BETHLEHEM In an increasingly computer-driven world, fewer schools than ten years are teaching kids computer science. At the same tme, there will be one million more computing jobs than students projected over the next decade.
Two area schools are bucking that trend.
Coding is the language of computers, formed by inserting and executing demands into specific programs. Thousands of kids across the U.S. learned the very basics of this language during the national “Hour of Coding,” during the week of Monday, Dec. 7 through Friday, Dec. 11.
At Bethlehem Central Middle School, a room of students sat circled, pouring over lines and lines of graphic numbers on computer screens, whose instructions helped a troll gather gems in a virtual castle.
The instructors in these lessons were high schoolers – students of advanced computer science classes, teaching as part of the event.
At Bethlehem Central High School, the course is the first of its kind at the school. More than 45 students intend to enroll for the 24 spots open in the course. District officials say next year they plan to double those spots.
This year’s students, all seniors, are applying to colleges for information sciences, computer forensics and a world of other computer science-related fields
“In college, so few students come in knowing they want to do computer science. Once they do, they tend to love it,” said Dr. Robin Flatland, who teaches the course at BCHS alongside Dr. Mary Ann Egan. Both are professors at Siena College.
“We try, especially to encourage women and people of color to try,” said Dr. Flatland.
Partnering with Siena College, 24 BCHS students are enrolled in the class. These students travelled to the middle school to introduce programming activities to the younger students.
This year the course is taught by Dr. Flatland and Dr. Egan but, next year, the course will be taught entirely by Rachel Linehan, a BCHS math teacher who is taking the course with the students this year. The course is being offered through a National Science grant, at no cost to the district, but students may also take the course for college credits.
For younger students, coding is now part of the curriculum in the middle school’s technology course, which all students take. Whereas for many years the course was focused on learning typing skills, in recent years, lessons have expanded to a 20 week course, which includes instruction on Google drive, the cloud, apps and coding.