The students in the technology club at St. Francis de Sales already mastered the curriculum in their one-hour-a-week technology class. They were itching for something more. Late last month, they got their wish.
A pair of Drexel students and their professor visited the West Philly Catholic school and taught 40 middle schoolers how to use computer science to figure out who the best NFL quarterbacks are (Steve Young had an incredible year for the 49ers in 1994).
Now that’s more like it.
The Drexel students were part of Drexel University Computer Science Teach, or DUCSTeach, a new volunteer group that aims to help schools use technology and teach science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. The group is working with St. Francis de Sales because of an already-established partnership with Drexel but hopes to eventually expand to other schools, said Dan Ziegler, the freshman who founded DUCSTeach. It reminds us of a decade-old Brooklyn program that puts NYU-Poly staff and students in public schools there.
Though still early in its stages, the partnership has already played a big role at St. Francis de Sales, said Sue Small, the technology coordinator at the school.
“The Drexel students have been able to teach our ‘techies’ lessons in computer science that go beyond what I can teach on my own,” Small said in an email.
They’ve also acted as a tech support team, helping to maintain the school’s technology — and it has a lot. All 500 students get a laptop or an iPad at school and teachers use smartboards in the classroom, according to Drexel’s news blog. As the one-woman technology department, Small was happy to get an extra hand.
The undergraduates helped re-image nearly 100 laptops for students to use — a task that Small said would have taken her weeks to do on her own, but only took a few days with the help of the Drexel volunteers.
DUCSTeach is now working on recruiting more volunteers and developing a plan, based on teachers’ needs, for their continued work at St. Francis de Sales. The Drexel group is another example of local students sharing their expertise where schools can fall short. In North Philly, Temple medical students taught science at Mary McLeod Bethune School in the absence of a certified science teacher.