Aug. 27—ALBANY — Computers apparently are an idea that’s here to stay, what with practically everyone using them for work, information and play on devices ranging from the old-style desk or a tablet, and their ubiquity in our pockets and purses.
The growth in that industry could be fueled by Dougherty County students, and the school system has begun training potential tech employees of tomorrow.
This week, the first group of about 150 middle school students began their introduction to computer coding. Some 600 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students will be immersed in the technology over the course of the school year.
“We have started an initiative in Dougherty County where we want all of our students, K-12, to be immersed in a computer science or coding program,” Michelle Sizemore, the system’s secondary science content coordinator, said.
The school system has partnered with Ed Farm, an Alabama-based nonprofit organization that promotes innovative education methods, which in turn is working with Albany State University in teaching the foundations of secure information systems curriculum. It also entered into a partnership with Apple through which the system is provided laptops and tablets for all students, and the computer giant also is providing a support staff member to the system.
Much like the robot-building programs that operate at all levels of the school system, the computer coding class will focus on problem-solving, a skill that is valuable in seeking employment, whether it is in computer technology or another field, Sizemore said.
Through the challenge-based learning on which the curriculum is built, “(students) research a problem and how they could actually solve that problem through technology, apps and devices,” she said. “Then they actually (develop) a solution for the community.”
One of the inaugural group’s tasks is to develop an “iPad survival guide” that will guide all students who use those devices with tips on such skills as taking a screenshot.
“They are creating tutorial videos to distribute in the school system,” Sizemore said.
For most of the middle-schoolers, coding will be a new concept, but the idea is to start there and expand the program over time. Two of the system’s middle schools have planned for continuing it in subsequent years, and the other two are following suit on preparations.
Some students had introductions to coding during summer camps, and most students are familiar with iPads.
After-school programs also are in the future, and Superintendent Kenneth Dyer also is pushing the efforts, Sizemore said.
“Albany Middle School and Merry Acres already have classes in place to continue this computer science course of learning,” she said. “After-school programs would mean coding clouds. We haven’t started that. Mr. Dyer is very forward-thinking, not only training our teachers now but a plan for this to be part of our school system for years to come.
“Just about any career you can think of these days has some aspect of computer science and coding.”