On September 22, CSUDH celebrated the official opening of the Snap Inc. Institute for Technology and Education (SITE), whose transformational mission is to make computer science an integral part of K-12 education in Los Angeles.
Housed within the CSUDH College of Education, SITE was made by possible by a $5 million gift from Snap Inc.—the largest single donation in CSUDH history—as well as the Computer Science for All (CSforALL) CSforED initiative.
Speaking at the launch, Snap Inc. public policy manager Jasson Crockett said that the glaring lack of diversity in tech was a catalyst for the historic gift.
“We wanted to do something meaningful beyond just cataloging the problem and its potential solutions,” Crockett said. “If we want more people of color to pursue careers in tech, we have to expose more youth to computer science early and make sure we’re training enough computer science teachers.”
Other event speakers included representatives from CSUDH and CSforAll, as well as College of Education alumna and 2020 LAUSD teacher of the year Rhiannon Chavez. Chavez, a restorative justice teacher at 186th Street Elementary School in Gardena, spoke with passion about how education rooted in community can transform students’ lives.
“Every single child needs an adult to love them, care about them, and root for them in every capacity,” she said. “We are a school that reaches out to the community because we love our students. Every child deserves that.”
Following the speeches, current liberal studies students demonstrated the live coding of robots—a computer science activity which they will be able to incorporate into their future classrooms.
“We want our preservice teachers and local students to have joyful, engaging, relevant computer science experiences that inspire their passions, connect to their interests, and show them that regardless of their future path, computer science is something anyone and everyone can do and connect with,” said SITE director Mike Karlin.
SITE has already begun engaging in a number of research, partnership, and curricular improvement activities. College of Education faculty have been integrating the California K-12 Computer Science standards into preservice teacher coursework.
SITE has also partnered with local school districts to better understand their computer science needs and to hold events for elementary school students and teachers.
In June, SITE was invited by the U.S. Department of Education and the International Society for Technology in Education to be part of a select group of colleges in support of their Digital Equity and Transformation network, where it will work to improve technology practices in preservice teacher education.
“There is a big divide in this nation, and it isn’t just political or racial. It is technological,” said CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham. “The Snap gift is so essential because it is an investment in the mission of bridging that gap by educating the next generation of students.”