A community “Hour of Code” will be held at CoLab18 in the Northside this December as part of Computer Science Education Week, a global initiative to promote computer science education in the classroom.

By Ashlee Green

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is a global initiative taking place Dec. 3 to 9, 2018, to promote quality computer science education as a regular part of curriculum in schools worldwide.

“It’s a chance to make community members aware of some of the things that are going on or could be going on in their schools,” said Brad Ankney, Math and Special Education teacher at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Alternative Education Program. Last year, Ankney attended a week-long professional development intensive with Code.org, a nonprofit organization with the mission to offer more computer science courses, especially to women and students of color. He trained with educators throughout the U.S. to learn how to teach computer science concepts. He said it was the best professional development of his career, and reiterated the link between math and computer
science that Gov. Tom Wolf made in legislation he signed into law last year. The legislation allowed high school students in Pennsylvania to use courses in computer science and technology to count for credit toward math or science graduation requirements.

“A lot of the more abstract concepts you use in algebra like equations, variables and conditionals are actually applied in computer science in a more concrete fashion,” Ankney said. “You get to see results immediately.”

Ankney will host a community “Hour of Code” at CoLab18 in the Northside on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., as part of CSEdWeek. The event will include activities from Code.org, app building projects from Bitsbox and programmable robots. After the learning activities, participants will have a celebration with pizza and prizes. The event is sponsored by Sto-Rox Coding Club, a club for beginners interested in learning how to code, and Stemcodinglab.org, a Troy Hill-based nonprofit organization that aims to prepare children in underserved communities to thrive in a digital world.

According to Code.org, fewer than half of U.S. schools actually offer computer science courses at all. In 2015, Pennsylvania had only 2,969 computer science graduates, and only 20 percent of them were female-identified. The average salary statewide for an occupation in computer science is $87,822, which is over 50 percent higher than the state’s overall average salary.

The website for CSEdWeek is extensive and includes statistics about computing jobs nationwide, how-to guides for teachers who are new to teaching coding and letter templates for teachers, principals and local elected officials to use to help advocate for more computer science in schools.

To find out more information or to host an event of your own, visit csedweek.org. Ankney’s community “Hour of Code” is free and for all ages, but limited to the first 30 participants. Register for the event at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hour-of-code-northside-tickets-51466894868. Email info@stemcodinglab.org for more information.