MONTHLY FEATURE

Student using a tablet to learn programming concepts.

LENOIR COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS WINS GRANT TO TEACH
COMPUTER CODING

Story reprinted courtesy of WCTI NewsChannel 12

By Ashley Boles and Jason O. Boyd

KINSTON, Lenoir County - Lenoir County Public Schools has won a share of a $400,000 state grant to develop coursework for middle and high school students to learn computer science and coding.

News of the grant money is exciting for the school district, but we learned that students in Lenoir County are already familiar with coding and are preparing for their future after high school in middle school. LCPS is one of 15 public school districts and charter schools selected for the first funding cycle of the new Coding and Mobile App Development Grant Program. The grant is offered by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

According to a press release from the school system, the district will use $36,160 to work in conjunction with Apple to train teachers and create a curriculum for students in the district's Career and Technical Education program. That could lead to college credits through Lenoir Community College.

"It's almost like a foreign language to some and I feel like this is kind of the foreign language of the future if you will," said Stephanie Harrell, who teaches CTE classes at Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School. Students in her class have been working on websites as a way to work on and learn about coding or programming that makes it possible to create computer software.

"We have to really do whatever we can do to prepare our kids for jobs that haven't even been invented yet," Harrell said. "That we don't even know what the jobs are gonna be like in 10-15 years."

Lenoir County is getting a head start with the grant. The money will create a coding class pathway for the students.

"The projection is by 2020, we'll have one of the fastest growing careers for computer engineers, and computer design, system design personnel," said Amy Jones, LCPS director of high school education and CTE. "And there will be a great employment gap for those. There are already a lot of unfilled jobs in coding and technology that our students could fill with the proper training."

Jones said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked computer science engineers and computer systems analysts as the fastest growing occupations in North Carolina for 2020.

"I know from my experience in working at a tech company the difficulty employers are having recruiting graduates with the appropriate technical skills," State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson said in announcing the grant awards. "Thanks to these grants, we are better positioning students for innovative career opportunities available right now in North Carolina.