Gov. Rick Snyder has proclaimed December 4-10 Computer Science Education Week in Michigan. “One of the greatest challenges in preparing for tomorrow’s opportunities is educating students for the careers available in information technology,” he said. “We believe Michigan can be a national leader in computer science education, and building awareness is an essential step toward achieving that goal.”
To commemorate Computer Science Education Week, schools and students across the state are encouraged to engage in an “Hour of Code,” a global initiative to reach students in more than 180 countries with online how-to-code” tutorials available in over 40 languages. The purpose is to demystify computer coding and encourage students to explore the many computer science careers.
Snyder has placed a high priority on boosting educational and training opportunities to prepare students for high-tech jobs. He refers to the effort as a Marshall Plan, a reference to a dramatic initiative to meet the increasing demand for computer science-related work.
Since broadening its mission, the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office has focused on building educational partnerships with schools. For the last three years, MFDMO has worked to elevate computer science education as a means to a career in the state’s digital media industries.
“We want to make sure all schools have equal access to computer science materials, and ‘Hour of Code’ gives educators and students an easy-to-use and immersive experience,” said Jenell Leonard, commissioner of Michigan Film & Digital Media Office.
“Regardless of location or test scores, we need to empower today’s students with the resources needed to succeed in a high-tech world where critical thinking and creativity are premiums,” she said.
Opportunities for graduates with computer science degrees are plentiful. Jobs in computing in Michigan is growing at three times the state average rate of other types of jobs. The average earnings for those employed in a digital-media related industry is over $80,000, according to Code.org, a global advocacy organization that promotes computer science literacy.
By 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1 million more computer science jobs than graduating students qualified for them. In Michigan, only 71 of 3,550 schools offered AP Computer Science course in 2015-2016.
Hour of Code is organized by Code.org, Hour of Code draws on a coalition of partners, including Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and College Board. The online tutorial works on PCs, smartphones and tablets.
To sign up, please visit https://hourofcode.com/us/how-to
Proclaiming the first week in December as Computer Science Education Week is in part to honor Grace Hopper, among the first female pioneers in computer science. Hopper worked on the Harvard Mark I computer, a general purpose electro-mechanical computer developed by IBM used during World War II to calculate mathematical tables.
Improving computer science education is at the core of Computer Science First (CS First) program, a partnership between MFDMO and Google. A no-cost online-based curriculum designed for middle-school students, CS First aims to increase accessibility to a discipline where proficiency is a highly marketable skill to current and future job prospects.
Google provides the curriculum (available through a website to classrooms) to schools around the country. The introduction of CS First in Michigan marks the first time a state agency has been the primary coordinator of the program.