Technology for Learners
Healdsburg High School’s Computer Science Program
Author: Rick Phelan
Preparing students to be college- and career-ready with 21st century skills is a major focus for high schools. One way that Healdsburg High School is addressing this goal is through computer science courses taught by Mike Efram. This blog post spotlights Healdsburg High’s computer science opportunities and how Mike Efram has found success with students.
At Healdsburg High, computer science classes embrace problem solving, hardware, algorithms, and perspectives that help people utilize technology to address real-world problems in modern life. The classes underscore the importance of appropriate communication skills and how to work as an effective team member. Three course offerings are available.
- Exploring Computer Science
Exploring Computer Science is a year-long elective class that involves students in projects that include web design, programming, data analysis, and robotics. The design of the course was inspired from materials at Exploring Computer Science. The class scaffolds learning for the next level class, AP Computer Science.
- AP Computer Science
AP Computer Science is a year-long course that includes object-oriented program design, program analysis (e.g., testing, debugging), data structures, and computing in context. With the AP categorization, this course denotes college-level course work and expectations.
- Advanced Computer Science Projects
Advanced Computer Science Projects encourages students to continue their pursuit of computer science learning through individualized projects. Students have created programs for school and community needs (e.g., bicycling travel app, volleyball scoring program). Current projects involve Android app development.
Computer science teacher Mike Efram has been on the Healdsburg High faculty for ten years. He has a credential in mathematics and worked as an engineer prior to becoming a teacher. Mike believes that the school’s computer science classes help address issues of equity and access for all students in the Healdsburg community.
Mike blends English language arts, mathematics, and Next Generation Science Standards into his work with students. He believes that students in his computer science classes effectively build skills and abilities to:
- Read closely
- Take apart problem questions
- Think broadly and anticipate next steps
- Think outside of the box and not be afraid of making mistakes
Each year, 40 to 90 students participate in his computer science classes—and more students are enrolling now because of a new seven-period schedule. Mike estimates that at least 10 Healdsburg High graduates go on to post-secondary learning opportunities in computer science each year.
Student Success Story: Jordan Vega
Healdsburg High School graduate Jordan Vega was inspired through Mike Efram’s computer science classes. In spring 2013, Jordan was one of 600 graduating high school seniors to apply to Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute—and he was one of only 60 accepted into the program. He spent the last three weeks of summer 2013 taking classes on Google’s Boston campus and staying at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
After that experience, Jordan went on to University of Redlands where he attends a 3+2 engineering program. Last summer, he and four other Healdsburg High graduates initiated CodeTech! to give back to the Healdsburg community. They held a two-week activity where they taught middle school students the basics of coding. Twenty-five students took advantage of this opportunity. Plans for more CodeTech! activities are in the works.