Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Why Your High School Should Teach Computer Science {Guest Post}

Guest Post by Gina Green

Why is computer science important?

Students are required to take history, math, English, and science classes so that they have a general knowledge of the world around them. Notice anything missing? I do. It’s computer science.

For most high school students, their phone is integrated into every part of their lives. It’s how they socialize, complete school work, and find answers to their questions. I believe that students should at least have the option to learn how the digital world works.

According to Techprep by Facebook, there will be one million unfilled computer science jobs in the United States by 2020. Code.org and Gallup point out that only 1 in 10 schools offer computer science, even though:

At a time when young adults are living with their parents at the highest rate since 1880,  it just makes sense to give students exposure to a career field for which they could be passionate about, make an above-average wage, and have unlimited possibilities. Computer science related jobs are in every field, every industry, and behind every entrepreneurial endeavor.  

Our high school’s computer science journey began four years ago when the computer science department chair of our local university contacted Dr. Geurin to ask what computer science classes we were offering. The answer was none. So, the following year, we offered one semester of Introduction to Programming. Three years later, we are offering six semesters of various computer science courses. It’s amazing growth, but we’re not done yet. We hope to expand our course offerings even more in the next two years.  

Action Steps

If your school is ready to look into starting a computer science program, I would highly recommend partnering with a nearby university or community college that has computer science programs.  They’ll be able to help you figure out where to begin.

You’ll also need a teacher who is willing to teach CS and devote time to training.  If you are that teacher, prepare for CS to level up your passion for teaching. It’s the most rewarding, challenging, best-thing-ever for students that I’ve done in my career.  I’ve been approached by several teachers from other districts about starting a CS program at their high school and my response is generally received with two types of attitudes.

Sometimes the teachers are so eager to get started that they take notes as I’m talking. Other times they start telling me that they’ve taught for too many years, have just a few years until retirement, have paid their “dues,” are done with furthering their knowledge base, and their principal is really the one who’s wanting to know. Well, okay. Be the teacher with the 'can do' attitude.  A new CS program will never work if the teacher is not excited about teaching the courses.

Get support from the district leadership. Everyone should be on the same page about what training and equipment the district is willing and able to provide. Be sure to include the counselors in this discussion. This year, I’m going to make a computer science course guide on a laminated card for the counselors to keep by their desks. This information will help them guide students to the proper classes.

Resources to help you get started

What is computer science?  -- I love this video. It can be used to explain what computer science is to staff, students, and parents.

Project Lead the Way -- PLTW is a fantastic way to kickstart your CS program. PLTW offers hands-on training to teachers. The teachers actually go through the curriculum they’ll be teaching to the students with the help of a PLTW Master Teacher. It was, by far, the best professional development I’ve ever had. The high school course offerings are expanding each year.

Computer Science Teachers Association -- See if there’s a CSTA in your state or area. Right now, it’s free to join CSTA. Your local chapter will have a website that has forums, resources, and, most importantly, a network of support.

Advanced Placement Summer Institute -- Even if your school is not going to offer CS as an Advanced Placement course, attending a summer training will be beneficial. An APSI will give the teacher aligned objectives, essential questions, prompts, projects, and rubrics, not to mention a network of support. I walk away from APSI every summer with the curriculum of a certified AP instructor that has many more years of experience teaching CS than I do.  

It’s often said that we are preparing students for careers that haven’t even been invented yet.  I believe that the majority of those future careers will involve students being creators of technological content, not just consumers of it.  As educators, we are in the business of doing what’s best for students.  Unquestionably, exposing students to computer science is what is best for them. Now, go start a computer science program at your school!

Connect with me!
Gina Green
Bolivar High School
Bolivar, MO


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