CodeHS Co-Founder and CEO Visits Shelby County Schools to Encourage Students to Explore Careers in Computer Science

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Pictured are Susha Roy and Jeremy Keeshin with CodeHS, along with Faith Pack (holding Karel the dog), Jason McGinnis and Randy Pugh from the Shelby County Schools Technology Department.

Jeremy Keeshin, the CEO and Co-Founder of CodeHS recently visited schools in Shelby County to encourage students to explore careers in the field of computer science. ¬†Keeshin, a graduate of Stanford University, helped develop CodeHS –¬†an interactive online learning platform offering computer science and programming instruction.

CodeHS, which is used by individual learners and schools, is focused on spreading access to and knowledge of computer science by offering online instructional materials supported by remote teachers and facilitators.  The Shelby County School District implemented the online course at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, utilizing Technology Department staff members Jason McGinnis and Faith Pack serving as co-teachers of the course.  Randy Pugh, also from the Technology Department, is being added as a third teacher for the course next year.  

According to Pack, a total of 18 students from Chelsea High School, Montevallo High School, and Vincent High School participated in the online CodeHS course this year.  Next year, the course is expanding to Helena High School and is expected to serve 55 total students across the district. 

Keeshin, along with fellow CodeHS employee Susha Roy, are on a road trip visiting schools across the country to encourage students to study computer science and to stress the important role of technology in our world today and in the future.

“Coding has become another skill that students need to learn,” said Keeshin. “Reading and writing used to be skills of the elite in society and there was a big divide between those who had those skills and those that did not. ¬†We are now at another crossroads where coding is becoming one of those skills that all students will need to have.”

CodeHS at CHHSHe told the students that learning computer programming skills enables them to go from being a consumer of technology to the producer of it.  He then stressed the opportunities that a computer sciences background would create for them, including a wide-open job market with a limited number of qualified applicants.

“There will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science by 2020,” Keeshin told students during his visit to Helena High School. “But only 30 percent of those jobs will be filled, leaving about one million open positions.”

SONY DSCKeeshin said despite the growing need for students in the computer science field, there are few high schools offering computer programming courses.  Nationally only 1 out of 10 schools are teaching coding, he told students.

That is one of the reasons why CodeHS was developed – to provide a way to offer a coding course online.

“So many schools are looking at the job numbers and realizing they need to be teaching coding,” Keeshin said. “We now have 11,000 teachers trained on CodeHS so that schools can use it as a way to get coding into the classroom.”

In the introductory learning module, students on the site practice computer science concepts and programming skills by giving commands to a dog named Karel, who is named for the original programming language.   Students use simple program commands to move Karel around a grid, where she completes various tasks such as picking up and dropping a tennis ball.. Later learning modules teach more advanced concepts using languages like JavaScript, Java, and HTML.

Pack cautioned students who plan to take the course in the future not to become complacent with the fact the course starts with the simple basics.

“It will get really hard, really fast. ¬†It ramps up quickly,” said Pack. ¬†“Some of the students who blew through the Karel module very quickly have found out that it got very hard.”

Pack said because the online course requires students to have a lot of maturity and self-discipline the district will now limit it to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

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