Announcing the April 22nd Community Technology Forum at Greater Southwest Development Corporation

The first Community Technology Forum, an event hosted in partnership with the Greater Southwest Development Corporation (GSDC), DePaul University, and Connect Chicago, will be on Saturday, April 22nd. GSDC, our local partner for this event, produces the Tech Thursdays workshop series and has been a featured speaker at Connect Chicago Meetups.

Event: Community Technology Forum hosted at the Greater Southwest Development Corporation

Date: Saturday, April 22, 2017

Time: 10am — 1pm

Location: 2601 W 63rd St.

A light breakfast will be served at the beginning of the event and lunch will be served toward the end of the event.

The Community Technology Forums are participatory design sessions aimed at understanding hyperlocal digital equity ideas, assets, and needs. Hosted in partnership with nonprofits and community anchor institutions in Chicago’s neighborhoods, these sessions will give residents an opportunity to articulate a vision for technology in their community. The forums will be facilitated by Professor Sheena Erete, Jessa Dickinson, and other community design experts at DePaul University.

Spread the word!

For all interested in spreading the word and putting this event information on emails and websites (please do!), copy and share the write-up below:

You’re Invited to a Community Technology Forum at the Greater Southwest Development Corporation!

When: Saturday, April 22, 2017 from 10am – 1pm

Where: 2601 W 63rd St.

What: Join community members and local advocates for a civic conversation about the technology in your neighborhood. What do you love about your community and what is working well? ¿Qué te gusta de tu comunidad? What technology resources do you use a lot and appreciate? ¿Qué recursos tecnológicos utiliza mucho y aprecia? You’re invited to share your ideas and help design solutions that leverage what works to improve what doesn’t. This Community Technology Forum is hosted at the Greater Southwest Development Corporation in partnership with DePaul University, the Smart Chicago Collaborative & Connect Chicago. Breakfast & lunch will be provided! Sign up for more information and RSVP at bit.ly/chitechforum1.

Here is the flyer for this meeting:

If you are interested in attending the April 22nd Community Technology Forum or would like to receive more information, please fill out this form also embedded below:
Fill out my online form.

Women in Tech Speakers Series

Co-authored by Kyla Williams and Derek Eder

Smart Chicago Collaborative and Chi Hack Night have teamed up to create a speaking series in celebration of Women’s History Month in an effort to elevate the talented, diverse women in civic-driven technology across Chicago.

Too often in the tech space we hear about what people do or what product they have made and less about their personal narratives. In this series, we encourage our speakers to share their stories as a transformative learning and inspirational opportunity.

Additionally, we acknowledge the lack of diversity in the civic tech community and believe that becoming more community-based with easier opportunities for engagement and gaining experience will spurn interest in the field and potentially serve as an economic solution to fill technology vacancies in Chicago.

This partnership is especially timely considering Smart Chicago is currently an all women team fighting the good fight on behalf of civic technology and engagement and Chi Hack Night has set a priority area of focus on diversifying its thriving developer community.

The Women in Tech Speakers Series will coincide with the four weekly Chi Hack Night events that occur on Tuesdays at Braintree in Merchandise Mart for the month of March.

Additionally, two community events will be held on Wednesday, March 29th in Homan Square and Thursday March 30th at the DuSable Museum.

It’s important to ensure we are not just highlighting women in technology and their respective stories, but also their roles within the field. Further, if we are going to influence a paradigm shift and draw more interest into the field, demystifying roles and types of opportunities is necessary. We are hopeful that we will be able to continue this partnership and related activities on an ongoing basis, as this is important work.

Event #1 – March 7th, 6pm

The Speaker Series kicks off tonight March 7th with special guest Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Braintree
222 W Merchandise Mart Plz, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP – sold out!

Event #2 – March 14th, 6pm

Next week will feature Sandee Kastrul, president and co-founder of i.c.stars, an innovative nonprofit leadership and technology training program founded in 1999 to prepare inner-city adults for technology careers and community leadership.

Braintree
222 W Merchandise Mart Plz,8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP

Event #3 – March 21st, 6pm

Our third event will feature Melissa Pierce, Director of “Born with Curiosity: The Story of Grace Murray Hopper”, an independent documentary about Grace Hopper, who in 1944, was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and invented the first compiler for a computer programming language.

