Springfield City School District students will get a taste of computer programming during a number of activities to celebrate National Computer Science Education Week, which begins Monday.
It comes while the district is working with experts to incorporate more computer science into its high school curriculum to better prepare students for jobs in the in-demand fields of IT, cyber security and computer engineering.
“I want them to learn the difference between someone who uses technology and someone who can program and develop technology,” said Richard Storrick, who teaches applied math and intro to cyber security courses at Springfield High School.
Students in his Applied Math I course learn basic programming by creating video games.
He hopes it makes students look at the games they play and apps they use in a different light.
“I kinda want to ruin video games for them. I want them to play video games and be able to look at it and dissect it and go, ‘OK, I can program this.’”
Those in higher education want to see more students exposed to these introductory classes before they get to college.
“The goal is to get the students a jump start into the programs that I teach,” said Clark State Professor Dan Heighton, who teaches computing networking and cyber security. “It also allows me to think in the long run, if we can prepare students for our entry-level classes, then I can develop courses that are even higher-level courses as time goes on.”
Springfield would be following in the footsteps of many large urban school districts that have implemented computer science programs.
Chicago, Houston and Fort Lauderdale public schools are all requiring every student to take at least an intro course, according to Deborah Boisvert, executive director of Broadening Advanced Technological Education Connections, BATEC, a nationally recognized center of excellence for the National Science Foundation.
SCSD has contracted with BATEC, which works with schools nationwide to create academic programs in information technology.
“All of these districts understand that computing needs to be a part of a student’s curriculum in a way that it has not been before,” Boisvert said. “Before it’s always been using technology to enhance learning. What now they understand is it needs to be the study of the discipline, just as you do science and math and English.”
As Springfield High School prepares to submit its application for STEM designation through the Ohio Department of Education, BATEC experts and local leaders from Clark State Community College and other industry partners are meeting with school leaders to design future curriculum pathways that will allow students more opportunities in computer science.
“We have already a couple of natural pathways with the engineering and the bio-medical,” Springfield High School STEM Academy principal Teresa Dillon said. “And then there’s a third one that we want to develop with their help, some kind of tech or computer science pathway.”
The details of specific courses are still being worked out, but the school hopes student interest will be piqued during this week’s Computer Science Education Week push.
Students at multiple grade levels will have the opportunity to participate in “Hour of Code” activities both in class and after school.
Schools nationwide commit to dedicating one hour to teaching kids some basic computer code through various fun activities. Fourth-graders from Kenton and Lagonda will do an hour during classes and also have some exploring time with other activities at the Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome.
Northeastern Local Schools is also having students, grades kindergarten through fifth, at South Vienna Elementary School participate in the hour of code throughout the week.
Springfield High School students will be able to do an hour of code in the YOUmedia lab at the Dome on Dec. 9 and 10 from 2 to 8 p.m. They’ll also have opportunities during the week to Skype with recent graduates who have found careers in computer science.
Families with students in grades 4 through 8 are invited to the Dome from 5 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 8 or 10 for a Pizza and Pixels Family Night. Students and their parents can learn computer coding by designing their own app or doing a Minecraft adventure. Pizza and snacks will be provided.
Space is limited for the family nights, so parents are asked to RSVP by calling 937-505-2948.
The week will also be a celebration of the grand opening of the Maker Space, a lab at The Dome for middle school students to explore electronics, engineering and design.
The district will hold several more open house activities through the end of the year to allow students a chance to experience the types of activities available there.