Calling all bedroom programmers – everywhere!

It is that time again, the beginning of the build up to the 6th Festival of Code!!

MainIt is an unbelievably exciting time for us, and we have really stepped up our game this year – just wait and see. But I can tell you that as well as code and community there will be poetry, art, skateboarding, laser graffiti and list of speakers so fine you will feel dizzy sharing the same space as them. On Saturday we will have heats, semi-finals and then an entire evening of music curated by Pixelh8 before the Grand Finale on Sunday – where the finalists will show and tell to a panel of judges I am just ITCHING to reveal, but we need a few more weeks before they will be completely nailed. You will be delighted, I promise.

For those of you who have never heard of the Festival of Code before, go and check out the site http://festivalofco.de It is a week of coding that takes place across the country where people aged 18 and under, at all levels of digital skill, work with open data and mentors to build websites, apps, games or write algorithms. On Friday 1st August they all come together in Plymouth for a weekend of talks, show and tells, music and festivities, celebrating their skills and encouraging them to learn more.

Here is the story from one of our centres from last year in Manchester Digital Laboratory

This year we have young people taking part from around the world: the US, Singapore and Europe and we are really looking forward to bringing you all together and seeing what you are up to.

As ever, we run this all through sponsorship and it is all totally free, thank you sponsors!! But I have one ask left…

It is notoriously difficult to reach some of the young people who would benefit most from coming along to this. Many of whom are teaching themselves how to code in their bedrooms, who might not know that this exists. So we have this wish:

Please could every reader of this blog post download this poster from the Festival of Code website and print at least ten copies out. Then put them up in your work, your school, your local library or community centre, anywhere really. Parents, friends and family members may see the poster and pass it on to their bedroom programmer and completely change their lives. Tell everyone, and they can change the world.

 

Young Rewired State 2014

So this year Young Rewired State (YRS) is six years old, believe it or not! We are still wholly focused on those young people aged 18 and under driven to teach themselves how to code, introducing them to open data and a community of their peers.

Of course the campaigning we at YRS and Rewired State have championed and supported to encourage more people to learn programming has meant that there are many more opportunities for learning now. Kudos to all the many organisations such as Code Club, Apps for Good, Decoded, TeenTech and Coder Dojo (to name the ones we know well and love).

This means that the YRS community has grown at an incredible rate over recent years, as it helps other young people learn from and teach each other. They hone their skills through building apps, websites and games, writing algorithms and parsing data – more often than not, solving real problems and challenges they experience.

This year we are doing three big things…

ONE: YRS/Google assemblies

We have a great community of hundreds of young people, most of whom do not go to the same school. They come alive when they talk about their skills and the community – and so we have teamed with Google to offer every person in YRS a sponsored assembly.

The YRSer will be helped by a dedicated YRS mentor to prepare an assembly, using slide decks, videos and YRS and Google schwag.

The point of these assemblies is for the young people already in the YRS community to tell their peers about what they have done, what they can do, and the support from Google shows how important their talents are to a multi-National brand every child will know (and probably want to work for because of the beanbags, slides and The Internship movie). It also challenges the familiar media view of nerdy, often male, programmers.

The videos I have used in this post are the videos we have made specifically for this project

Two: The Festival of Code will be International & the finale weekend will be held in Plymouth University

Every year we run the Festival of Code in multiple centres across the UK. This year we are including the centres outside the UK. This means that the festival now includes all the young people who have taken part in a Young Rewired State: Everywhere (YRS{e}) weekend around the world, and the community reaches across borders and Nations. This is the point of YRS – to create a networked community of young people worldwide who have grown up with open data and peer-to-peer learning.

Plymouth University have been incredibly generous in their offer to sponsor part of the cost and host the Festival, and house the YRSers over the weekend, meeting their challenging Wifi and power needs – and enabling us to continue to run the Festival now that many hundreds, tipping over a thousand young people, take part. Thank you so much!

(Travel to Plymouth will be arranged!! Planes, trains and automobiles will be activated – maybe holding the finale in Plymouth will encourage the YRSers to invent the flying car we were all assured in the 70s was going to be the vehicle we would be using in the 21st century).

