While computer science can be an intimidating subject, Microsoft has sought to connect it to the technologies most students use in their everyday lives. At Rainier Beach High recently, Peli de Halleux, a Microsoft software engineer, taught a class on making software for mobile phones.
The students buried their faces in the phones, supplied by Microsoft. They were asked to create programs that performed simple functions, like playing a random song when the phones were shaken.
The problem Microsoft is trying to address is that there are too few computer science graduates for the amount of available jobs in the industry. So after one employee began volunteering at a local high school to teach computer science, they created a program for it. Microsoft and Google employees, among others, now teach classes in Washington, Utah, North Dakota and California.
What a great program. Participating students are, if the article is any indication, quite excited about it—it exposes them to something they hadn’t been exposed to before, provides them a role model of someone who’s taken their education and made it into something real, and it teaches them that they can build things themselves, they can have ideas for new things and make them.
Microsoft’s program is also trying to educate high school teachers so they can teach these classes themselves, and that hasn’t been quite as successful. That should be a focus, though; it’d be very powerful if companies in various fields provided workshops for high school teachers to become proficient at something new so they can teach it back at their schools. Combined with guest lectures (or whatever you want to call it) from people at the companies or organizations, who visit and teach students, this model could be very effective.