As well as my help flacking that release and your company to the best of my abilities.
  • A free post on the Silicon Florist Gig board to advertise your internship, and just for good measure, I’ll throw in a free job posting for use whenever you like. (I know that your company is going to be growing.)
  • Some cool Web graphic that helps you promote your participation in the program.
  • My promise to promote your internship opportunity, to help you find the candidates to get it filled, and to continue to support your program throughout the summer.
  • Oh, and of course, there will have to be some Silicon Florist swag.

… and probably some other things that folks more creative than me will suggest. As I said, I haven’t really thought through your fabulous prize package, yet. But I will.

So what’s next?

Well, first, you need to tell me if this is even a good idea. I’m going to work to hire a couple of interns this summer, one way or the other. But I’d like you to join in the fun. If you think it might work.

Second, I need you to let me know in some way that you’re interested in doing this. And there are a variety of ways to do that: comment below, send me a message on Twitter, or drop me an email.

And while I’m really interested in seeing what the small Web startups and individuals are capable of doing, I’ll more than welcome the big tech companies around town if they want to join in on the fun.

I just need to know if you’re up to the challenge. We can discuss specifics later.

So let me know, as quickly as possible. We’ll plan on doing the heavy outreach and promotion of the program and its participants on May 1, 2008. That gives you a few weeks to get your ducks in a row. And it will give me a couple of weeks to help formalize the internship guidelines.

I’m looking forward to this. I hope you’ll join me. This could be really good for both the kids and companies of Portland, Eugene, Corvallis, Bend, Vancouver—the entire Silicon Forest—in a number of ways.

Let’s get going on this.

Oregon’s K-12 tech education sucks: A geek call to action

When I began the conversation about making Silicon Florist a self-sustaining entity, it was because I had—and continue to have—a number of ideas for trying to help startups in our area. And for helping Portland reach its potential.

And I’d like to spend more time doing that sort of thing. Because it’s important to me.

But there was another area I was thinking about helping, as well.

It’s a startup, of sorts. Full of creative entrepreneurial types. People who generally have more passion than you and I. People who really want to make a difference. People who, like many of the startups around here, don’t get nearly the recognition or support they deserve.

Students. The people who are going to inherit all of this crazy stuff we’re trying to accomplish. And people who are likely experimenting with technology and building some equally cool Web products in their free time.

We have a great deal in common, actually.

And so I’d been toying with some ideas. And thinking about some things. That might be able to help those people. Where I might be able to share some expertise or some time.

Because, quite honestly, not a day goes by writing this blog that I don’t draw on something I learned in my high-school journalism class. Not one day.

And so, I was plodding along slowly. Thinking about what we might be able to do.

Then, today, some news hit me right between the eyes: Oregon schools get a D for technology.

The 11th annual report of “Technology Counts,” produced by the specialty newspaper Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, gives Oregon schools an overall D grade on technology. Only Rhode Island, Nevada and Washington, D.C., scored fewer points than Oregon’s 66 out of 100.

A D? Are you kidding me?

And just like that, it dawned on me: this is the opportunity.

This is one of those special times when an idea meets an action. When the time to act is coupled with the ability to act intelligently. This is the tipping point. Or spark. Or whatever you want to call it. This is the call to arms. The call to action. For all of us geeks and geek-o-philes.

This is an opportunity for you, me, and every other startup. It’s an opportunity to help. It’s an opportunity to give something back to this community. And an opportunity to improve the technology base in Portland for the future.

How? There are literally tons of ways we could do it. Tons!

From interships to class visits to scholarships to events to competitions to apprenticeships to… well, as I said, “Tons.”

I don’t think this is a question of “if?” I think this is a question of “how?”

And I think this news only highlights how much these things need to happen. And how quickly.

Maybe I’m the only one. Or part of a small group. But I think this is our chance to really do something valuable for Portland. And for Oregon. As a group.

Who’s with me?

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