Next school year, Barren County Schools will step up its offerings in computer science instruction.
The district will partner in the Kentucky Department of Education's new Computer Science Initiative, a program designed to help districts develop and strengthen computer science course offerings, according to Amy Irwin, College and Career Development coordinator.
Barren County Schools has identified computer science as a major point of emphasis in its education plan, because an understanding of how computers work is becoming more important in the workforce, Irwin said via email.
"To stay competitive in a fast-growing digital economy, it is crucial that students know how to read, write, and code to create products, not just learn how to use them," she said in her email.
According to a KDE website, the Computer Science Initiative is aimed at "provid(ing) more opportunities for ALL students – especially students typically under-represented in high level courses – to engage in advanced coursework that will prepare them for future success" and "prepar(ing) students to address a critical workforce need related to computer science knowledge and skills."
For Barren County Schools, participating in the program will mean offering a new AP Computer Science Principles course and piloting computer science coursework devised by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit group that develops science, technology, engineering and math curricula. The program will be included at Barren County High School, by starting a Computer Science Discoveries class at Barren County Middle School and introducing code.org resources in classes at the elementary level, Irwin said via email.
Code.org, a nonprofit organization that aims to expand access to computer science, designed the curriculum for AP Computer Science Principles and Computer Science Discoveries, Irwin said in the email.
According to Irwin, the College Board recognizes code.org as "an endorsed provider of AP Computer Science Principles Curriculum and professional development."
To equip the district's high school and middle school with the knowledge needed to offer these courses, Barren County Schools will be sending two teachers to a week-long code.org training session in Houston in June, Irwin said via email.
Justin Browning, a sixth grade math teacher at Red Cross Elementary School, will be one of those teachers.
Browning has been interested in technological learning, having spearheaded and overseen his school's STEAM lab, which incorporates science, technology, engineering and mathematics – commonly known as the STEM disciplines – as well as art. Browning has also worked elements of computer science into his math classes.
Next school year, Browning will be teaching Computer Science Discoveries to students in seventh through ninth grades, he said.
"It's something of a transitional course between the elementary computer science course to the AP computer science course," he said.
The elementary classes will focus mainly on algorithms and how they work in computer systems. AP Computer Science Principles will focus on six areas: problem solving; web development; animation and games; design process; data and society, which examines how digital technology is affecting society; and physical computing, which involves constructing computers, Browning said.
Making computer science a core part of the curriculum is important due to the growing need in the workforce for people who understand computers, he said.
"I think we really need to broaden the IT, the computer science opportunities at this level," he said. "It's equipping the future workforce. That's my passion."