We recently participated in a story published by the Wall Street Journal (and additional sources) that put a spotlight on one of our very talented mentors at kidOYO. In the story, Bo Feng, an international student from China who has been here in the United States attending Stony Brook University, studying computer science, is profiled as one of the many people seeking to attain an H1b Visa to stay in the US now that he is in possession of a Masters of Science degree, and has become a very powerful resource within the rapidly expanding learning communities that kidOYO produces, organizes and helps manage. That Bo is an exceptional talent is obvious to his local peers, but in the context of the story that the Wall Street Journal initiated, what is most valuable about Bo's presence in the US is best explained through every other participant in kidOYO.
That kidOYO is unique in its activities is only obvious once you are participating on the inside of our community. *Inside and outside* are concepts at kidOYO that take on tremendous meaning and convey values in different ways based on how one is organized around the "inside" "outside" concept of data and participation in Society.
Digital literacy is low in Society generally, and functional literacy is an advantage when smartly utilized or exploited. *Inside* of kidOYO begins with a love for open source, for respect-based sharing relationships based on mutual value of exchange, for personal ownership structures and opportunities, for well-written and well-conceived code, and for leverage... personal indie-leverage, the kind that people own as Individual people while connected to others in equal possession of self.
Owning your own capabilities in this life requires effort. *Free* is an illusion unless you can sustain it personally.. receiving fish rather than learning how to fish is a recipe for self-depletion. Failure is only valued when it is on a path of learning, and provides evidentiary feedback about past actions, behaviors, and forward-moving intent. Learning at kidOYO means learning how to live your life as a personal owner, structurally and per opportunity. Learning is the first open opportunity of life itself. Your personal "Sovereign Right" to learn requires no administration by any bureaucratic system, and it belongs to every baby human. No guarantee anyone will do it right, or optimally, but it is our inborn power to learn that serves as the basis for every Human Right, as well as every story of greatness that our species has ever given witness to.
In this light, kidOYO begins as simply an idea shared by a father and mother with a son. It represents the foundation of participation in learning, with guided exploration of any and every experience deemed interesting and available. Learning to code at kidOYO is an obvious extension of the early learning process. Building machines that utilize our structured thoughts, and provide access to extra-sensory capabilities is an amazing opportunity in the world. Symbols that express meaning written in black ink on white paper can be hung before captive alert babies starting at two weeks of age. Symbols with powerful meaning embedded that one day can be interacted with meaningfully, with a native familiarity of their existence. Knowledge-bridges written in code, given to young minds as methods of enhancing local learning possibilities at young ages. This is one great opportunity of our time.
Our origin story at kidOYO starts with a question:
"What is the earliest age at which a child can be influenced by entrepreneurial thought, personal creativity and skill development?"
Entrepreneurial thought is not only the public benefit mission of the 501(c)(3) non-profit engine that sustains our efforts at kidOYO, it is defined by us as the ability to produce any outcome deemed valuable while starting with little to no resources other than self. Self + coding skills has an infinite gain of potential value, and is easy to engage in simple ways from birth++, but entrepreneurial thought is more complex... when it begins, and how it begins must be nurtured based on Individual feedback loops.
At age 3, jokingly when *most* kids stop eating the money, and in tandem with an interest in cartoon-style storytelling, entrepreneurial thought finds its initial playground. Depending on local constraints, backyard chicken farming, worm farming, and comic book story production became immediately interesting at kidOYO. Programming robots and computer games showed up next by student-led interest. Telling stories becomes the fundamental creative act that binds memories and experiences together, allowing for self-reflection by kids on a timeline corresponding to maturity that is absent from most people's lives in the aging past.
At age 5-6, social learning begins at kidOYO... based on a root interest in game development, robots, Lego blocks and Minecraft, in 2010 we set off to meet some new friends. We setup in community spaces, libraries, schools, Universities, corporate offices and board rooms, National Laboratories, virtual worlds, and Government facilities... interacting with people that wanted to learn what we were doing and participate in some way. We traveled within some interesting communities.
At age 8-10, kidOYO started producing learning resources and events targeted at kid-defined interests with the intent of gaining self-driven skills that were useful in a computational literacy context. This sentence is exactly accurate... volunteer mentors were now being asked to be accountable to the learning process of kids, to be available on a consistent schedule, and to invent learning with kids using skills in computer science, engineering, and digital data to produce the results. This is the collision that kidOYO aims to empower.
Mentors and students, parents and administrators, Individuals playing functional roles aimed at a purpose we call 'OYO'... the personal ownership of every beginning, and the ability to self-express how personal ownership gets transacted in relationships with others. Open source, closed source, civic good, commercial gain, sole-proprietors, partnerships, copyright, copyleft, choices all engaged by people young and old as Individuals within a learning process.
