We made the news cycle!! Yippee! The following is exerted from the Bend Bulletin newspaper.
A new way to learn computing
Bend High serves as a testing ground for youths
By Ben Botkin / The Bulletin
Published: June 29. 2012 4:00AM PST
This spring, Bend High School was an incubator for an experiment in education.
The end result was about a dozen students taking computer science courses and learning how to build Internet search engines. It’s an effort that could spread to other Central Oregon schools.
The students’ work unfolded for a seven-week period this spring.
It started after Kevin English approached the high school with the idea. English is a founder of Da Vinci’s Lab, an organization that works with Central Oregon public schools to provide education programs that supplement what’s already in place.
The effort, in turn, linked students with courses offered through Udacity. The company, less than a year old, seeks to provide students with access to free college-level online courses.
“Anyone in the world can go to our website and join our classes,” said David Evans, a computer science professor at Udacity as well as the University of Virginia.
A formal classroom is not needed and because of the format, students – whether they are high school age or adults – are self-motivated, Evans said.
“If students want to go into computing, it prepares them and sets them on the path for a wide variety of jobs,” Evans said.
The high school provided computer science lab space for English.
For three days a week, a lab at the school was available after school. There, students could show up and get coaching from English in person and participate in supplemental group activities with their peers.
As a result, the labs were more at aimed at help with homework and assignments, with the instruction coming from the online side of the course.
While the instruction was primarily online, the lab activities provided an in-person, social component to the coursework, English said.
For students, the courses didn’t provide credit toward their high school diploma, but offered an opportunity to explore an area of interest.
“I’ve known for a quite a while that I am interested in programming and nothing’s been available around Bend until now so I jumped at the opportunity,” said Skyler Swenson, 17, a student at Bend High.
Swenson, who will be a senior this fall, said the online mode of instruction was easy, allowing him to review content at home. The course starts out with students knowing nothing about programming and builds up from there, he said.
“I really like the way it was done,” he said.
The mode of learning, while not for every student, has advantages, English said. Students can rewind and rewatch a video, and go at their own pace.
“The biggest thing is it puts the student back in control,” English said. “They control their pace of learning. They control when they learn, they control what time of day they learn.”
English said he’s in talks that could result in the program spreading to Sisters and the Redmond Proficiency Academy. He’s also offering the same course this summer for high school and college students at the Bend Senior Center.
“The beauty of this at this point is kids take it just for the sake of learning,” Bend Principal H.D. Weddel said. “It’s not a high school credit. It’s volunteer and kids take it because it’s a great way to learn.”
—Reporter: 541-977-7185, email@example.com