Igniting Change Through Computer Science: TEALS in Detroit

| Meghan Urisko, Civic Tech Fellow for Microsoft in Detroit

In the fall of 2017, Microsoft’s TEALS program launched in 10 Detroit schools. TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) works to help high schools throughout the US build and grow sustainable computer science programs. TEALS was started in 2009 by Microsoft employee Kevin Wang, a former high school teacher, who developed and ran the program in his spare time, and is supported by Microsoft Philanthropies.

Ivoire Morrell, TEALS volunteer at Detroit International Academy for Young Women

Former Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow Ivoire Morrell is a TEALS volunteer at the Detroit International Academy of Young Women (DIA.) DIA is part of the Detroit Public Schools Community District and educates young women from Pre-K to 12th grade. DIA is dedicated to bridging the gap among women in the STEM fields. Before partnering with TEALS, the school did not offer Computer Science due to a lack of instructors qualified to teach Computer Science.

From 8:15 to 9:15 every morning, 15 juniors and seniors meet in one of the school’s two computer labs. Currently, they are working on a block coding curriculum developed at and used by UC Berkeley to introduce the fundamental programming structures. Next semester, they will begin using these concepts in Python, a popular language for general-purpose programming.

Morrell, a graduate of Lawrence Tech University, enjoys this opportunity to give back. “The things these girls do are amazing. I’m always impressed by their work effort and creativity,” he says, before proudly asking the girls to show me their storybook animations, created in block code to explore programming graphics.

Learning computer science empowers young people to compete in the global economy and pursue careers across all sectors because it teaches students computational thinking and problem-solving skills applicable in any industry. Students want to learn computer science, but most high schools are unable to offer rigorous computer courses due to a lack of qualified instructors. By bringing the TEALS program to the city of Detroit, Microsoft is working to ensure that students in Detroit can be exposed to computer science.

See some of the projects Morrell’s students have developed: