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Building next generation of tech innovators

Partnership with Google aims to improve computer science proficiency

"We know that exposure to computer science can lead to some of the most rewarding jobs in the world, and we have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of tech innovators," said Rob Biederman, Google's head of Midwest public affairs. "Kids from all neighborhoods and all backgrounds should be encouraged to be creators -- not just consumers -- of technology."

Less than four months after announcing a first-ever partnership with Google aimed at increasing awareness of the need to improve computer science proficiency among students, the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office (MFDMO) has enrolled 42 schools and more than 2,000 students from across the state in “Computer Science First (CS First).” 

The online-based curriculum (offered at no cost) is designed for students in grades 4-8 to help increase accessibility to a discipline where mastery is a highly marketable skill to current and future job prospects. 

On Thursday, more than 400 students and teachers from around the state will gather at the Breslin Center on the Michigan State University campus for a demonstrations of courses in the online computer science curriculum. In addition, there will be interactive stations provided by Google, MSU, Master of Art in Education Technology (MAET), Boy Scouts of America, ITEC of Lansing, Square One, Strength in Numbers, and Pixo Group. 

Course demonstrations will follow opening remarks at 10 a.m. (Thursday, Jan. 28) by Google and MFDMO commissioner Jenell Leonard. Demonstrations at interactive stations will conclude at noon.

“We have had an overwhelming response from schools, which clearly points to the education need, and the appeal of ‘CS First,’” said Leonard. “Google has made it possible for middle school students to gain access to computer science education regardless of where they go to school. This has the potential to provide the foundation for learning that leads students into productive careers and jobs in science, computer programing and the creative services.” 

While Google provides the curriculum (available through a website to classrooms) to schools around the U.S., the introduction of CS First in Michigan marks the first time a state agency has been the primary coordinator of the program. 

 "We know that exposure to computer science can lead to some of the most rewarding jobs in the world, and we have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of tech innovators," said Rob Biederman, Google's head of Midwest public affairs. "Kids from all neighborhoods and all backgrounds should be encouraged to be creators -- not just consumers -- of technology."

CS First includes support for computer science clubs run by teachers and/or volunteers; flexible program design that fits in class or after class requirements; and, eight themed/focus areas, e.g., game design, art, storytelling, fashion/design, music/sound, friends, social media and sports.

Students work on the activities and assignments from a laptop, either provided by the school or the student. No additional software is required. Schools must have Wi-Fi.

The partnership with Google is the initial foray into building public/private partnerships for the MFDMO, which no longer provides incentive to filmmakers. In addition to working with innovative private-sector companies like Google, the film office strategic plan calls for educational alliances to go along with a coordinated promotional campaign to elevate awareness of film and digital media production resources in Michigan. 

Currently, there are 15,000 job openings in the computer sciences in Michigan. Job growth in the state is increasing at three-and-a-half times the average compared to other industries. By 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be one million more computer science jobs than graduating students who qualify for the jobs. 

 For more information, please visit COMPUTER SCIENCE FIRST 

 Tony Garcia is a promotional agent at the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office.  

PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS AND SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS BY COUNTY

COUNTIES: ALLEGAN -- Hamilton Middle School (Hamilton); ARENAC -- Standish-Sterling Middle School (Standish); BARAGA – C.J. Sullivan Elementary School (L’Anse); BAY – Washington Elementary School (Bay City), McAlear-Sawden Elementary School (Bay City); Berrien – Berrien Springs Middle School (Berrien Springs), Benton Harbor Area Schools, Lincoln Elementary School (St. Joseph); CALHOUN – Lillian Fletcher Elementary School (Homer); CLARE – Harrison Middle School, Farwell Middle School, Clare Middle School; CLINTON – David Scott Elementary (Dewitt), Pewamo-Westphalia Community School (Westphalia); EATON – Middle Crossroads Council (Lansing); GENNESSEE – Dieck Elementary School (Swartz Creek), Gaines Elementary School (Swartz Creek), Davison Middle School; GLADWIN – Beaverton Elementary School, Gladwin Intermediate School; GRATIOT – Ithaca North Elementary School; HURON – Our Lady of Lake Huron Catholic School (Harbor Beach); INGHAM – Students First (Lansing), MSU MAET (East Lansing), REMC Assn. of Michigan (Webberville); KALAMAZOO – Vicksburg Middle School, Gull Lake Middle School (Richland); KENT – Grand Rapids Public Museum School, Grand Rapids Public Museum; MIDLAND – Jefferson Middle School (Midland); NEWAYGO – Newaygo County Regional Educational Services (Fremont); OAKLAND – Initiative Science, Tech248.com (Waterford), Square One Education Network (Waterford), Ferndale Middle School, Mobile Technology Assn. of Michigan (Clarkston), Madison Heights Middle School, Wilkinson Middle School (Madison Heights); OTTAWA – Pinecreek Christian Academy (Holland), Our Homeschool (Zeeland); SHIAWASSEE – New Lothrop Elementary School; ST. CLAIR – Landmark Academy (Kimball), Capac Middle School; VAN BUREN – North Shore Elementary School (South Haven), Hartford Middle School; WASHTENAW – Manchester Middle School; WAYNE – Summit Academy (Flat Rock), Summit Academy North (Romulus), Advanced Technology Academy (Dearborn), Liberty Middle School (Canton).

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