Computer science gets Scaled-Up by Iowa STEM

Davenport West High School utilizes Project Lead The Way's Computer Science program
Project Lead The Way’s Computer Science program takes over a classroom at Davenport West High School taught by PLTW CS Master Teacher Doyle Massey.

With Computer Science Education Week right around the corner, the “T” in STEM is in the spotlight once more through Code.org and the STEM Council’s “Code Iowa” partnership. This year, the new Computer Science and Software Engineering course by Project Lead The Way helps support these IT efforts in Iowa.

The goal of the program works to demystify what computers do and help students develop an interest in computer science by realizing they can do more than use apps and play games. Geared towards high school students, the courses introduce them to some of the most in-demand programs used by industry professionals, including the Android App Development program, Java, Python, NetLogo and GitHub.

“The interesting part about computer science is that programs change, so we don’t want to focus on any one program to make a student an expert in it,” said Jason Taylor, vice president of programs for PLTW. “We want to make sure they understand how to use the right program at the right time, and if they need to learn that new, next program, we want to make sure that they understand the basics and the theory behind how it works.”

The course is typically offered as an elective credit by teachers in the mathematics, science or technology education realms. However, a social science teacher at Adel DeSoto Minburn High School in Adel has earned the certification to teach the course and has witnessed the opportunity that computer science provides to her students.

“What I like most about the PLTW’s computer science program is that students get a lot of practice applying their skills and solving problems that don't have one right answer,” said Robin West. “A lot of times students are most comfortable in classes where there is a right answer and a wrong answer, but life and work in your career is rarely split into ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect.’  I like that students get experience with and guidance in navigating through those grey opportunities.”

PLTW recognizes the skills that come with computer science and hopes to help students find a passion to pursue it through college or career pathways, crediting the partnership with the STEM Council for helping them achieve that goal.

“From auto repair to healthcare, virtually every industry is looking to hire employees who have computer science and computational thinking knowledge,” said Jennifer Cahill, senior director of media and public relations for PLTW. “So, for students in classrooms today, this is such a critical component of their education, and we truly believe that every student in America should have access to these kinds of high-quality learning experiences. Thanks to the STEM Council, we are able to impact more students and help make Iowa’s education and economy stronger.”

To learn more about this program or the other 2015-16 STEM Scale-Up Programs, visit www.IowaSTEM.gov/Scale-Up.