Register as a centre, mentor or young person for the Festival of Code here: https://youngrewiredstate.org/ (it costs nothing to register or attend, it is funded through sponsorship. Feel free to apply to be a sponsor: emma at rewiredstate .org)

Three: YRS Hyperlocal and Rewired State/ly

We also announced that YRS Hyperlocal will happen in centres across the UK post the Festival, where the YRSers will be able to work, in the Festival centres that choose to opt in, with each other and mentors to take their Festival prototypes to product. At which point we will hand them over into the safe hands of partners we trust (morals/ethics).

We also announced Rewired Stately: a free Rewired State event that is happening in the last quarter of 2014 for programmers aged 50 or over, whether these be newly minted programmers or life-long, at which we will introduce them to open data and the rest of the RS/YRS community.

For more information on either of these programmes, email hello@rewiredstate.org

Please note: we do not teach kids to code… we bring together those who can code, from rudimentary knowledge to poly-codal, and take them forward to the next challenge – solving the real world problems 

Round the world with Young Rewired State {Everywhere}

Last year and earlier this year I blogged about wanting to run Young Rewired State around the world. This was in response to so many people from other countries getting in touch and saying how much they needed something similar to happen where they lived. To recap, for those who don’t know, this is what Young Rewired State is all about:

YRS is an independent global network of kids aged 18 and under who have taught themselves to program computers. We introduce these children to like-minded peers at events around the world where they use freely available open data to make websites, apps and algorithms to solve real world challenges

As you can see we have already included the fact that it is about a global community, and this is down to the success we have had in this year of experimentation beyond the shores of the UK.

We have been blown away by the joy and excitement experienced by the young people who have come to the events we have run, and the remarkable similarities between what these children create, learn and value from becoming a part of this community, and taking part in these events.

Here are a couple of videos from the events we ran in New York City and in Berlin earlier this year:

And if you cannot speak German, then switch on captions to watch this one:

You can read the round-up from both events here and here, and in November we are running an event with GitHub in San Francisco, details here

YRS{E} in 2014

We have learned a *lot* during the process of planning, partnering and running these events around the world, and have now come up with a scalable plan for 2014, again we will see if it works before rolling it out beyond 2014; but here is how we see it working…

There will be two options for running a YRS event where you live:

Option 1

If you are an organisation that is used to running hack-style events, then we would provide you with a pack detailing how to run a YRS event, create a registration page and microsite on our website for registering the young people and mentors and an MOU on how the event should be run, our values and our brand guidelines.

We will alert the worldwide young coding community when and where the event is taking place, and provide social media cover during the weekend.

This would not have a cost associated with it, but you would need to raise local sponsorship to cover event costs like venue, food, AV/wifi, publicity and prizes.

There will be options to get more from us, like weekly skype calls and community reach to young programmers, but these would incur a small charge in order to cover the central staff costs and time.

Option 2

We would work with partners in-country to assist with full delivery of the event, and would fly out a team for the week to actually run it. This would be a far more hands-on partnership for us with the regional teams and would suit those organisations who want to host a local Young Rewired State event, but are not used to running hack events.

This would carry a fixed cost of £20,000 for the work the dedicated central team will do, and include all costs including flights, accommodation, food etc. In addition to this fee, you would still need to raise local sponsorship to cover event costs like venue, food, AV/wifi, publicity and prizes.

America and Europe

As we have successfully run these events this year in America and Europe, we are also looking at raising central funding in the form of Grants, partnerships and central sponsorship that may well enable us to cover some of the costs ourselves; and so the above two options would become cheaper or even free, over time and in certain regions.

The Festival of Code

At each event we have run, the young people all expressed a desire, no an absolute need, to take part in the annual Festival of Code, run every year in the first full week of August. We are currently looking at the logistics of doing this, so watch this space – we will have worked it out by the time we are in San Francisco, and I will of course blog about it!

I shall leave the last words with Nadine (a YRSer from New York) and Ashley (a mentor from Code for America)

Want to run Young Rewired State where you are?

