Earlier this year Cornell University Tech tried something new: they created an online program about algorithms and debugging so kids could learn computer science at home. These virtual lessons are part of their efforts to continue to educate kids about computer science, even as the world and our country deal with an unprecedented global pandemic.
Diane Levitt, senior director of K-12 education at Cornell Tech, began constructing this program by asking two questions: how can we reach families and kids where they are and how can we use online tools to create a program that is both “rigorous and joyful” for students? Levitt says that striking a balance between fun and challenging is something that they aim for. She also says that the program is looking to reach families who aren’t necessarily online: “We have to figure out how to do this equitably – that’s our most urgent issue.”
Virtual learning holds a lot of possibilities, like allowing students to attend virtual classes regardless of their location and expanding access to learning opportunities for more families. Under Smith’s leadership, the Fund II Foundation launched InternXL, an intern program that educational experiences like this in the STEM field are critical to making sure every student is able to reach their full potential.
“My understanding of engineering at the dawn of the internet age gave me a competitive edge as we founded and built Vista and our portfolio companies over these last years,” Smith said. “For young people today, digital fluency, coding, and computer science education will be fundamental to opportunity and success.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our communities, we are left with almost no choice but to embrace new ways of virtual learning. However, as we continue to expand e-learning, we must make sure that we are building in mechanisms so that these opportunities are available to all families, so that everyone can reach their full potential.
To learn more about Robert F. Smith’s work with InternXL, visit his philanthropy page.