Newer technology leads to new classes at GBHS

Schools begin to teach coding, programming


Over the past few years, our world has experienced a substantial surge in technology, creating a relatively new requirement in the job realm for both students and adults across the globe.

Without computer skills, it has become increasingly difficult to attain entry-level jobs in various fields, including business and media.

Businesses have begun to prefer workers who are able to effectively problem solve using the resources that they have, especially in the world of technology.

To equip students with such skills as they enter the workforce, schools, such as Granite Bay High School, have begun incorporating optional computer classes into their curriculum.

At the moment, GBHS has a total of four computer-based courses available for students to take on campus.

These classes include Information Technology Essentials (GBiT), Technology Leadership (GBiT), Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles and Exploring Computer Science. All four of these classes are taught by GBHS staff member Marc Imrie.

Though GBiT has been a class on campus for almost 15 years, Exploring Computer Science was introduced only two years ago, and AP Computer Science Principles first became available for students to take during the 2016-17 school year.

With the help of the College Board, the University of California, Berkeley teaching professor, Dan Garcia created the AP course to help increase the interest in computer science and technology related jobs.

“What he saw on campus was the need for diversity in computer science … in female enrollment, but also in ethnicity and socioeconomics,” GBHS computer science teacher Marc Imrie said. “He was able to get 50 percent female enrollment at Berkeley in their (introductory) computer science class …  so he saw that as an opportunity to then get high school students at that same place. Very few schools offered computer science classes at all, and those that did had similar problems as he had – the majority were male or of a certain socioeconomic level, and he wanted to see that change.”

Making the course eligible for AP credit was another factor in helping increase enrollment.

“If you put ‘AP’ in front of any class, it’s going to attract people because of the grade bump and the competition of getting into colleges,” Imrie said. “So if you can make this an AP elective and make it a fun, engaging, hands-on class, maybe you’ll increase the enrollment.”

GBHS ultimately succeeded in increasing enrollment, raising the female enrollment from around 10 to 15 percent to almost 30 percent.

Though AP Computer Science Principles teaches many in-depth computer skills, Imrie reiterated that the class was more than just about learning how to code and creating algorithms.

“The big idea of the class is getting students to think not only about technology and how to create it, but the impact of technology,” Imrie said. “There’s lots of hands-on programming labs, but it’s more about the thinking and process of writing code than it is to learn coding.”

Along with the new courses, the GBHS course catalog now includes an updated computer science pathway for students who are interested in pursuing the subject in the future.

The pathway suggests taking Exploring Computer Science as an introductory course in either one’s freshman or sophomore year.

Students are then encouraged to enroll in GBiT or AP Computer Science Principles during their junior year.

Finally, the catalog recommends enrolling in either GBiT or Technology Leadership, also known as the management sector of GBiT, as a senior.

This pathway helps students like Jada Berenguer, a senior at GBHS, pursue their interests in the field of computer science.

“It’s a great industry to be in because you can always learn something new,” Berenguer said. “I joined GBiT because I’ve always had an interest in technology and I thought that class would be a great class to expand my knowledge of tech. I’ve learned a lot of factual and tech information from GBiT, but the bigger take away I got was learning a lot of soft skills, like communicating and working with a team consistently, communicating with teachers and respected staff members and being a leader, since I became a manager my junior year.”

The need for computer engineers and scientists has grown recently and computer engineers are becoming some of the top paid individuals in the job market.

“I think they’re becoming some of the highest paid individuals because they’re the people that are creating and inventing new innovations to make a better, more advanced future to make all of our lives easier,” Berenguer said. “They both have very creative minds …  along with very intelligent minds, needing to know how to actually make those ideas come to life, and that’s what makes them so valuable.”

Due to automation of jobs, both at the moment and in the future, Imrie believes that the understanding of technology is even more important.

“Computers are taking over a lot of jobs,” Imrie said. “Every industry that has the incentive to automate is going to take away a lot of jobs that we think are secure.

“There’s so much automation that we just need less workers, but if you know how to program or invent, then your jobs are more secure than other people’s.”

Businesses are also more keen to hire individuals who are familiar with multiple computer programs opposed to someone who is not, especially since the surrounding world thrives upon technology.

“I think you should be able to work some spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel (and) Microsoft Word,” senior Jovan Rangi said.

“If you’re looking into real complicated things like engineering or other computer-science based jobs, then you should know how to code a computer program using advanced methods like Java and Javascript.”

Many of the students at GBHS have interests in pursuing jobs that could require computer skills, whether it is in the field of computer science or not.

“If I pursue my interest in finance and end up working in private equity or asset management, I might need to create a program or algorithm that would be able to identify ideal price movements on which to make a trade,” Rangi added.

The relevance of technology has rapidly been increasing and the necessity for students to learn these skills for the future are vital to maintain a strong employment rate.

“Technology is everywhere,” Imrie said. “No matter what job you’re in, you’re interacting with technology.”