Braintree
222 W Merchandise Mart Plz,8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP

Event #4 – March 28th

On Tuesday, March 28th, we will welcome Robin Robinson, a longtime Chicago television news anchor turned special advisor on community affairs for the Chicago Police Department. In her talk, Robin will discuss the role she has taken on and the work needed to rebuild trust between the Chicago Police Department and the communities it serves. We also welcome the Chicago Federation for Women as they share their Talk It Out initiative, a weeklong conversation series designed to spark understanding about gender bias and the ways it affects women and men.

Braintree
222 W Merchandise Mart Plz, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP

Event #5 – Creators & Founders: Women in Civic Tech

Wednesday, March 29th we will welcome a panel of creators and founders, with speakers Allyson Scrutchens of Forward Planning and Dima Elissa of VisMed-3D.              

Homan Square Community Center
3517 W. Arthington Street
Chicago, IL 60624

RSVP

Event #6 – Amplifiers of Community Voice: Women in Civic Tech

Thursday March 30th  we will welcome a panel of amplifiers of community voice with speakers Andrea Hart of City Bureau, Aviva Rosman of Ballot Ready, and Tiana Epps-Johnson of Center for Tech and Civic Life.

DuSable Museum-Auditorium
740 East 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637

RSVP

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating Women’s History Month and Chicago’s unique and amazing civic technology community. Here’s to Women’s History Month and fruitful partnerships!

 

Announcing the February Connect Chicago Meetup: Business Skills Meet Digital Skills

At the next Connect Chicago Meetup, we’ll be exploring cases in blending business and entrepreneurial skill development with digital skills instruction. We’ll be highlighting programming from Greater Southwest Development Corporation as well as Alliance Labs.

Event: Connect Chicago Meetup

Date: Friday, February 24, 2017

Time: 11am – 1pm

Place: Chicago Community Trust — 225 N Michigan Ave.

The Greater Southwest Development Corporation produces the TECH THURSDAYS Chicago workshop series with a collection of local partners. Participation in TECH THURSDAYS Chicago is free to Chicagoland business owners, entrepreneurs, start-ups, nonprofit organizations and their management teams. According to their website:

Following the September 2016 conference, TECH THURSDAYS 2016 continues with weekly and monthly business technology training sessions held in participating communities across the city through August 2017. Information regarding business development activities and opportunities is distributed to our members via email and available to the general public through our blog, Forum, MeetUp and LinkedIn Group.

You can read about our second guest, Alliance Labs, in this recent Built In Chicago article. They’ve adopted an apprenticeship model to mentor young people in digital communications. According to their website:

The school at The Alliance Labs is committed to creating opportunities for Chicago’s dedicated and talented youth who have overcome adversity and aspire to greatness and leadership through careers in technology. These future workers are given real-world employable skills that are practiced, challenged and perfected through the work our digital agency does for our valued clients.

Come meet and network with computer trainers, nonprofit professionals,  technologists, community advocates, and fellow residents who care about digital access & skills in Chicago. Please RSVP so we can get an accurate count for lunch. Thank you!

Here’s more information about these programs:

Special Speakers at this Meetup include:

  • Tina James of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation
  • Andrew Hicks and Jon Schickedanz from The Alliance Labs

The Connect Chicago Meetup is a monthly gathering of computer trainers, nonprofit professionals, and fellow residents who care about the digital lives of Chicagoans. In 2017, some will be held downtown and some will be held at community learning & nonprofit sites across the city. Email Denise Linn, Program Analyst at Smart Chicago, with any questions, concerns or ideas for future Meetups: dlinn@cct.org

 

Youth-Led Tech 2016 Innovations

 Youth-Led Tech 2016 is in the books, however the work that was done in partnership with the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center  (JTDC) and Nancy B. Jefferson School is still resonating. This being my first year with Smart Chicago and performing in my role as Youth-Led Tech Project Coordinator was everything I thought it would be; innovating, engaging, inspiring and fulfilling. We undertook a groundbreaking opportunity working with 50 youth students at JTDC. Over the course of several months and numerous meetings, Smart Chicago received the nod to present Youth-Led Tech at JTDC, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) granted approval for the Youth-Led Tech program to provide the .5 credits high school students needed towards their graduation requirement. JTDC residents without a high school diploma or GED are required to attend school during their stay.