Contact hello@youngrewiredstate.org and speak to either myself, Kait or Ruth about what happens next…

Assange, Swartz, Manning, Snowden: you get it, right?

A fundamental part of being a human nowadays is that if you don’t really understand something, you are pretty certain that someone somewhere is an expert at it; and if it is a matter of global political discourse that many people know about it, and not only *it*, but all the tiny *its* that are a part of the big *it*, that obviously some University or other is studying, or has studied the facts for years and the next generations are far better equipped to deal with the complicated future. (I think I might just have stumbled on the formula for Radio 4).

We take heart from the academic inquisitiveness, so we don’t all need to know the nuts and bolts of what is causing us to have a slightly uncomfortable feeling – because the current and next generations are getting ever more clever and brilliant. Phew…

Assange

What: Wikileaks

Common understanding: publishing lots of things through a site called Wikileaks

Scary: because there is no control over what is being published

Phew: he is being held in a room in an Embassy in London and (weirdly) the government people went and oversaw (not sure if that is English) the destruction of the Guardian hard drives containing the information, which should be OK

Swartz

What: Committed suicide after being arrested for illegally downloading academic journals

Common understanding: young geek allegedly caught stealing/illegally downloading academic journals with a mind to publish them for free. His suicide was a nasty shock and no one can ever know why, but the court case and litigators were mighty, so that was probably tough for a young person

Scary: someone actually died

Phew: freely publishing academic journals, whilst wrong, does not sound like it threatens our security – this was just a single, and very sad, case

Manning

What: leaked restricted documents

Common understanding: a US soldier released classified documents to Wikileaks

Scary: who knows what is in these documents

Phew: she (Manning has since changed sex, but this is unrelated) has been caught and punished

Snowden

What: leaked details of mass surveillance

Common understanding: US and UK government agencies can read our private email and messages

Scary: not sure we want government agencies of any country reading our emails

Phew: maybe they will intercept the terrorist emails and not illicit sexting, and someone will work out whether this is right or wrong – meanwhile Snowden has not been arrested yet so it is not something to be too worried about… but we had better be a bit more careful about the illicit stuff and what we say in emails “haha @jamesbond *just joshing* (please disregard this message)…”

Obtuse

I am being deliberately obtuse here to illustrate a point. If you are not news or politically minded, I could point to the completely baffling business models of modern day organisations: twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat – where is the revenue model? Someone obviously knows something, I mean of course there is an ad revenue in services such as Google, but *ha* I will not be caught out by those suggested ads so that won’t last. And I must protect everything I put on Facebook because Mark Z is going to sell my data to someone, which might mean I put my family at risk, so I had better just be very careful what I put on FB, and occasionally lie to wrong-foot those would-be thieves/burglars/bad people. (Also what I write in my emails in case the FBI is monitoring me).

Thank goodness, we cry, that we are from the last century and can reminisce fondly on our first experiences with computing. These digital kids, we can’t even begin to understand their world…

“… why I even have to get my son/daughter to help me dm someone on twitter… ha! Vine? I like mine bottled not digital… kids nowadays, they are the digerati!…”

But yet

  • in schools we do not teach children the basics of programming, the language of the digital world – this is changing next year in the UK with the introduction of coding in primary and secondary education so in 15/20 years time we will have lots of people grounded in the digital basics in the workforce
  • we stopped teaching programming in schools over 20 years ago therefore there is a huge generational gap in the mass market of people who actually have a grasp on the digital revolution
  • very few people worldwide actually understand and drive the digital direction, because it all happened so fast and generation upon generation assumed the education system was keeping up
  • there are more and more demands on a rapidly dwindling and ageing digital workforce by analogue institutions, trying to ram digital renaissance into creaking infrastructures
  • *those in charge* of the next generations, including us parents, make it our life’s work – no it is our duty – to limit, deny and restrict access to the digital world, that superhighway of paedophiles and porn because someone else will be educating them in all the stuff they actually need to know in this digital future, the educational and politically important stuff that someone else knows all about… right?
  • our kids spend their lives online, they need to get offline and play, take an interest in the real world (that world that drives stories such as Assange, Swartz, Manning and Snowden)

I hate to scare you, but the reality is that our children need to be online, our duty is to give them digital freedom to explore and learn. The rules are not yet made for digital citizenship, our children need to define, shape and abide by them. Not just in keeping safe. Not just in understanding whether Assange, Swartz, Manning, Snowden are right or wrong. Or whether a business based on reach of message to mass communities is a viable model. Or what open data really means.

