Pitman High School will program students with the knowledge they need for a career in computer science beginning next year with “Exploring Computer Science AB,” a new course offering that will introduce students to the breadth of the field through exploring a multitude of topics.
“I think some of the most valuable skills students will learn in this class are life-long skills,” said Shawne Arnold, who teaches computer programming on the high school campus. “Students learn how to think through a problem and understand what is required to solve that problem. Exploring Computer Science, while focused on computer science topics, teaches students to do just that. They learn to work in teams and to think ‘outside of the box.’”
“Exploring Computer Science AB” will consist of six units, which will take up approximately six weeks each. Each unit will have a different theme that has something to do with computer science, ranging from Human Computer Interaction to Web Design and Robotics.
“The course includes a unit on programming, and I am hoping that students develop an interest in programming so that they continue to take programming courses and learn that very important skill,” said Arnold. “According to Steve Jobs, ‘everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.’
“Additionally, the job market for people with computer science skills is growing,” continued Arnold.
Arnold said that the idea to implement a computer science class at PHS surfaced approximately a year ago when teachers and administrators from Turlock Junior High School, Turlock High School and PHS met to discuss how students who are enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses at the junior high could continue in a STEM program at the high school level.
“At Pitman—and I’m sure at Turlock High also—we offer a variety of courses that support STEM learning for students, but we don’t really have a 'technology' pathway that is a clear sequence of courses for students interested in careers specifically in computer programming.”
As a result of that meeting, Arnold said that she decided to research a pathway that would continue and foster that interest in the STEM courses at the high school level since there was already so much interest demonstrated at the junior high level.
Fortuitously, about a month later, Arnold attended a Future Business Leaders of America conference where a representative from the State Business Education Leadership Project presented a course that had been granted program approval from the University of California Regents as an A-G elective.
“The course—called Exploring Computer Science—sounded very interesting and was a perfect introductory course for students interested in a variety of STEM pathways,” she said.
Arnold said that as the teacher of computer programming at PHS, she gained approval from Principal Amy Curd to attend the training for Exploring Computer Science in order to find out more information about the course itself. After the first training, Arnold said that she knew this program would be an excellent introductory course into the computer science pathway at PHS.
“Our society is technologically driven, but we aren’t teaching students enough about computer science,” said Arnold. “ECS is a place for students to start at the high school level. Hopefully it piques the interest, then we can steer students toward the many opportunities available for them in the computer science field.”