Secret Weapons of Computer Science10/23/2015
Teachers like Gerri McCann are our schools’ secret weapons. As a high school French teacher from the Manila Public School District, Ms. McCann’s first impression of computer coding was that it was like “learning another foreign language.” But she realized its importance and dived right in. By the end of her training, she was confident enough to add teaching Computer Science to her other subjects, including French, English and Literacy Ready classes. Now Ms. McCann can offer her students even more opportunities to succeed beyond high school.
Learning the “foreign language” of coding was challenging, even for someone who began her career teaching French. But Ms. McCann understood the value of coding and earned a master’s degree in Information Systems. Why would she do that? To better prepare her students for a technologically driven world — a world in which computers touch everything.
This fall, for the first time, every public high school in Arkansas offers a computer coding class. Thanks to our computer science initiative, our students can also master this “foreign language” — and I’m pleased to report that thousands of them are signing on.
The numbers are in. This year, we have more than doubled the number of students enrolled in high school computer science classes. A total enrollment of over 4,500 students are taking one or more of our 14 coding courses. That’s an increase of 260 percent over a year ago and an increase of 472 percent over the previous school year. These numbers are very encouraging, but we can do better.
To compete in any field in the 21st Century, you need computer skills. They’re almost as fundamental as reading, writing and arithmetic. Quickly changing technology can leave unprepared workers out of a job. But here in Arkansas, by introducing students to computer science at an early age, we can give them a competitive advantage.
In the words of Ms. McCann, computer science classes “need to be the new norm.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s exciting to see so many students sign up for computer coding. Having been raised in a high-tech world, this generation “gets it.” So do teachers like Gerri McCann. We have the Arkansas advantage of forward-thinking educators who are stepping up to bridge the technology gap in the classroom.
That also needs to be the “new norm.”