Debra Duncan

Had a fun day watching the filming by Great Day Houston.

While J.J. Zavalla the Producer was capturing footage, I had an opportunity to chat with Debra Duncan. One takeaway was the suggestion of laying water lines when the oil companies laid pipe lines.  My 12 grade grandson Gage knew her son from the after school program at Idea Lab where he learned to code Mindcraft.


Once in every 17 years … Is the time now? Is there a paradigm shift in caring?  How bad is it behind the current?  How do we scale teachers with wisdom that are put out to pasture?  How can we build wars that bring joy? Questions that are inspired on Sunday Mornings.

Answers that inspire me to keep on my pathway of public education policy. So what did I do? I signed up to be selected to be on the Texas SBOE TEKS K-8 Technology Application review work group. Why I am asked? Answer, because I can. I am the only person in the state of Texas that has the experience and history. I tried to integrate CS / CT in 2010 as a member of the TA TEKS writing team, but alas my ideas were not used. That was when my grandson was in first grade in SBISD. I now have future sixth and kindergarten grandchildren and have to step up and do my part.

Time for some data visualization …  Inventors are always testing” – Innovation Nation.  It is not testing in schools that needs to go away, it is the way students are tested.  Take flight with a sine wave.  Mission Unstoppable … We can solve it together!!!  As together is better!!!!  We need more counselors and librarians who can build teams to solve for tomorrow.  What does it take to be part of the party? Solution – the universal language of food. Be an architect for the future. Be a builder of Housing for All.  Create a curiosity driven research and collaboration system of education for our future.   Oh, the places we will go with lessons learned.


AiC Mentor Circles

“A violin contains 70 different pieces of wood.”

Adriana Lopez Cajigas

NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC) Awards 2021 Mentor Circles
Please read our Houston Awardees Biographies to learn about their aspirations.

What is in your GARDEN of action?
dreams – stories – parents – inspiration

I thinkin circles.

    • Are you a linear or circular thinker?
    • Do you connect by centering or looping?
    • What is your challenge? What sparks your fire to take action?
      1. Health
      2. Environment
      3. Education
      4. Public Policy
      5. Social
      6. Economic
      7. Cyber Security  – AI & ML
      8. Collegiate
      9. Unicef CFCI – Children Friendly City Ambassadors
        1. Promoting Education Across the Country (PEAC) Ideathon


NCWIT Aspirations in Computing AiC Mentor Expectations

AiC Award Event:

This is the story of my life.  What is yours?

Do you see TedE sitting in the chair?



Efficiency …

Asked my 5 year old granddaughter what that means after telling her the story of why I was stopping to buy gas on the way home from picking her up at her pre-K class.  We broke the word into parts so she could say it.  She said Oh, it is “fish in the ocean.”

I explained it is doing things to save time safely. I said sometimes when we rush we make mistakes, and that ends up taking more time.  Ever type the wrong password? After more discussion, I think she understood the need to research and plan.  Gee … that is what I have been teaching in my computer science, math and CTE classes since 1985 – the systems model, inputs -outputs – quality control.

Efficiency signifies a peak level of performance that uses the least amount of inputs to achieve the highest amount of output. Efficiency requires reducing the number of unnecessary resources used to produce a given output.  This includes personal time and other limited resources.The Bees Care and need your help!


The move of computer science to CTE is like Brexit.  CTE coordinators are making decisions impacting the successful classroom economy that teachers have built over decades.  In this age of AI and Cyber Security needs it is no time to kill the spirit of teachers.  Vicky one of our AiC Teachers of the Year and sponsor of a National AiC winner said this:  “I quit, I quit … I am retiring.”  One of the students in the Girls Who Code Digital Tech Conference asked, “How can we help our teachers keep the course they want to teach?  Seems the CTE coordinators have eliminated CSIII as a choice. To leave no child behind, you first have to leave no teacher behind!

In preparing for a Great Decision discussion on Brexit, I found this:

The questions asked for the discussion are the most important part of driving conversation.  The Girls Who Code organizers of the conference zoomed with me to go over my role.  They surveyed the conference participants and shared those questions. I was able to prepare my answer ahead of time and posted my answers on the post below to save time.

The only thing I know about Brexit is what is on the news, and what my son who lives in London shares.  I just don’t know enough to give my opinion, and so am in total listening mode.  I am relying on the expertise of the Foreign Policy Association who has been doing this for decades:

Here are the discussion questions:
  1. Would Britain having success post-Brexit put pressure on the EU and other members that have threatened to leave? Would a disastrous Brexit hurt Europe as a whole?
  2. Should the U.S. prioritize its “special relationship” with the UK over its relationship with the EU?
  3. Should the European Union make an amendment t its founding treaties to make it more difficult for states to exit?
  4. Should there come a time when the UK wants to rejoin the EU, what provisions, if any, should they make upon re-entry? Can the EU risk letting the UK rejoin only for another Brexit to happen in the future?
  5. Do you think Europe is strong when united under the banner of the EU? Can the EU survive post-Merkel?
  6. In the age of social media, how can vital public policy issues be informed by the facts rather than by emotions?

