One Tech at a Time Engaging Students and Teachers to Learn and work with more technology

A new space, new possibilities...

The Return of the Art/Engineering Wing

Balboa High School has a unique history in that they are highly connected and integrated with their alumni and community members. There is a clear sense of self and belonging for students, staff and community members. With the support of staff and alumni, Balboa recently re-obtained it’s old Art/Engineering wing after nearly 20 years. It has been formally renamed the Leonoudakis Center for Innovation and Design, named after alumni brothers who donated $80,000 to help fill some of our technology gaps in the classrooms. There is an effort now to address the technology access and equity needs of the school within this space.

After the space was returned, Balboa hosted a ribbon cutting event with alumni and the PTSA.

Our Equity Challenge

Balboa High School faces an equity challenge in closing the access gap for technology and engineering for our students of color, specifically African American, Latino, young women, and Newcomer students.

In 2014-2015 Game Design Academy graduating class, there were no students of African American descent, one Pacific Islander and only one female of Latino descent. In the 2015-2016 graduating class, there was one African American male and one African American female and seven Latino males and eight Latino females, three Polynesian females and one Polynesian male graduate. Although there was a growth in the 2015-2016 period of African American, Latino and Polynesians students in the pathway, the 2016-2017 period there are no African American nor Polynesian graduates, and the Latino graduating class is cut in half.

With our newly returned space, Balboa will have an opportunity to support and provide access to these groups. The lack of space has been a major constraint in being able to expand course offerings, sections, and develop suitable facilities for administering broader technology needs in a way that matches the standard offerings of a modern school facility.

In addition to addressing technology and engineering needs, the new art wing space will provide Balboa with an opportunity to develop other contemporary elective offerings that have not been available in past years, or were lost in the years that traditional vocational programs were de-funded and dismantled.

Out of the 789,000 workforce population in San Francisco, there are 116,000 Latinos in the workforce. The African American workforce population makes up less than half of the Latino population with 47,857 people. Both populations are balanced equally between males and females. The white workforce is well over 300,000 residents in San Francisco.

The National Science Foundation estimates only 28% of the STEM related workforce, in the US, is made up of females, according to numbers obtained in 2016. More specific to the Bay Area, Google released statistics in 2014 stating 70 percent of its employees are male.

Balboa Community at Dedication Ceremony


Along with addressing these gaps, our design work around this space would open opportunities to train and provide access and training in technology for teachers across all subject areas and Pathways. We envision the space as a hub allowing for the hosting of professional development opportunities, student centered entrepreneurship workshops, and CBO and business partner collaboration. With the appropriate facilities and resources envisioned we want to see an increase in hands-on Project Based Learning across Balboa.

It is projected that within 10 years that STEM related jobs will grow 30 percent in San Francisco. These jobs will attract out of town talent. Balboa would like to have its students prepared for these jobs and help provide a pipeline for access and gained skills to compete for STEM jobs in their home town.


Outcomes for Balboa’s new Leonoudakis Center for Innovation and Design space, would be to create a space where all students, especially our historically underrepresented students of color including our African-American, Latino, and Newcomer students, as well as our female students, can access technology and hands-on contemporary work-based skills, in the form of access through their classrooms, courses, after school programming, possibly hosted City College of San Francisco courses, and student-centered workshops and training series.

There has been efforts to increase awareness and interest in increasing numbers for the Game Design Academy. Last year, there was a “Day of Coding” event held by Missionbit, in which 35 students comprised of nearly half Latino and female students took part in a workshop to spark interest. All the students were 10th graders. In addition, there are now three more sections for Computer Science versus just one upperclassman section during the 2016-2017 school year.

A strongly desired outcome is for teachers is to increase their access to, and training in, technology and design thinking. This would benefit students as it would allow teachers to extend contemporary work and academic based skills into and across subject areas in their classrooms.

Overall, the goal is for all Balboa students and staff to have access and use of technology and innovation planning space in the center, through a facilitated access and scheduling process.

Staff and students were invited to the event and were offered an opportunity to make initial comments and suggestions to what can go into each space and room of the former Art Wing.

3D Printing/Laser Cutting/CNC Routers

After School Programming and Staffing

Woodshop, Screen Printing, and Fabrication

Broadcasting/Audio Recording/Video Production

A Flexible Multi-Purpose Presentation/Computer Cart Lab/ Student Lounge

Working with Partners in Community

Design Thinking/Entrepreneurship/Industry and Community Partner Collaboration Space

Enter the iLabs Innovation Grant Application/Awards

With the support and backing of the extended Balboa community, SFUSD Administration, and the Offices of College/Career Readiness, and Career Technical Education, we reached out and formed a team and filed our application to engage in the iLab Innovation's QTEA Grant process, and were excited to learn we were accepted and provided the space, mentorship, and time to engage thoughtfully around our equity challenge. Out of our first meetings, our team rolled up it's sleeves and got introduced to the iLab's unique equity centered approach to Design Thinking and Prototypoing. That evening we shaped the following original "How Might We...?" statement.

"How might we create a space to engage all students (with an emphasis on female, and black and brown studnets) and teachers to use technology and design thinking on a day to day basis?"

Empathy and Stakeholders

In this phase of our process we really tackled how as a team we would go about engaging all of our users/stakeholders. We spent time identifying who we wanted to talk to, what questions we would be asking, what form our interviews and surveying would take, as well as establishing a timeline for gathering and reviewing the information and data.

