STONY BROOK, N.Y., April 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Devon Loffreto, founder of kidOYO®, a Long Island, NY-based technology-education effort, has been taking his non-profit and personal skills into local schools since the mid-1990s to overcome the lack of capabilities in most classrooms. "For a long time," Loffreto states, "it was depressing to realize that I was more likely to find web-blocking software installed on school computer networks than basic editors for writing the languages of creativity in this same digital domain. But times are changing, and parents are playing a huge role making that happen." With the introduction of its unique learning platform, kidOYO is giving K-12 classrooms new capabilities.
The statistics don't look good; basic digital literacy and advanced computer science skills in America, home of the Internet, are lagging other societies. How did this happen? The public internet arrived in 1995, and yet learning to code and computer science education only recently (2014+) made its way into the public consciousness. Still, effective methodologies bringing these skills to K-12 classrooms have been hard to come by, a problem kidOYO believes it is solving.
For the past few years, along with partner Bo Feng — software engineer and master's graduate from Stony Brook University, a top five Computer Science program nationally as determined by research outcomes — Mr. Loffreto has been scaling local capabilities and education practices via the state-of-the-art tool at OYOclass.com. As the founders of Code Long Island, and in partnership with leading K-12 school districts and University partners, the team at kidOYO has built a unique approach to learning that focuses on local opportunity development.
"Many student-mentors we work with from local universities don't want to get traditional jobs, and they are drawn to the approach we take to helping kids understand two converging topics omitted from most schools, entrepreneurial and computational thinking," says Feng. "Unlike many other efforts marketed at schools and kids, we did not take a software-centric approach to building kidOYO. Instead, we started by working with kids as mentors, focusing on their different interests and engagement levels, and the problems that young learners confront on this path; then we built tools to help drive their progress. Sometimes we even build them live in our classrooms."
The results are starting to speak for themselves; students as young as 9 years of age have secured contracts with NYC publishers to produce Minecraft-themed book covers requiring modifications written in the Java programming language to produce graphic effects, and a group of nine students between 6th and 9th grade are preparing for the AP Computer Science A test in May, a test normally geared toward 10th – 12th grade students seeking to earn college credits. "These kids have been working with us in both live and virtual settings for the past few years, and are motivated to own their own opportunities and learning process," says Feng. "That's the goal at kidOYO: getting kids to understand what self-leadership is, and apply it to their own learning process."
Loffreto and Feng are optimistic about change coming to schools. They say it's easy to get started using simple approaches that teachers don't need to be intimidated by, adding that "methods matter" in building real-world skills, and access to local talent to support advancing classrooms is a big part of the answer to fixing the lagging skill outcomes that have been labeled a "National Emergency" by the U.S. government.
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