In exploring answers that fit my core values of Curiosity, Kindness and Beauty,  I listen to TED Talks.  One that popped up was “How to Be a Better Human Being.” This ties to Brexit in that it was about a 50:50 vote, just like the presidency. What are your core values? Seems like that is the solution for polarization presented by this speaker.


Girls Who Code Questions

What is empowering is when you get your first editorial published. When you get your first law passed. But what is even more empowering is when you see the youth doing the same thing. And by youth I mean anyone without gray hair.

Questions I was asked by the DIGITAL TECH CONFERENCE organizers:

What is your favorite part about being in the position of the White House Champion of Change?

Being a WHChamps keeps me connected to my values.  I am still part of a tribe who are living up to the challenge to help win the future by out-educating, out-innovating, and out-building our competitors in the 21st century.  It keeps me blogging, as it is my websites started in the 1990s that resulted in being honored as a White House Champion of Change. The 1000’s of WHChamps are still connected on a closed Facebook page. And I can search on their interactive map for those who live in my area or who are working on similar challenges.  My challenge is to do the same thing for you girls through mentorships and internships connected to your passions:

How do you think more girls can become interested in computer science?

Social groups like this who can team to solve problems. Have you been a political activist? Advocate to make CS an academic area.

  • Contact the CTE coordinator in Fort Bend about their decisions for CS choices on your course selection sheets.
  • Ask your school board about their long range plans for CS education.
  • Include in accountability creating a digital portfolio and apps.
  • Integrate into all core subjects as part of assignments.

Teach through the Arts.  Do you know about Seymour Papert, Artemis Papert, Turtle Art, coding Digital to Physical, Logo Foundation?  Have a Dance Party.

Was there a specific moment in your life when you realized that you were interested in computer science? 

I enjoyed designing and sewing when I was your age. I liked creating things and became interested in AI as I was interested in how the brain worked. Majored in math, but in 1968 added a minor in 1968 in computer science. Dropped this as I became frustrated standing in lines to run my keypunch cards. Had cognitive science been a major, that is what I would study now.   My brother learned to program in “C” to write software for his construction business.  Since there was no computer store in town, he opened an Apple store. I bought an AppleIIE, which I still have, for my children in the 1970s.  That is when my interest really started, programming in Logo and Basic.  Do you know who Leo Cherne is? I felt the power that rooted my interest:  The computer is incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid … The marriage of the two is a force beyond calculation.

What is an opportunity that you wish more high school students chose to be involved in?

Political Advocacy through Writing Editorials.

Do you have any recommendations to help students to discover and focus in one area of computer science?  

Research what lights your fire.  See where the pathways on the answers take you.  If you keep coming back to one area, find out what languages they use to solve.  Have you ever programmed in “R” or Processing? Have you taken a data science course? How have you used CS to solve a local problem to help nature? To help those in your community?

In your opinion what are the best resources for help and support when first starting out in this field and navigating course selections in high school and college?

  • Best resource is the questions you ask. The questions you asked to prepare for this conversation were excellent!!  Attend online webinars in and outside your area of interest as this creates questions you did not know you had.
  • Making connections with mentors such as Target’s coming up Social Justice Hackathon.
  • Read Tom Friedman’s “Thank you for being Late.” This can take you down 100’s of pathways and to his original book “The World is Flat.”

Knowledge is Answers to Questions, the more questions the more knowledge.

While working as a programmer, what was your favorite programming project? And why?

Working for Dr. Mavis Kelsey was typing his family genealogy.  He wrote everything on index cards, sorted, then added to the index. I suggested he buy an AppleIIE and use the next database software.  I was one of the first to use the Microsoft Access Database and worked with the company to improve their software. Every semicolon and period had to be right. When finally finished, I ran the data, but alas not enough memory. Contacted Computer Craft on 59 and Bissonnet where we purchased, as they promised it would work.  They said I could run the data on their computer with more memory.  I remember loading the code which had to run overnight. I taped a sign on the monitor, “do not turn off!”.  The most exciting moment was coming in the next morning and seeing the words, index complete.  And finally seeing the book published that I was part of in 1979.  A book I am part of now is “No Fear Coding, Computational Thinking Across the K-5 Curriculum.  I wrote the chapters on the Bee-Bot which are I posted online. And presented at a workshop for the City of Houston.  They are looking for ambassadors if interested in doing presentation like this with a friend who lives in Houston.

Thank you leaders for inviting me to present at your Girls Who Code workshop which gave me a deadline to getting some of my history posted.  Nice thing about coding in HTML and blogging is that all my errors can easily be fixed.  And new ideas can be added at anytime in the future. And being able to do what I love, talk to students.  Which is so much more fun than adults, who often make me feel uncomfortable.



My questions:

  1. Have you ever been to the White House?
  2. Have you been a political activist?
  3. Do you know about Seymour Papert, Artemis Papert, and Turtle Art?
  4. Have you considered cognitive science for your field of study?
  5. Do you know who Leo Cherne is?
  6. Have you ever programmed in Logo or Basic?
  7. Have you ever sent an editorial to the Houston Chronicle?
  8. Have you ever programmed in “R” or Processing?
  9. Are you interested in genealogy?
  10. Have you thought about publishing a book?