We divided up the tasks, with one group of us working to reach out to teachers and staff and invite them to a lunch time focus group discussion. We had ten participants share their stories about working with students, the challenges of learning with and incorporating technology into their courses and curriculum, and how a new space might be designed to support them in the future.

The other group of us spent time observing students in the library, after school program, and in the quad and cafeteria at lunch to see how students interacted, made personal or group use of technology, as well as how they sought to utilize shared, common space. Additionally, a group of students who reflected those identified in our "How Might We?" statement were personally invited to tour the new Leoundakis Center for Innovation and Design, and interview about how they thought the space would be of benefit to them, what kinds of opportunities and experiences they would like to see offered there.

In order to engage as many members of the Balboa Staff/Community as possible in the short window of time offered in the process, members of the Balboa iLab Design Team briefly presented and shared a presentation at an all staff meeting, and shared and reminded staff to complete the brief survey/questionnaire.

Outcomes, Measures, and New How Might We Statements

In this phase of the process our team met together at the iLab space and sorted through our surveys, interviews, and meeting notes to highlight our findings. We focused first on grouping our findings and identifying categories or relationships. With those grouped and labelled we all reflected and came up with insights that we shared with each other. In the final stretch of that evenings design thinking process we identified short/long term outcomes, measures, and several new "How Might We?" questions that were to guide us as we moved towards the brainstorming and initial prototyping stage.

Our Four New "How Might We?" Questions were:

  1. How might we create and engaging curriculum around integrating basic computer skills and interesting content?
  2. How might we create/design professional development opportunities for teachers of all subject areas that encourage them to incorporate more technology across the curriculum?
  3. How might we design a flexible space that responds to student needs?
  4. How might we expand our understanding of a wider range of student needs?

Brainstorming and Prototyping Development

Time Lapse of Brainstorming Session

Proposal Pitch: BALTech

Bal Tech Pilot Program

Building Teacher and Student Interest in Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Community

Revised "How Might We?" Statement :

"“How might we create a pilot program that engages interested teachers and students of color particularly Black, Brown and Females and build technological capacity?”

Design Principles:

  • Space that is both Individual & Collaborative
  • Students as Stewards
  • Ask for Feedback
  • Learn by Doing Model
  • User-generated model so that the space evolves with the users
  • Encourage discovery
  • Provide space to celebrate & showcase
  • Entrepreneurial

Other considerations that framed our planning:

  • Having a menu of technology options
  • Promotion/marketing
  • Sustainability
  • Peer to Peer learning
  • Being a part of something new and interesting at Balboa
  • Exploring, learning, and making
  • Showcasing what’s possible

BALTech Six Week Pilot Program

Selection Process

Individual Journey
  • Reach out specifically to student clubs, orgs, classes like BSU, Poly Club, Latino Students.
  • Advertise or showcase on Bal TV
  • Share information with PTSA
  • Ask teachers and counselors to recommend students
  • Complete Application include short bio, determine interests (checklist?)

Week One, Project Proposal

  • Orientation, Overview, Intro, Experiment, (explore Google curriculum on computational thinking and Digital Media Creation, look at variety of teacher and student projects, examples, etc..)
  • Defining Student and Teacher roles as BALTech Ambassadors in outreach and shaping next round of program.

Week Two, Tech Deep Dive

  • VR/AR/MR
  • Working with Virutal Reality, and/or 360 filmmaking/photo

Week Three, Prototyping

  • 3D Printing, Modeling, Keychain, Simple Objects, working with printers

Week Four, Refinement

  • Programming, Drag/Drop, Apps/Games, WebVR with AFrame

Week Five, Audience Feedback

  • Entrepreneurship, Design Thinking
  • Pitching Next Round of Program

Week Six, Presentation, Exhibition, and Promotion

  • (Adobe Spark tools)
  • Practice Presentations

Wrap Up Event

  • Present, Feedback and Develop Next Phase

Possible Obstacles and Solutions

General Obstacles:

  • How to build a simple, reusable curriculum
  • How to build a responsive and engaging curriculum

Possible Solutions:

  • Program/Curriculum – Look at and model or use existing successful curriculum from other programs.
  • Incorporate feedback and suggestions from pilot group into next six week round of program

Teacher Obstacles:

  • Interest, but no time
  • Value Proposition (why it is of benefit?)
  • Finding time in schedule
  • Challenge of consensus about what content to engage with
  • Identifying funding to continue beyond first round(s)

Possible Solutions

  • Teacher getting paid to get trained and then exploring
  • Connect teachers with additional resources and supports once trained or participating (mentors, equipment, recognition)

Student Obstacles:

  • Interest, but not following through, students leave mid way, or don’t return for second round
  • Time frame too short/too long
  • Lag time between identifying interests, needs, and requisition of resources
  • Student led projects SCOPE (Alexei??
  • Getting high level of products from students vs. an experience

Possible Solutions:

  • Incentivize with financial steps, stipend, and levels
  • Contract/Interview
  • High interest projects and additional opportunities (job placement)


Outcomes and Measures of Program

  • Increased interest and enrollment in existing Computer Science and Digital Media Courses at Balboa.
  • Increased teacher interest in access and training to work with technology across curriculum.
  • Increased visibility, awareness, and use of Leoundakis Center for Innovation and Design by teachers and students, for technology/design related learning and experiences.
  • Continued demand for programs like the BalTech Pilot and other after school programming.
  • Increased access and use of technology at basic and advanced levels for students who previously lacked access.

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