The current drive to teach our kids to code is being built on a sand-bound argument of economy, but I challenge this. We need to actively find ways to educate our children and ourselves in the basics of the Internet, of information, of data, of sharing, of algorithms – computational thinking.

Because, if we don’t, an ever decreasing number of us will actually really understand, and an ever decreasing number of us will shape the future. And history has shown time and time again that this way madness lies.

Young Rewired State in New York

In July this year (2013) we brought Young Rewired State to Queens in NYC, to the Museum of the Moving Image. Have a look at what was built and the Eventifier synopsis of the event over on the Young Rewired State website.

But I wanted to just write a blog post about the more human elements of the hack.

The idea of taking Young Rewired State abroad came from being asked so many times to do so – I wrote a couple of blog posts about how we hoped to do this and now we have done it.

Did it work? YES!!

Did we find 50 coding kids in New York? YES!! More than 50 in fact but it still took a good 10 weeks to find them one by one, it was not easy

Did they understand Open Data and manage to build stuff with it? YES!!

What was more remarkable was that this event was *exactly like the first YRS event we ran in 2009*. Even the stuff they made. Even the kids lying about their age to get in! I love that… meet Ian McJohn age 12 (or 14 depends… watch right to the end) and one hell of a brilliant coder, articulate and destined for big things I say:

We were very blessed in New York with the very best mentors from Code for America and beyond to partners from Mozilla Hive and the local open data coding communities. We even had the lovely Robbie Clutton, one time colleague from the Guardian and YRS mentor from years gone by, now being fabulous in NYC. In this video, Ashley Williams talks about her own experience growing up as a developer and how important it is that things for communities like ours to exist for young coders. Ashley is ace and is coming to be a superstar judge at next week’s Festival of Code (we are very lucky), here she is:

One element of the YRSNYC event was that the UK kids were able to remotely mentor through the hashtag on twitter and the IRC room we had set up. Twitter was definitely not the US kids medium of choice, they all looked slightly horrified/disdainful that we suggested using it! But some were reluctantly persuaded… Facebook is definitely their preferred social channel, but ultimately the simplicity and dev-friendliness of IRC wins out every time. We will continue this joining up of the communities as we roll out YRS Everywhere across Europe and America.

The hacks that the kids produced are listed here and as you can see are hugely varied and inspired, and next year we are coming back to NYC to bring this community back together again in several areas across the city, once again connecting the local kids with their local city data and each other. Anyway, here is Zachary, one of the members of the Best in Show winning team (who will also be coming to YRS Festival of Code 2013 as a part of his prize):

And finally, how can I not mention the girls – we had a 50/50 split throughout the weekend, which was absolutely amazing, and we had not even tried – so thank goodness for that. I shall leave the last word to Nadine (I dare you not to smile with her)

Onwards now to the Festival of Code next week and then YRS Berlin in September…

We were only able to make YRSNYC happen due to sponsorship from SAP, Twilio and the New York City Trust, and partnership from the Museum of the Moving Image and Mozilla Hive. What we do is not for profit but does cost something. If you would like to sponsor our YRS Everywhere Mission please get in touch with me for details of impact and reach.

{young} Rewiring the States – starting in New York

Rewired State has been hosting Young Rewired State (YRS) for five years, finding and fostering children aged 18 or under driven to teach themselves how to code. YRS introduces these youth to open government data and to one another to create a worldwide community of young civic-minded people who are able to problem-solve and build digital things.

We are running a very exciting event in New York City this Summer: YRS NYC 29-30 June 2013 when we will invite 50 of NYC’s top young coders to work with a wide-range of professional programmers to build new digital prototypes and projects.

