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By Darius Clarke

Darius Clarke is a teacher at Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley, California.

You might not be surprised that the US Department of Labor expects that 74% of the new S.T.E.M. careers through the year 2022 to be in the field of “Computing & Information Systems” (CIS) alone.

Across the country, the education system is starting to reshape itself to refocus on preparing students for their careers. It is hard to ignore that technology-related concepts are woven throughout the S.T.E.M. industry as well as transportation, entertainment, energy, commerce, and manufacturing. CIS provide some of the best tools and software for organizations because of their data analysis capabilities, future forecasting, and the ability to meet different needs across the globe.

Teachers, as the “Johnny Appleseeds” of tech careers for today’s youth, plant seeds in fertile minds to grow into vast landscapes of fruitful industries, markets, products, and careers. To this end, I ask you:

spnk-benfranklin-orig

If you want to become like a “Johnny Appleseed” of tech careers, sowing seeds wherever you go, what would be your seed? And where would you scatter those seeds? I believe that teachers fulfill this role for today’s youth, planting seeds in fertile minds to grow into vast landscapes of fruitful industries, markets, products, and careers.

Schools can utilize the free Safari for Schools (S4S) library of O’Reilly books to jump-start high school students into fulfilling careers that also meet the states’ new targeted goals for education.

Since the advent of Silicon Valley, one would be hard pressed to find a better Johnny Appleseed than O’Reilly Media. As an industry leader, O’Reilly has been determined to spread the seeds of open source technology and education far and wide. O’Reilly is best known for their seminal publications that kickstarted many a professional career but now, through the new S4S initiative on the Safari Books Online platform, O’Reilly’s “seeds” of technical innovation are freely available to K12 students and teachers across the US.

My class from Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley, California, seized this tremendous opportunity and used some of those very books to study PHP, JavaScript, Java, and some basic entrepreneurship. In turn, my students and I wanted to “pay it forward” and make the library even more usable and applicable for students across the country.

Thus, we embarked on creating the Steampunk Franklin project.

The web design class and the digital arts class teamed up to create a visual, interactive portal to the S4S library that makes it more accessible to other teenagers and students. My students combined the visual themes of the Steampunk genre with inspirational quotes from Benjamin Franklin because both of those concepts support the ideals of technical innovation, content publishing, informations systems, knowledge sharing, business acumen, tinkering, community-run government, continuous self improvement, and making a better future for themselves. Benjamin Franklin was a world-renowned publisher, techie, and creator of both the first public library and the first public post office, so we felt he was a perfect representation for our project.

In the words of our inspiration himself:

“Governor Thomas was so pleas’d with the Construction of this Stove, as describ’d in it, that he offer’d to give me a Patent for the sole Vending of them for a Term of Years…That as we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of Others, we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any Invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.” [Part III, p. 98]

Benjamin Franklin even considered game play (in the form of the game of chess) a skill-building exercise.

The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn: 1st, Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action … 2nd, Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: — the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations; … 3rd, Caution, not to make our moves too hastily…” The Morals of Chess” (article) (1750).

In that spirit, the Santa Susana High School website development class released their Steampunk Franklin portal with an open source license so that the education and technology communities could ifrankmprove the opportunities for students across the nation. The web design students built the Steampunk Franklin website portal to practice their new web design skills and to connect with the tech community by receiving examples and advice from industry experts.

However, the school still needs financial support to continue their Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. In order to help us fund our subscription, we recently initiated a GoFundMe fundraiser campaign in the hopes that you, too, wish to become this generation’s Johnny Appleseed to start planting the seeds that will grow for decades to come.

We’ve also got cool t-shirts of Steampunk Franklin available!

As Franklin said: “When the Well’s dry, we know the Worth of Water”

You can learn more about the students and the project by watching this short documentary. More information about the ConnectED Initiative can be found on the White House’s official site.

The class also thinks they have a solution to the state’s water shortage. They call it the “Electric Kraken”. Crazy, no?

Tags: high school, K12, oreilly, Safari for schools,

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