Bucking trend, Greenhills’ computer science instruction on the rise
Across the United States, the number of middle and high school computer science courses has declined 17% since 2005. And in 2011, only 5% of American high schools were certified to teach AP Computer Science. This is an affront to the ever-increasing importance of computing and technology in our everyday lives. You cannot go much more than a few days without hearing about the millions of tech jobs that are unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants. Yet, there remains a de-emphasis on computing at the secondary education level.
Not at Greenhills. During a time when many high schools are cutting their few or only computer classes, Greenhills is putting all the chips on the table. This year, three new courses in computer science were introduced in partnership with the mathematics department and department of information technology services. These new courses are the first step towards creating a comprehensive 6-12 computer science curriculum that will give our students a definitive edge in acquiring the 21st century skills that will become increasingly vital in their post-secondary and post-college lives.
As in the past, sixth graders are introduced to the applications that will play keys roles to their education at Greenhills and beyond. New this year, seventh and eighth graders take a technology related class as part of their rotation with health and physical education. Seventh graders learn about the circuitry, open source coding, altering code, introduced to programming robotics, and microprocessors on the physical side of computing. Eighth graders begin to take command of the computer, programming their own simple games and applications while being introduced to the fundamental ideas of computer science.
In the upper school, Foundations of Computer Science – a one semester elective – has been added. In FCS, students begin to learn and apply the theories of computer science while programming in Java. Students also discuss the ethics of modern computing in addition to exploring topical news in the world of technology. FCS has been a popular choice among all upper school grade levels in just its first year. Junior Peter Michaelides, who took the course in the fall, became interested in computer science because of “the depth of problem solving [and] the universality of the languages of computing.” Even though Peter had never programmed a computer before, he came away with a new appreciation for the topics discussed.
The innovation is not stopping there either. For the Middle School, next year’s plans are under way for the robotics club to formally compete in the First Lego League Competitions.
In the upper school, Greenhills will offer Advanced Placement Computer Science as an elective starting in 2014 with plans to be one of the first schools to offer the newest AP class, Principles of Computer Science, in 2016. Interest in the first AP class is already high, including from Peter who plans to take the class. After high school, Peter is interested in studying business and organic architecture, but in his opinion “all of the work fields are moving to technology and the web. If you can understand the language of this new frontier, you will have a jump start in any work environment.”
–By Tom Ward, Math Department