October 2, 2012
The expanding and constantly innovating technology industry in America today has motivated high school teachers and company leaders alike to bring technology and computer science into the secondary school classroom as both learning tools and a means to inspire students to pursue these fields in the future.
41 NBC reports that teachers at Westside High School in Georgia are integrating electronic books, tests, and interactive learning materials in a teaching style that is known as blended learning. Westside, which was awarded a grant for blended learning two years ago, combines classroom lectures with online student assignments and interactive activities. The school has given students small laptop computers and personalized accounts that enable them to track their academic progress, access course materials and assignments, and receive individual feedback from teachers.
By using technology to engage students outside of lectures and streamline the teacher-student feedback process, Westside High School allows teachers to better accommodate different student skill levels and interests. Westside High School teacher Sydney Elkin says of the new blended learning system, “It allows me to focus on the students who need more help, whereas the students who are advanced can just keep moving.” She also appreciates how giving students an organized set of online educational resources, which they can use to better tailor their learning process, gives students “more ownership of what they’re doing.”
Teachers who do not work at schools that have integrated blended learning into their curricula, however, can still use technology to share resources with students and even other teachers. An example of this fact is the website TeachersPayTeachers, which was featured in a Tech Crunch report on Sunday. TeachersPayTeachers provides instructors with a platform through which they can sell, buy, and share lesson plans, information sheets, activity handouts, and other educational content with students and fellow teachers. The website, which helped one teacher earn a million dollars worth of sales for her educational materials, enables teachers to reach a wider audience with their credentials, which not only helps them financially, but also benefits anyone looking to solidify or advance their understanding of a certain concept or academic field.
In addition to using technology as a tool to improve students' learning outcomes, secondary schools and teachers have begun to see the importance of teaching young students about the very field of digital technology, a field that has expanded rapidly, but which is seeing a shortage of qualified employees to fill essential positions, according to The New York Times. In fact, the Times reports that an approximate 150,000 jobs in computer science are expected to open up every year from now until 2020, a number that is nearly four times greater than the almost 40,000 American college graduates who majored in computer science in 2010.
This shortage of college graduates who have pursued computer science as an academic major and prospective career has been so concerning that established tech companies such as Microsoft have created programs that bring engineers and computer scientists to high school classrooms to teach both students and teachers about the fundamentals and appeal of computer science. Microsoft's program, which began as a Seattle-based volunteer effort by Microsoft employee Kevin Wang, now runs schools in multiple states and brings engineers from several different tech companies to teach high school students how to develop simple computer programs, such as smartphone games. “I think education and bringing more people into the field [of computer science] is something all technology companies agree on,” Google software engineer Alyssa Caulley said in an interview.
Compiled by Kaitlin Louie
"Fostering Tech Talent in Schools," nytimes.com, September 30, 2012, Nick Wingfield
"How Technolofy is Empowering Teachers, Minting Millionaires, and Improving Education," techcrunch.com, September 30, 2012, Rip Empson
"Westside Students Use Technology To Master Education," 41nbc.com, October 1, 2012, Melissa Lee