Educating a digital generation: Students recognize value of computer technology during Computer Science Education Week

From the moment they wake up to the time they go to bed, most students spend more time during the day using computer-based technology than without it.

“Our students are digital natives,” says Kimberly MacDonald, director of the Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) at Apex High School. “They learn by using computer science every single day. They wake up with it. They were born with it practically in their hands.”

But according to the founders of Computer Science Education Week (December 9-15), national surveys show fewer students are learning the codes and algorithms that make it all work.

Read a study from the Computer Science Teachers Association >>

Here in Wake County, students across the district are gaining exposure to computer-based technology, computer science and engineering right from Kindergarten, with our 28 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Network schools. At STEM schools, students participate in hands-on lessons with real-world relevance, such as the recent lessons led by 3-D imaging company Geomagic at Weatherstone Elementary School.

In grades 9-12, students across Wake County are not only taking advanced computer programming courses, but also have remarkable opportunities for job shadowing and internships, created by crucial partnerships with Triangle businesses and organizations.

Students like Lena McCord, a senior at the Apex High AOIT, have spent four years enrolled in computer science and programming classes and are required to complete a 135-hour paid internship by the time they graduate. The AOIT is one of 10 of the district’s Career Academies >>

At first, McCord says, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go to an academy that focused on computer science. She soon learned how valuable the skills she is learning will be to her future.

“A lot of the jobs that are out there right now are information technology jobs,” she says. “Being in computer science has really prepared me to go find a job when I graduate.”

McCord is currently interning at Spencer Reed Group, a company whose employees have mentored many WCPSS students. Working at a recruiting firm, she says, gives her a behind-the-scenes look at the types of skills employers are looking for. Increasingly, that includes a knowledge of computer science and programming.

According to the founders of Computer Science Education Week, government projections indicate that 800,000 computing jobs will be created by 2018, and that five of the top 10 fastest-growing jobs will be in computing-related fields in the coming decade. Read more stats >>

“As technology advances, it’s going to take over the way we educate and the way jobs function,” says Lane Shoffner, a 10th-grade student at the Apex High AOIT. “So being able to get in early and learn this new technology that’s constantly being developed is invaluable.”

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