Access and Skills

The JTDC program presented unique challenges due to the high security levels in the facility. These challenges were overcome with the development of a modulated curriculum on a closed platform which allowed the JTDC students to experience the technology training and develop their websites in a nearly identical format as the community students. The six week curriculum was modified to three weeks for this pilot to meet the specific needs of this population. During each of the three week sessions we served two cohorts of students.

Students who successfully completed the program were awarded certificates of completion at a graduation held in their honor where they presented their websites to proud family members, friends, JTDC staff members, and teachers. Similar to the community program youth were also provided with an earned learning incentive of keeping the laptop used during the program. Students completing the Youth-Led Tech program and are released on or before 12/31/2016, can contact Smart Chicago to retrieve the laptop and be formally connected to other programming as a recidivism prevention opportunity.

“Smart Chicago is committed to providing ongoing opportunities to support and connect our youth to services that will provide increase access to resources, especially those that touch tech in an effort to sustain and improve the quality of their lives. JTDC students, although currently involved in the juvenile justice, are bright, innovative, and full of potential. The Youth-Led Tech JTDC program pilot proved that if challenged to learn, make better decisions, increased access to technology and tools, and inspiring hope through redemptive opportunities, many of these youth have the ability to be positively contributing community members. We all should want that.” Kyla Williams, Interim Executive Director, Smart Chicago Collaborative

Creative Career Day

Along with the intensive technology training the students at JTDC/NBJ also participated in the 7th Annual Creative Career Day event. This event is a one day opportunity for the students to interact with the Arts and Culture community to visualize employment opportunities in those sectors. This year the event was expanded to include traditional and non-traditional business and tech occupations. Students had the privilege to hear from over 19 organizations and and interact with nearly 40 professionals.

The impact of both programs can be seen in the comments from the presenters as well as the students:

“…thanks so much for this wonderful opportunity to reach out to youth.  It is an important event and I look forward to next year.”  Dr. Lorri Glass, Governor’s State University

“I truly appreciate the opportunities this summer with your programs, they definitely made an impact on my life and I was honored. David Wilkins, RallyCap

“It was the best one ever!” “I could see myself doing that.” “The people had real stories about their life.” Student Comment

Statements like these are part of the reasons why Smart Chicago strives to innovate around solutions and make data driven decisions. Due to the noted success of the program, JTDC administration has requested programming for the Fall 2016/Winter 2017. Youth-Led Tech staff are currently working on a proposal to support meeting that request. 

Connect Chicago Digital Skills Road Map Working Group #1

On September 9th, Smart Chicago hosted the first meeting of Connect Chicago’s Digital Skills Road Map Working Group. Its purpose: to define and inventory “digital skills”, understand the taxonomy and ordering of these skills, and ultimately prescribe those skills to personal goals.

By design, this working group was about understanding skills leading to goals, rather than tools or programs. We loosely envision the result of our work as a “road map” or “framework” — something all programs and trainers in Chicago can eventually use to help create personalized learning pathways for those they serve.

img_8565

Here is the presentation and activities that we used to frame our initial conversation:

Background

The idea to form a working group stemmed out of conversations at the Connect Chicago Meetupa monthly convening of digital inclusion professionals and advocates. The Meetup and the Working Group benefit from a diverse collection of institutional perspectives: Chicago Public Library, Chicago Public Schools, Adler Planetarium, Microsoft Chicago, Columbia College, Literary Works, and Digital Youth Network, just to name a few. 

As working group members introduced ourselves to one another and shared our motivations for being in the room, several themes arose:

  1. Even before imparting skills and training, we need to work together to combat the relevancy barrier to broadband adoption — we should work to articulate the value of skills for education, workforce development, and employment
  2. In the continuum of digital skills, we can’t ignore literacy, hardware use, and basic typing
  3. It’s not just about the skills of individuals. Businesses need skill development and training  as well

We also recognized the great work that has laid a foundation for our understanding of digital skills in Chicago. We took inspiration from Mozilla Web Literacy — a useful framework for web literacy, or the skills needed to utilize the power of connectivity. We ultimately interpreted our set of skills to be broader that those in the Web Literacy framework, including offline computer tasks as well. We also sought to organize skills and learning paths by common goals, rather than just skill categories or levels of difficulty.

