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Illinois High Schools Add iOS Programming To Expand STEM Education

Two Chicago area districts are introducing teachers and students to iOS coding in order to expand a focus on programming. Barrington 220 School District and High School District 214 are working with the Mobile Makers Academy, which is offering professional development for teachers as well as curriculum for students and support for the classes.

According to a company statement, about 500 students in seven schools will be the first to try out the new high school coding program, which formally launched this fall.

The student program covers 130 hours of in-class teacher-led coding instruction. The education will address programming of mobile apps, development of user interfaces, managing code in a team and agile project management. By the end of the school year, participants are expected to have built "several" mobile apps and learned about variables, branching and conditionals, storyboards, arrays and dictionaries, navigation controllers, app deployment and other topics.

"Introducing students to mobile software development early on brings relevance to the classroom and ensures our students are competitive in higher education and the workplace," said Lazaro Lopez, associate superintendent of High School District 214, which has six participating schools. But one "significant challenge," he added, was finding teachers with experience in coding to teach the subject.

To prepare the educators, nine of the teachers went through training to learn Swift, Apple's programming language, as well as the iOS software development kit and agile methodologies. By the end of the training, they had created a gradebook app.

Mobile Makers also developed the curriculum that will be used in the high schools' classes and said it provides dedicated support in person and online. The curriculum includes readings, screencasts, quizzes, instructor slides and challenges for topics in each subject area. During the classes, the teacher acts as the client.

"It's exciting that the district has embraced this new opportunity for students to learn coding. They look forward to learning Apple's new programming language. I hope this leaves them wanting more in our four-year sequence of computer science class offerings," said Kristen Fisher, an Elk Grove High School computer science teacher who completed the training. "Our students are learning how to be creative, solve complex problems and use critical thinking through a technical framework. We are creating a tangible way to expand STEM education."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.