Education Matters: New partnership helps kids gain computer skills, learn how to code

FRESNO, California - The numbers tell the story- in just two years there will be about a million and a half computer science related jobs available. But there will only be about 400,000 graduates with the skills to apply for those positions.

 A new partnership is working to grow the number of Fresno County students with computer science skills.

Code.org is a national organization dedicated to expanding access to computer science in the classroom and it has formed a new partnership with the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools.
Their goal is to train more teachers to teach computer science.

A cube, building blocks knowing how they come together is an important skill; teacher James Manson uses them to help teach computer science…it's one of the basic learning tools in his stem robotics class.

"We start off with basic 3D drawing, design on paper first. They practice using basic cubes the kids get use to working with objects and cubes," said Manson. 

"A lot of students haven't played with blocks and cubes when they were little so we do that as an introduction project."

For students in robotics class at Rio Vista middle school in the Central Unified School District these building blocks help them learn how to use their computers, to not only make 3-D drawings but to program robots. To do that they must learn how to code and learn the language of the computer software.

"The software that we are using is what's used in the industry today. So they are getting knowledge of something they can use in the future and I don't think there is an industry today that doesn't use coding or technology in some fashion."

There is a huge demand for computer scientist and schools are having a difficult time producing enough graduates. At Rio Vista computer science class is an elective, it so popular that there is a waiting list.

"We only have so much equipment for the robotics part of that and so there is a cap at 30, I have a few more than that right now," he stated. 

Giving local students access to computer science skills just got a boost through a new partnership announced by the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools.

"And this announcement we are really excited about because this is going to bring computer science teaching training into our middle and high schools."

During an hour of code event at bitwise industries in downtown Fresno  Jim Yovino, superintendent of schools, announced a regional partnership with Code.org and three valley school districts; Fresno Unified, Central and Sanger Unified.

"We will be partnering with them to become the trainers of trainer so our staff the county superintendent of schools office will be training teachers across the valley," stated Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino.

More trained teachers mean more students can get the exposure to computer science and that exposure could have a huge impact.

"I was clueless so I think that the reason why I like it so anything at all about codes at all," said student Kyreese Bailey.

It was a weekend class at bitwise that got these two Central East High School seniors hooked on learning how to code.

"It opened doors for me as an artist, it open doors for me becoming a digital artist me learning how to draw using code," she stated.

Educators say this shows us just how important it is to provide opportunities for all students to be exposed to computer science free in the classroom.

"If we want to make an opportunity for students to be able to be able to discover what computer science is take computer science courses and maybe even open pathways for them for their future careers then we have to have opportunities for them in middle and high school to explore that," said program member Marlena Hebern. 


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