Another resource that played into our conversation were the results from CUTGroup #21 — focus groups on digital learning opportunities in Chicago conducted at the end of 2015. One of the biggest takeaways from those focus groups was that curricula, programs, and classes should be framed in terms of learners’ motivations — their economic, professions, civic, personal goals driving them to learn more about technology.

Defining “Digital Skills”

During the first session of the Working Group focused on “Activity #1: Defining Digital Skills.” We saw this as a crucial, foundation task — a way for all of us to check our assumptions, get on the same page about what we are “mapping,” and standardize language across our organizations.

digital-skills-road-map-working-group-1

 

We broke out into groups to tackle these questions. Below are the notes from those breakout groups:

img_8560

Notes from Breakout Group 1. They took an excellent inventory of foundational skills.

img_8572

Notes from Breakout Group 2. Note the “four pillars” of digital skills that they used to frame their conversation.

img_8558

Notes from Breakout Group 3. This group checked assumptions, debating the appropriate language to describe the skills and “literacy” the working group was grappling with.

Here are several memorable takeaways from Activity 1:

  • Our target “starting point” for digital skills is many steps before opening a browser — knowing about hardware, parts of a device, which devices are best, and conceptually what technology and connectivity can do to improve your life, were all mentioned as foundational steps
  • “Digital Literacy” was discussed as a benchmark (vs. “digital skills” which is a spectrum). As a benchmark, digital literacy seemed to represent the point where a learner was (1) interested or invested in learning (2) confident to take next steps in learning (3) knew what there was to learn and (4) was familiar with the basic language of technology. In this way, “digital literacy” mirrored the idea of traditional literacy, where, at a certain level of skill a reader was literate enough to read and learn how to read better or even teach themselves how to read better.
  • Our target “ending point” is creation/design — when a learner not only is competent in consuming information through technology, but is also building new (and relevant/useful) things with images, code, video, etc.
  • There are still issues with common language in our field. We discussed and debated the merits of terms: digital skills vs. computer skills vs. technology skills. None seemed to accurately capture the 21st Century collection of skills we were attempting to map. This will certainly be a topic we revisit.

At later meetings we will build on this conversation, categorizing skills, and assigning skills to commons learners’ goals. Attaching goals to skills will be a key step of the work. See Activities 2-4 on the Working Group’s slides for more information. Here is a link to the notes from the first meeting of the Working Group. 

The Digital Skills Road Map Working Group is just one dynamic piece of Connect Chicago — a cross-sector, civic leadership initiative that seeks to make Chicago the most digitally skilled, connected, and dynamic city in America. You can read about the launch of Connect Chicago in this blog post, a learn more about our progress in 2016 in this post and in this post

Thank you to all of the people and institutions that made this first convening so fruitful! We look forward to co-building more ecosystem solutions with members of the Connect Chicago community. If you would like to get involved or if you have an idea for another working group, email me at dlinn@cct.org.

 

 

Announcing the September 2016 Connect Chicago Meetup: Connectivity, Training & Resources in Public Housing

chalogoAt the next Connect Chicago Meetup, we’ll be learning about the new connectivity, training, and device programs available at Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) sites. This will be our first off-site Connect Chicago Meetup where, in addition to learning from peers and partners in the digital equity field, we will also see Chicago’s learning spaces in person! New programs and resources for public housing residents will be showcased and Meetup attendees will get to learn more about CHA computer labs and the work of CHA digital literacy trainers.

Event: Connectivity, Training & Resources in Public Housing

Where: Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center — 4859 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL

When: Friday, September 30th from 11am to 1pm (lunch will be served)

Come meet and network with computer trainers, nonprofit professionals,  technologists, and fellow residents who care about digital access & skills in Chicago. Please RSVP here so we can get an accurate count for lunch. Thank you!

Here’s more information about the new developments and programs supporting public housing residents:

The Meetup will feature speakers from Comcast, the Chicago Housing Authority, and the Digital Youth Network.

The Connect Chicago Meetup is a monthly gathering of computer trainers, nonprofit professionals, and fellow residents who care about the digital lives of Chicagoans. Email Denise Linn, Program Analyst at Smart Chicago, with any questions, concerns or ideas: dlinn@cct.org