Presentation: Holistic EdTech & Diversity

Track: Socially Conscious Software

Location: Pacific BC

Duration: 11:50am - 12:40pm

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What You’ll Learn

  1. Hear how Unlock Academy helps disadvantaged people learn how to code.
  2. Learn how to get involved in helping others learn to code in closing the diversity gap.


Software has become one of the most relied upon problem-solving tools. But like any tool, it's only as good as the problem solver. Antoine believes we need people who are experiencing life-altering problems (i.e., health, poverty, famines, mass incarceration, literacy, bullying, etc.) to help solve them. But of course, there needs to be a conscious effort to provide them with the tools and education needed to solve their own problems. This means we need to meet people where they are ethically, geographically, financially and most important, linguistically. 

Antoine will discuss how he is leveraging his unique experiences to help solve the problems of people with similar experiences.


What is the work that you're doing today?


The simplest way to talk about it is in terms of empowerment, helping people get to the next level in their life by empowering them. I started off trying to educate people and I thought it was all about education and providing expert knowledge to individuals. I thought that would be the end of it and we’d be happy people. But technology in itself has been built up so big in a lot of people's minds they just feel they can't do it. The intimidation is heavy. It stops people from entering the tech industry even though they're fascinated by it and love the applications that are built by programmers. So I started thinking: how do we empower people to get over their fear and give it a shot? Then give them a great experience with a down to earth teaching, remove the unnecessary jargon and make it self-paced. Not like in a tight semester where you have a deadline. I wanted to make people feel free and comfortable and also have access to a community of people growing with them at the same time. I wanted to bring a holistic approach to edTech.


What is the holistic approach doing for the learning process?


It has truly boosted the morale. It gets our students way more excited because they put themselves first in the process. They don't look at code first or computers first, they look at themselves and say, Do I have a structure to my learning habits? Do I have an accountability partner? Do I have a deadline in place for when I want to hit my next goal? I'm just trying to help them get it mastered in their mind first before they sit in front of a computer, and make them feel confident that way. When it does get challenging, at least they still have their confidence to hold them up and keep them going forward.


What are your goals for the talk?


I know quite obviously there is a lot of talk in every industry about diversity and especially the tech industry. I know a lot of people want to see diversity but there are so many different factors. And of course, access to education is one of those big factors. We've done something pretty cool by lowering the bar as far as how much it costs to get a really sound education and sound support system as well as career development services. But I think it would just be really cool if these companies who are looking to be more diverse would get more involved with the education process, more hands-on. A lot of companies are like “Hey, we're looking for a Latino woman who is great at coding. That's what we need on our team. We really want that perspective. We really want what she's good at. But how do we find that person specifically? It would be cool if they partner with Unlock Academy, and say, this is how we can do it, we can help train the next wave of engineers. The next wave of coders, we can provide them with the tools and the access, because there's a huge demand for coders but just not enough people learning those skills and taking those roles.


What would you want them to walk away with?


A couple of different things. One, maybe doing some tutoring and giving back. We have a lot of tutors in our community. I'm one of the main teachers, but at the same time, we have over a dozen different programmers who are also in our Slack group. They answer questions for them, they challenge them, they provide different resources to them. It's a good positive community. That is powerful in itself. We can get more people who are established in the industry, who have been coding, who've been in the tech industry from product management or Scrum Master, whatever it may be. If you can bring that experience back to your community or back to communities who aren't getting access to this knowledge, we wouldn't have a big diversity problem because the tools would be in more people's hands. I invite people to do what we did and put some of our energy towards education. I used to just do software development, but now I practice the balance of me actually coding and me teaching about coding. Hopefully, I can inspire other people to do the same thing.


What are the tools and what is the type of education for making this change possible?


One tool that we use that's really helpful is called Usually, some people have a basic laptop like a Chromebook. And sometimes they don't have access to a computer at all, so they have to go to a library. In either case, they're not able to download software to the library computer or the most Chromebooks. allows the students to code in a browser. It's a free tool. And powerful and community-driven. It just took someone like me to say, here's how you're going to access your coding content and how you're going to practice how to code, even though you're going to the library, it is still a way for you to go to the library, learn how to code, save your projects and you'll be able to grow as a developer. Providing different tools like that or even unused computers can go a long way. A lot of companies and programmers have access to a bunch of old computers that can still be used by other people. All in all, there are many ways that the larger tech community can help usher in the next wave of computer scientists. 

Speaker: Antoine Patton

Holistic Tech Coach @unlockacademy

Antoine Patton was incarcerated at age 20 for 8 years. While in prison, he learned to code and taught his daughter after his release. They collaborated to build an app that allows families to freely send photos to their incarcerated loved ones -- Photo Patch. Since coming home from prison 4 years ago, Antoine has become a prolific entrepreneur, software engineer, and published author. He has vowed to "pay it forward" and teach 2020 Black and Brown people to code by the year 2020. He launched Unlock Academy, an online learning platform and community to do so.

Find Antoine Patton at