For high school students, computer science leads to math, art, and careers.
Student Nicole Reitz-Larsen says that the computer is just the beginning.
“We’re exploring science, we’re exploring other people, we’re exploring how to use technology and how to make it connect with math or cultures,” she recently told her class at West High School in Salt Lake City. “It’s not just, ‘Let me teach you what is a computer and how does it work;’ it’s internalizing it for yourself.”
Five Utah teachers have been selected for KUED-The Salt Lake Tribune Teacher Innovation Awards, which celebrate their creative use of technology in classrooms.
The awards were given in the categories of arts, math, language arts, science and social studies.
As technology becomes an ever-larger part of daily life, experts say schools are having a hard time keeping up. Less early exposure can mean fewer skills in the growing field, especially among women and minorities.
Reitz-Larsen aims to change that by not only bringing technology into the classroom, but teaching students to use it in new ways that access their critical thinking skills. She’s one of five teachers to win a 2014 Teacher Innovation Award from KUED-Channel 7 and The Salt Lake Tribune.
“If you want students to like something, it’s better to involve them,” said Reitz-Larsen. “That’s what it’s all about — giving students a voice.”
Reitz-Larsen taught German language and business classes for 13 years and “fell in love” with technology through Excel spreadsheets and started incorporating it into her classes. She eventually started teaching courses such as Exploring Computer Science, a course designed in Los Angeles and brought to Utah through Westminster College.
The course is based on research that found having access to technology doesn’t mean kids necessarily understand computers. Often in poorer school districts, kids were learning to type and cut-and-paste text rather than code.