Students clamor for computer science; programming class sparks interest

As students are preparing to sign up for their classes next year, a number wish they could take computer science.

“We use computer programs every day—may as well learn how they work,” said sophomore Grant Miner, who is taking an online computer science course through Codecademy.

Senior Nick Fesler, who took a few free online computer science courses at, agrees.

“Every day computers are (becoming) a larger part of our lives,” he said. “It’s good to at least understand the basics.”

In fact, 71 percent of jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields through 2018 are involved with computing, according to the US-BLS Employment Projections.

Also, computer science programs are offered by many other high schools in the area.

St. Francis High School and Jesuit High School both offer AP Computer Science, while Rio Americano High School offers computer classes for specific professions (such as Web Site Design or Computer Graphic Design).

Actually, computer science courses aren’t new to Country Day.

AP Computer Science was taught in 2004-05 by Bill Tihen, the head of technology at the time, during elective period and in 2007-08 by math teacher Zach Matley as a regular academic class.

Other computer science courses included Introduction to Programming in 2006-07 and 2007-08 and 3D Graphics and Game Programming in 2008-09.

And to graduate, students had to complete a computer applications (Word, PowerPoint and Excel) requirement elective. The class of 2009 was the last to be required to take the elective.

Later classes had the option of taking a proficiency test to fulfill their requirement. This year’s graduating class is the last class required to take that test.

While students now complete their Word, Excel and PowerPoint requirements through unrelated academic classes, there is only one course in computer programming, Inventing Your Own Computer Games, which is an elective.

However, according to Bruce Baird, the teacher of the elective, the class is centered more on playing and “messing” with computer games rather than learning the programming skills behind them.

“The structure of the elective class is that you can’t have homework, you can’t have grades, you can’t have tests,” Baird said. “It can’t be work; it has to be fun. (Learning the basics) is not fun.”

But still, why no AP Computer Science class during a regular academic period?

Sue Nellis, head of the high school, says the main reason is lack of student interest.

“We’ve offered (computer science classes in the past), but no one has signed up,” Nellis said.

However, senior Carter Brown, says that he would have tried to take one had one been offered.

Brown, who took part of a computer science class through Coursera last year, also thinks that it would be in Country Day’s best interest to offer a computer science course.

“It gets people into a new method of thinking and gets many kids out of their comfort zones,” Brown said.

Brown adds that he would have tried to fit a computer science class into his schedule if Country Day had offered one.

Actually, Baird said he would be willing to teach an introduction to programming class should interest arise.

But he would have to drop his History of World War II class to have a free teaching period.

Despite the obstacles standing in the way of a computer science class, both Nellis and Baird agree that the importance of computer knowledge in the workforce is growing.

Baird also noted that if Country Day students were to take a computer science class in high school, they would be one step ahead in college.

“People understand that there is this terrible economy out there,” said Baird, whose computer science background comes from engineering experience. “Engineering can get you a lot of money, but one of the first classes (you take) for engineering is Intro to Programming.”

Nellis agrees with the importance of computers, but says that for many jobs comfort with computers is all that is required.

“As long as students are exposed and are comfortable with (computers), then the people at the job can teach them the specific skills,” Nellis said.

But an AP Computer Science course is completely out of the question at the moment because students need more programming experience to succeed in the class, according to Nellis.

Nonetheless, the only prerequisites listed on the AP Computer Science A course description are basic algebra, experience in problem solving, comfort with functions and competence in written communication.

Nellis insists that the AP is very rigorous, though.

“The AP is more advanced than most people realize,” Nellis said. “Just because you know how to work a computer doesn’t mean you’re ready to take AP Computer Science.”

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