Guest Post by Michael Braun, Instructional Coach for Technology in Public Schools: Improving Technology Education and Literacy in Schools


There are likely to be 150,000 computing jobs opening up each year through 2020, according to an analysis of federal forecasts by the Association for Computing Machinery, a professional society for computing researchers. But despite the hoopla around start-up celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, fewer than 40,000 American students received bachelor's degrees in computer science during 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates. And the wider job market remains weak. "People can't get jobs, and we have jobs that can't be filled," Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel who oversees its philanthropic efforts, said in a recent interview.

"Fostering Tech Talent in Schools", the New York Times

Not too long ago I read an article in the New York Times that reported by 2020, 150,000 computing jobs will be open according to an analysis of federal forecasts by the Association for Computing Machinery. Yet in 2010, less than 40,000 American students received bachelor's degrees in computer science according the National Center for Education Statistics.

I have a background as a computer science educator and am currently focused on improving technology skills among public school students. I currently work as an Instructional Coach for Technology in Public Schools. I formerly taught computer science to middle and high school students, including Introduction to Computer Science and Advanced Placement Computer Science.

In my time as a computer science teacher, I had the privilege of collaborating and co-teaching with a fantastic group of volunteers from the Microsoft Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, a non-profit being incubated as part of Microsoft YouthSpark, created by Kevin Wang, a Microsoft employee, former teacher and engineer, who are working to reverse those statistics. Over the last 5 years, thousands of volunteers from the tech industry bring their technical knowledge and real-world experience directly to students in more than 130 schools across the US. I believe that this type of collaboration between industry and public education is a very positive trend in 21st century skill building. These programmers and engineers are brilliant, forward-thinking, dedicated, and, what's more, they're passionate about education. It's an incredible opportunity for our students to be able to take advantage of their expertise and experience.

See more about the TEALS program in this video:

At my school, this collaboration also offers my students a unique and unconventional learning opportunity: we actually built a course about smart phones and cutting edge mobile technology. In this class, each student was supplied with their own smart phone, which served as a workbench for software development. With just a few months of programming instruction, our students were already creating their own apps and submitting them to the app store.

 


Computer science students surround teacher Michael Braun during a lesson.

This approach to teaching computer science was highlighted by the New York Times, the Seattle Times, GeekWire, Code.org, TeacherCast, Microsoft Research, TEALS, and the Daily Edventures blog. In 2013, I was invited to speak at SIGCE, a National CS Education conference, attended mostly by University-level professors and K-12 teachers. When I asked the audience how many of them had ever published an app, only a handful of these professionals raised their hands. Compare that with my APCS high school class. More than a third of our students had had their apps published. One of our female students created a game called Catching Eggs, and within just a few months of publication was downloaded more than 1,300 times. A few of my top computer science students also received opportunities to interview for summer internships with Microsoft.

As our world becomes ever more technologically advanced, proficiency in computer science will become more and more critical for employment opportunities and professional success. We must therefore encourage learning of these skills from an early age. And, as educators and parents we must provide opportunities for learning these skills within the context of public education, where they will be available to everyone. With the support of programs like TEALS, we can even teach our students to go one step further, becoming creators, not just consumers, of technology. Sign up your school for TEALS and take your students on an incredible journey into the world of computer science.

Michael Braun, Instructional Coach for Federal Way Public Schools

Comments (1)

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