This week we’re dedicating the Atlassian Blog to stories about teams coming together to change the world for the better. You’ll hear stories from Atlassian employees, partners, and customers, all reaffirming that giving back to your community is both the smart and the right thing to do. Everyone wins.
I have a son and a daughter attending public school in Sydney. As an Aussie transplant having grown up in Czechoslovakia, when I moved to Australia, I wanted to learn as much about the Australian education system as I could to try and understand how it is preparing my kids for life in the 21st century. And in my research I identified an important skill set that was missing from public education: computer science.
And I’m not the only person to notice the growing importance of technical skills in our world today. Technology has changed all of our lives at a fundamental level, and at a speed not seen by any other advancement before it. Tech companies have added billions to the economy, creating products that are used around the globe. These companies are shaping the future of how we live, work, and relate to each other.
But the reality is that our education system hasn’t really caught up to the break-neck speed of the technological changes we are experiencing. While computer science education is available on an individual basis through online classes and summer camps, it is only just becoming required curriculum at the national level. Schools realize the need to teach these skills, but they’re struggling to get started.
And then I thought of my workplace at Atlassian. As a technology company, we are literally bursting with computer science talent. I started to wonder what it would be like to bring the knowledge that we have to schools and teach kids the basics of computer science skills.
Teaming up for education
I started by rallying up my colleagues in the Sydney office who were passionate about this subject too, and we launched a grassroots program in concert with local Syndey schools. The response was astounding. In the first 24 hours of launching the program, over 7,000 kids from Sydney schools were signed up for the program. We realized we needed to quickly recruit other Atlassians in order to serve the needs of the schools and students clamoring for computer science classes.
With the help of the curriculum from CS first, we started sending Atlassian employees into schools for an hour a week over the course of 8 weeks to teach computer science. Because of Atlassian’s pledge to donate 1% of employee time to volunteering and community involvement, it was easy to find people who had the time and passion to volunteer in local schools. The kids loved the classes, and it’s been a very enriching experience for all of our Atlassian volunteers.
Teaming up with teachers
While we were teaching computer science to local Sydney school kids, we noticed that the teachers started to get interested in these topics, too. What began as a resistance to, or even fear of, technology, turned into knowledge and excitement from teachers who were presiding over these classrooms. It then dawned on us that by training up teachers, we could reach far more students with computer science education, and extend our impact far beyond the limits of the a single computer science classroom. Based on this, we started a training class for local Syndey teachers and we’ve now trained over 100 teachers in CS First.
It’s been so rewarding to see teachers who previously knew very little about computer science acquire their skills through our training and actually relish being able to teach computer science in their classrooms on their own. If you think about the impact of one teacher over the course of their career, they have the capacity to reach thousands and thousands of students with computer science education.
Where we are today
Now, just 10 months later, we have over 100 Atlassian volunteers in the Sydney office that have reached over 1,400 students with computer science education. Teaming up for education together has not only benefitted our local communities, and ourselves, but made us a stronger and more committed team in the office, too. The camaraderie among us volunteers is palpable, and we have a lot of fun comparing notes and stories from within the classroom. For many volunteers who deal with technology all day long, it’s great for them to be able to share their skills with the next generation, and hopefully, future computer science professionals who will create great things.
Throughout October, tweet a photo of you and your team volunteering with the hashtag #TeamUp4Good to show the world all the different ways teams can make a difference. Be sure to @mention the organization you’re volunteering with, too – we’ll RT to give them some extra exposure. And if you’re going to #AtlassianSummit, present your #TeamUp4Good post at the Swag Store and receive a special token of appreciation.