Mercurynews.com reported that, much like the rest of the country, the San Francisco Bay Area needs help motivating young people to take an interest in computer science and technology. According to the nonprofit Code.org, there will be a shortage of 1 million trained computer scientists in the next decade. Yet, only 10 percent of U.S. high schools offer classes in programming.
However, thanks to many resourceful students and determined teachers, the number of coding classes at high schools is slowly increasing.
For example, at Walnut Creek’s Northgate High and San Jose’s Leland High, an AP Computer Science class will start for the first time this fall, the result of students who petitioned and delivered a list of sign-ups for the class. Ian Renfro, a senior at Leland High, argued that, “we’re supposed to be getting taught 21st century skills, and we had no computer-related classes at Leland.” Nearby, Castlemont High in Oakland and Lincoln High in San Jose face similar difficulties, causing teachers to rely on outside funding for students’ laptops.
Another obstacle facing schools is teacher training. For instance, California does not offer a computer science teaching credential, so it’s often challenging to find quailed instructors. San Jose’s Unified curriculum director, Jackie Zeller, said that “we don’t have people with the knowledge to teach those classes, nor are those people showing up when we’re looking for them.”
Regardless of these hurdles, half of the comprehensive schools in San Jose Unified, San Jose’s East Side Union, and San Mateo Union will offer coding classes this fall. Much of this progress can be attributed to Dan Lewis, an Associate Professor at Santa Clara University. Over the past six years, “Lewis has trained nearly 50 teachers in part of a three-sequence course targeted at kids underrepresented in the technology field.”
Lewis’s classes emphasize how to teach code, as opposed to the technical content involved in coding. One of Lewis’s students, as a result, has begun bringing her kids on trips to Google and robot demonstrations. Karen Hardy, a teacher at Santa Clara’s Wilcox High, stresses to her students “you can do this; it’s not scary.”
Another way to educators are encouraging students to try coding is by showing them the connection with real life. “At Castlemont, where 87 percent of students are low-income, Claire Shorall’s students won a hackathon with an app—still in the works—that enables students to plot out safe routes to school to avoid street violence.”
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