Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Silicon Valley kids use tech to create and learn

Aug. 16, 2013, 2:13 p.m., Posted by Kara Burritt

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Knight supports Globaloria, a project of the World Wide Workshop, to advance next generation talent. Below Kara Burritt, programs and communications manager at the World Wide Workshop, writes about Globaloria’s summer camps.

This summer, Silicon Valley middle schooler Davis Le traded in fun in the sun to design a sunny beach scene for his latest video game. He planned and programmed a game that teaches pollution prevention by asking the player to identify harmful litter hidden throughout the scene.

Le is one in a group of 52 young game developers taking part in Globaloria summer camps at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley. The program encourages them to use technology to create and learn.

A second-year camper, Le has always loved technology, but it was not until Globaloria that he started dreaming of someday designing games for his favorite developer, Nintendo. “Making games is a fun career,” he said.

But career-prep is just one aspect of Globaloria, a national social learning network that develops science, technology, engineering and math (“STEM”) knowledge, and global citizenship skills among youth through game design.

The campers work together on-site and within the virtual social learning network to develop their video games. They chose the environment as a general theme, with each camper selecting a more specific issue that interested them.

Le selected pollution prevention as his game topic because, he said,  “It relates to real life; picking up trash is an everyday job.”

“Our members are thrilled by the opportunity to come up with an original idea and run with it,” said Sophia Quiñones, Globaloria teacher and director of youth development at Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley.

Globaloria launched in California in 2011, with Knight support. It worked with 182 youth across two Silicon Valley middle schools and two Boys & Girls Clubs sites. Now in it’s third year, it will reach 1,500. The program maintains a retention rate of 100 percent in Silicon Valley.

These numbers are impressive, in part because of the patchwork of sites and individuals they represent. The Globaloria social learning network in Silicon Valley is comprised of a diverse group of youth and educators, many of whom are creating with technology for the first time. Within the Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley alone, Globaloria participants are 78 percent Hispanic or Latino and 92 percent are eligible for free or reduced school lunch—two groups that lag in development of digital knowledge.

When Globaloria camps conclude at the end of the summer, each Boys & Girls Clubs camper will have published a game that anyone can play to learn about the issues that are important to the creator. Perhaps a few, like Le, may eventually go on to become video game designers or computer programmers. But most importantly, all will walk away from the summer with new tools for understanding and impacting the world around them.

Kara Burritt, programs and communications manager, World Wide Workshop