Mandatory high school class exposes freshmen to computers, software

Could become a model for other school districts

BUENA VISTA, Va. – Most of us work with computers every day at work or at home. But there is a shortage of people who can code, protect our information and perform other important jobs in cybersecurity.

One school system is preparing students for this in-demand field in a new way.

Computer games are actually teaching students how to code.

"I will need these skills in the long run," said Aniyah McCoy, who was learning the parts of a computer the day we stopped by to take a look at the mandatory course for all Buena Vista freshmen.

"There are so many tech jobs that are unfilled in this country and it's getting worse because kids aren't going into it," said Sue Way, a CTE (Career and Technical Education) instructor who helped develop the course with technology director Donna Frazier.

"We looked at Virginia's vision and the federal CTE vision and all of those were incorporated with our local vision, like what we heard from industry leaders. They were very good about saying, 'This is where the gaps are,'" said Frazier.

'Information Technology Fundamentals' is not a new class for Virginia, but the way Buena Vista is teaching it is. They added to the basic class, packing a lot into one year. This could become the model across the Commonwealth.

"Any skill takes constant exposure to it and constant instruction. If we start them at the beginning of their high school career then they'll have many opportunities to practice the skills and to use them by the time they leave our building," said Frazier.

"Even if they're not thinking of a career in it, they're seeing how it can be used in other fields and that's important. They need to see that," said Way.

Exposing students to it early, allows them to expand their skills and take other classes, too.

"There are going to be kids that love it, there are going to be kids that don't love it but the goal is to get every kid seeing the possibilities," said Way.

"It's definitely teaching me things that I didn't know before and it's showing me things that I'm going to need to know," said McCoy.

Juniors and seniors are taking the class, since they missed it as freshmen. This has worked so well that  Buena Vista plans on starting computer science classes in kindergarten through eighth grade too.


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