Vancouver high school students offered computer science lessons from Microsoft employees

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      In the future, every company will be a tech company. No organization will be able make, deliver, or market its products without using technology, and coding will increasingly underpin every aspect of our daily lives.

      Right now, technology is moving so fast that it is estimated that two-thirds of students entering elementary school today will be employed in professions that currently don’t exist. As more experiences begin to be automated, around 80 percent of those jobs will require individuals to be competent in STEAM subjects—science, technology, engineering, art and design, and math—with skills like programming in high demand.

      Only a small number of high schools, however, place a proportionate emphasis on computer science (CS) classes. While many want to offer the subject, few can find teachers equipped to instruct the students.

      Microsoft software engineer and former high school CS teacher Kevin Wang decided to create a solution. Working in conjunction with Microsoft Philanthropies, Wang created a program named TEALS (technology education and literacy in schools). An initiative that would bring Microsoft employees and other tech experts into classrooms around North America, the course allows professionals to team-teach CS alongside regular staff, and to show students how it’s used in the workplace.    

      First established in the U.S., this school year is the first time the program has been implemented north of the 49th parallel. The initiative was launched last week in four lower mainland institutions: Burnaby South Secondary School, Handsworth Secondary School, John Oliver Secondary School, and Killarney Secondary School. The classes are powered by 24 volunteers from 10 companies, including giants EA, Broadcom, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.

      Local post-secondary institutions have been instrumental in supporting the program. Universities like BCIT have partnered with TEALS to administer grants for the 2018-2019 school year, and are working to align both curriculums so that students are well equipped to continue their education. Both organizations hope the collaboration will help to fill the growing talent shortage in the B.C. tech industry.

      The acclaimed program is well established in the U.S. Currently operating in 27 states, TEALS has reached 12,000 students since its inception. Three teaching models are supported by the initiative in both the States and British Columbia: the co-teaching model, where a team of volunteers partners with the classroom teacher, the lab support model, where volunteers work one-on-one with the students, and the classroom enrichment model, where a volunteer assists a teacher by phone or online webinar. By offering a flexible method of instruction, the program currently boasts nearly 1,100 volunteers from 500 companies in America.

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