The teens will all take on open government data to create apps, algorithms, digital prototypes, widgets and websites that are relevant to themselves and their peers, and that address real NYC issues.

The weekend-long design challenge will take place at Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria—a pretty amazing space for young NYC hackers to come and build stuff and meet each other.

IMG_4487Rewired State alongside Mozilla Hive NYC and the Museum itself will host this weekend of exploration and hacking where our aim is to build a local community grounded in the power of programming in networks. It is the first of the International outposts of Young Rewired State that started in the UK in 2009 with 50 local coding kids and now represents 1000 young coders across the UK and celebrates its 5th annual Festival of Code this August in Birmingham, England.

Here’s how you can get involved:

1. Alert any teens (ages 14-18) you know  in New York (or who can commute to Queens for the weekend) and invite them to sign up on this page https://youngrewiredstate.org/yrs-everywhere/yrs-new-york-city

2. If you have experience or worked with open data and are a programmer or designer, sign up to mentor here https://youngrewiredstate.org/yrs-everywhere/yrs-new-york-city

3. Come and support these young NYC coders and see what they come up with: email us info@youngrewiredstate.org to attend the show and tell on the afternoon of Sunday 30th June 2013

4. If you are representing government or a civic organization and have data or challenges to contribute, contact kait@rewiredstate.org to discuss

We know from experience that finding the founding 50 is a hard, hard thing to do. So the very best thing you can do is to work as a worldwide hive mind to identify the young people who would most benefit from this event and the lasting community it creates.

Museum of the Moving Image photos

Funding for this project was provided by The Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust. We have a small amount left to raise to cover travelling costs for the young people, so if you would like to sponsor the event you can contact me through this site http://mulqueeny.wordpress.com/contact-me/

Young Rewired State – an update

For any of you who are unaware of Young Rewired State, here is a video from this year’s Festival of Code

To date we have made it our focus to find and foster every child in the UK driven to teach themselves how to code; to support them through community and peer-to-peer learning, and introduce them to open data, primarily open government data. If you would like to read up more on what we do and why, here is a White Paper written by Dominic Falcao, a student at York University.

So we have come far in the last four years and as we enter our fifth year we really are going hyperlocal and global – as I mentioned in a previous post.

Since that post I have had some very great discussions with developer communities in several regions outside the UK, including Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Kenya and San Francisco – and the narrative has become more clear, why this is so important and how this very well could be the beginning of a game-changing, independent, worldwide community.

Let me explain…

The idea is to start as we did in 2009 in the UK with one weekend in a number of International regions. Find 50 local children, aged 18 or under, driven to teach themselves how to code, and introduce them to open government data in a traditional hack-style event. During these weekends these young programmers will be mentored by their local coding community, as they are in the UK, but as well, they are remotely supported by the worldwide members and mentors for YRS, through twitter hashtags and IRC channels.

If history can repeat itself over the following five years, each of these first 50 will continue to be mentored and add to their number, growing to 500 in five years, maybe more – and then becoming hyperlocal.

The dream is for a child in Berlin to find it completely usual to be supporting a child in New York, for example, with a local civic problem, or just in their learning. For them to grow up expecting and understanding open data and open borders. And almost more importantly to be forever a part of a worldwide community of like-minded people – never again coding alone.

The beauty of this network is that it is so local, we are working with established developer networks and organisations in all of the countries, and as these children become 19 they *typically* fold back into Young Rewired State as mentors. This is important as it creates a support network for teachers and educators worldwide that is so needed.

We work also in partnership with those organisations teaching young people to code, giving them somewhere to continue the learning through collaborative, peer-to-peer education that can scale according to talent and desire.

YRS Scotland

This weekend sees the very first of these hyperlocal events in the UK, with a group of young programmers in Scotland starting their YRS journey. You can follow the action and add your mentor support by following the hashtag: YRSSCO2012 on twitter.

I really do believe these children can actually change the world, and I am grateful to the huge community who have supported us in the UK and overseas to get to now.

We are run as a not-for-profit social enterprise. Here is how you can get involved

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