As Field General, Chief Dad, "class Dad", lead Volunteer, lead Mentor, Dev, Founder and intellectual property originator of kidOYO®, I am the default guarantor that my son and his peers will have access to a learning model that gives respect and precedence to self-possession in every regard. Both data and self-regard will find harmony with the principles that owning your own choices enables. But the learning process requires failure tolerance, and without it, can not truly achieve the foundational requirements of OYO infrastructure. Network-based opportunities are scaling massively, and literacy requires that we endeavor to be the most effective participants as possible in this new world "system".
When new mentors arrive on the scene, they can come through any number of communities that we have grown since our founding in 2006. FredxCoders.com was one of our early efforts that persists to this day, and helps influence our efforts in rural Virginia schools with the leaders that want to enable progression-based learning possibilities in their classrooms using their own teachers along with our talented mentors. It represents a quiet but powerful model of bringing capabilities to our rural areas that are not readily available based on workforce capabilities currently. Mentors working with kidOYO gain access to the talents of other mentors across a wide range of interests, and this increases skills in all of the Individuals within our community.
Teachers and schools are now accessing this model of capability-sharing, empowering their own local work in the classrooms they run, while providing open-ended learning possibilities for their students who access talents not present in every classroom. When mentors of great talent join our distributed learning communities, the whole of our network is empowered. This heterarchical model, rather than hierarchical, distributes empowerment broadly through our communities. Personal ownership + mentor-sharing has yielded a learning community like no other I am aware of... much more engaging and powerful than most claiming large numbers of users as centralized services.
A kidOYO mentor is an impressive person. It starts the same way for all of them, they volunteer. As they build learning opportunities, they learn. As they are asked to communicate, they learn. As they write code and build physical computing machines, they learn. This learning is shared, and engaged by hungry young minds, who give learning back and ask for more possibilities. These ideas turn into projects and prototypes, and well-formed questions... and mentors transition into developers working on projects they own that other students will engage in the same manner, as learning opportunities to build their own tools. When an exceptionally talented mentor like Bo Feng shows up in a learning community, the effect is realized by all participants. The capabilities of all participants are raised to a new level. Mentors gain access to skills they did not have access to before. New opportunities are created for local people who then go to work with other organizations, corporations, Governments, National Labs and more. And these enhanced skills get passed into our larger regional community where work is done, and Society is made. This is how America is improved, slow and steady... deliberately.
KidOYO will continue to produce fantastic learning opportunities for its communities because we are constantly taking in new mentors. I processed 6 new requests this morning alone. As a developer capable of building an International toy manufacturing, shipping and retail sales concern from the middle of Bumpass, Virginia, I have no doubt in my own ability to work with people from anywhere, spread out all over the world. When I went to college at George Mason University to study Japanese Business Management & Entrepreneurship, I fell in love with cultures different than my own, and the idea that personal ownership is the foundation of American liberty. I remain enthralled by these to this day, and I would like to see some of the weakness in my country's systems of education, labor, immigration, identity and data administration be resolved by the capabilities of the mentors I work with from all parts of the world. Bo Feng represents the best of these, and that is why it is important enough that the Wall Street Journal cover his story. Bringing people like Bo into our country is how we empower our own people. Bo directly conveys the idea of representing exceptional talent and making exceptional contributions, so that local Americans can produce better work and find better opportunities for themselves.
In less than 20 days, kidOYO's initial class of students, now in 6th-9th grade, will take the AP Computer Science A test for 2017. This group of 9 students self-selected this path based on their own learning choices engaging the Java programming language, and their belief in their mentors they are learning computer science principles from. These mentors teach, explain, repeat, build, test, interrogate, challenge and guide the students on this learning path, and each one is empowered by the others present in the room. Most are studying computer science at the University level, putting up 3.2-4.0 GPA's in the process. Many participate in hackathons, and some are building their own projects with entrepreneurial aspirations, as are many of our students who already earn real $money$ from the skills they build with kidOYO.
As a result of the full process of public benefit, education, immigration, opportunity, commerce, labor, and data being created within kidOYO, and the expansive relationships taking shape across New York currently, we are extremely excited for the months and years ahead. Additionally, we want to find some productive air within our overly-sensationalized media-based world to talk out loud about how our systems ought to work, how they can work for more people's benefit, and how they are working at the leading edge where young people are learning how to build the future they own personally.
Talented people matter a great deal, and our country needs to do everything in its power to attract more talented people to our shores. The benefit of doing so needs to be accessible to all Americans, and all regions of America, rather than only its technological hubs, for our opportunities and problems that persist at the edges of Society can only be resolved when capabilities reach those edges.
Here, as in most things, methods matter.
kidOYO is a method, and talented people thrive within our communities from all over the world.