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Local school sees benefits of Amazon computer science course

Posted at 6:47 AM, May 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-20 08:08:23-04

Is your child interested in computer science? Maybe they haven't opportunity to find out because of limited resources at his or her school. Online retail giant, Amazon, wants to change that.

By this fall, Amazon says it will be funding beginner and AP Computer Science classes in 1,000 school across the country. It wants to add 1,000 more schools, specifically in under-served communities.

Why the push? The industry needs workers. By 2020, Amazon says there will be 1.4 million computer science related jobs in the U.S., but only 400,000 computer science graduates fill them. Amazon spokesperson, Allison Flicker says "there really is a huge gap. A huge need to have more kids proficient in computer science and understanding this world."

So far, 16 schools in Wisconsin have qualified for this program, one of them is Racine's Walden III middle and high school.

Computer science teacher Jon Christian remembers when he responded to an email last year, went through an interview process about his teaching philosophy and won the computer science course for Walden III.

Mr. Christian said, "In the second semester, I told the students we're going to try something new, let's see how it works. And it's been a total success."

It's a success because he's seeing results in his AP Computer class. Mr. Christian was already teaching computer science but used a text-based curriculum. The Amazon-led program focuses on five to 10 minute long, no-nonsense video lessons with a teacher that Mr. Christian likes because "she's not making jokes. It's real quick."

The students can watch the videos anywhere. There are quizzes and assignments that students then work on at their own pace. Christian says he has "one student who was the slowest using the text-based, now he's furthest ahead in the class. It just resonated with him. This year, we had 16 kids. Next year, we have 40."

The new curriculum also resonated with Mollie Svatek. The high school senior says she was almost scared away from the class after first semester. Mollie says

"The videos make it easier to learn, but it's the way they're done," said Svatek. "Not only given code examples, you're given the theory. But also, why things do what they do."

"It's been a while since I've been bubbly about a class curriculum and this is it," said Christian. "It's neat seeing kids into computer programming."

The curriculum also provides live online support and professional development for teachers. Amazon says the program is part of a $50 million effort to bring computer science and STEM education to millions of children.

If you would like more information about the program and how to apply, click here.