Our mission

To reduce global income inequality by improving educational systems.

See our complete mission and values.

The team

Our team consists of two teachers with over 20 years of combined teaching experience, a veteran database and back end developer, and a skilled designer and front end developer. Together, we have the skills and tenacity to accomplish our ambitious goal.

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Mike Lynch

Education & Outreach

  mike@blackbird.school

Background

I was a high school classroom teacher for 8 years before joining Blackbird School. My academic background is in the sciences, and as a teacher, I focused intently on equitable teaching practices for students in the public-school setting.

As a new programmer, I enjoy the challenge of translating new skills into meaningful learning experiences for others.

Why I'm here

All learners deserve the opportunity to develop relevant and meaningful skills. Blackbird School is developing the type of learning platform that makes it possible for people from all types of backgrounds to learn to program.

At play

I love to explore the outdoors with my partner on camping and backpacking trips. I also like to play board games and make delicious food with friends!

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Rachel White

Outreach Specialist

  rachel@blackbird.school

Background

I taught English for three years to underprivileged high school students, focusing on helping students develop a love of both learning and reading. I co-wrote a grant that developed an interdisciplinary curriculum that would assist with preparing high school students for a technology-based workplace.

Additionally, I was a Director of Education and Teacher for Sylvan Learning Centers, where I helped develop learning programs targeting the students' demonstrated skill gaps. I have taught skills ranging from algebra, English, and SAT/ACT Prep.

Why I'm here

Blackbird School develops skill, interest, and success in programing that is crucial to underrepresented students. With Blackbird School, we can help students establish a base of skills that can lead them into high demand careers.

I love the idea that Blackbird School has the potential to democratize access to the tech field. Most importantly, Blackbird School is a curriculum that fosters student success. As students progress through the curriculum, their successes form the basis for development of true self esteem. This impacts all aspects of a student life--ultimately, students will make more positive life choices when they have developed a healthy sense of self-worth and a feeling that if they try, they can succeed.

At play

When I'm not at work, I like to spend time with my children, read, and shoot pool. I also enjoy the great outdoors and singing ABBA songs at the top of my lungs.

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Ness Blackbird

President & Cofounder

  ness@blackbird.school

Background

I had a very hard time in elementary school but then a transformative learning experience at the Lehman Alternative School middle school through high school.

In college, I studied programming, feminism, dance, Buddhism, and ethics of science at Wesleyan, but didn't finish my degree there. I left school to learn more about the world, later settling in the Northwest and completing my bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology.

After a brief practice in therapy, I pursued programming. After some misadventures in the corporate world, where I don’t belong, I started a consulting business; this eventually led to the launch, in 2006, of Arts People, which supports nonprofit performing arts groups selling tickets and managing data.

My wife Heather is now CEO of Arts People, and in 2015, I started work on Blackbird School.

Why I'm here

When I started to teach my kids to program I could only find online tools that taught "algorithmic thinking" but not actual programming, or which taught programming in a very non-intuitive way. When the kids were done with the excellent Hour of Code, I couldn’t find anything that could really help me teach them; so in 2015, I decided to build my own.

I want to make programming accessible to everyone by making it easier to learn. This requires combining educational expertise with programming expertise, and so I set about building a team that could bridge that gap.

For me, a good tool for teaching programming needs a friendly debugger, helpful error messages, and an easy-to-use, properly structured curriculum that emphasizes practice, preferably by writing games.

At play

I'm on the autism spectrum and I have some difficulty with human relationships. I enjoy cooking and baking cakes for friends and family, playing soccer, and backpacking with my four children in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

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Bjorn Hansen

Developer & Cofounder

  bjorn@blackbird.school

Background

I graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 2015 with a degree in economics. After dabbling in falconry and audio production, I took an interest in coding. Since becoming part of Blackbird School in 2016, I've been figuring out how to best teach coding to others.

Why I'm here

I understand how powerful online learning tools can be. I think our application can take this technology to the next level.

I'm motivated by the prospect of making education more accessible and breaking down barriers that have discouraged learners in the past, whether technological or cultural.

At play

I enjoy spending time outdoors, building things, and making music.

Advisory board

A big thank you to these wonderful folks for their thoughtful input.

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Heather Blackbird

Background

I never liked school. I was always really shy and never got very good grades. But sometime in high school I discovered photography and experimental film and poetry and I really changed. The world of art opened my mind.

I studied filmmaking at The Evergreen State College and then moved to San Francisco to pursue a Master’s in documentary filmmaking but got very distracted with life. I didn’t come back to school until the late 90’s when I went to Portland State for a Master’s in English and discovered the power of writing and teaching writing and how it could help empower people to share their ideas with the world by unlocking their words. I taught writing at the community college level for some years before starting a family and starting Arts People with Ness.

Why I'm here

As CEO at Arts People and a non-technical person in a technical field, I have experienced first-hand how alienating it can be to not speak the technical language of those around you. I have also seen smart people become frustrated in learning situations where they could have succeeded with the right tool and patience.

I believe the tech industry will be hugely improved by adding new minds and voices that have been excluded due to barriers to learning tech. In order to break down those barriers we need to improve the teaching tools so more people can learn to code and learn how to communicate with those currently dominating the field. I see Blackbird School as playing an important role in this shift.

At play

I love to work at Arts People with a wonderful crew making a great product and great place to work. I love consulting with the team at Blackbird School and watching it evolve into something big and accessible.

I love to hang out with my family and read and watch movies and contemplate ideas for new companies that would help people and the planet.

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Carolyn Knox

Background

I received a PhD in Technology and Learning and a Master's Degree in Computer Science Education in the 1990s. My research and teaching spanned 30 years of programming, constructivist learning, and federally funded research and development projects to create and test digital support for diverse learners in the classroom.

Why I'm here

Programming fits perfectly into well-established constructivist and project-based educational practices. Blackbird School's much needed online teaching tool allows students and teachers to program and debug within an expert advising system. The testing and development of this tool will substantially support teachers at the secondary and perhaps post-secondary levels create a student-centered/teacher-coached project-based learning environment.

At play

I like to garden in sunny Eugene and work on my land near Yachats, Oregon at the coast.

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Scott Robison

Background

After completing my Ph.D. in Instructional Technology at Ohio University, I was Director of Distance Education and Online Resources at Ohio University, Director of Learning Technologies and Online Education at Plymouth State University, and most recently the Co-Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Plymouth State University.

I'm very interested in how technology can be used to expand access to education and enhance teaching and learning experiences. I'm also very interested in Open Education practices and the transformative role they can play in education.

Why I'm here

Computer literacy including computer coding literacy is an important competency for anyone living in an increasingly digital society. Blackbird School provides people access to a platform that facilitates active learning with a very unique feedback system that really helps learners work through coding process and with the problems they may run into along the way.

At play

When I have free time, I like to be out on my bike as much as possible!

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Marshall Cohen

Background

I’ve been a professor of Mathematics since 1967, teaching at Cornell University until I retired in 2003. Since then I’ve been a Visiting Professor at Morgan State University, a historically Black college in Maryland.

Why I'm here

Blackbird School is of great importance because it teaches basic programming in a really supportive way to people who have no background. You don't have to have a programming background or advantages to get into coding. The Blackbird School breaks down walls.

It takes great expertise and caring on the part of the staff for the Blackbird School to create this course.

At play

What I enjoy, still, at the end of a career is this:

  • Getting to know, advise and teach students.
  • Learning mathematics and proving theorems; and writing and explaining it.
  • Getting to know people and hear their stories; especially my grandchildren but just people in general.
  • Reading fiction.
  • Playing chess with Ness Blackbird!