Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Coding Club to Serve Kanawha, Jackson Schools

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Coding Club to Serve Kanawha, Jackson Schools

Article excerpt

Three educators plan to start a new free computer coding club serving 80 students at seven Kanawha County public schools and two in Jackson County, with plans to increase the number of students served over the next half decade. The Kanawha Valley Coding Club will serve students from Kanawha's Horace Mann, John Adams, South Charleston and Stonewall Jackson middle schools plus Capital, George Washington and South Charleston high schools. The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation Board of Trustees approved a $12,490 grant for the club last month.

Cathryn Carena, principal of Jackson County's Ripley Middle, learned this week that the club had been awarded a grant from the Jackson County Community Foundation to serve students at her school and Ripley High.

Carena worked at John Adams last school year. She's starting the club alongside two people who still work at that school: Denise Workman, who teaches gifted students, and Dan McElroy, who teaches a reading program there.

Much of the so-far-announced grant funding will go toward paying the tuition for students to receive a year of online coding instruction from an Orlando, Florida- and Portland, Oregon-based company called Treehouse, which claims to have more than 163,000 active students in more than 190 countries.

They can do it from anywhere and they can do it at their own pace, Carena said of the program. McElroy said his son-in-law, a chief technology officer, knows Treehouse's founder.

Treehouse's website seems to downplay the worth of a college degree in coding.

"With the right portfolio of skills and experience, you don't need a Computer Science degree to launch a promising career, the site states.

"You can go from beginner to job-ready in just three to 12 months with a Techdegree, it says, referring to a certification it offers. The company notes the certification is "not associated with higher education accreditation.

The front page of its website includes a video of a self- identified student saying Treehouse lessons have a "huge advantage over a university, saying they can teach students more in a 5- minute video than a 2-hour lesson at a college.

Computing Research Association Executive Director Andrew Bernat noted his organization generally focuses on advanced degrees rather than two- or four-year degrees. But he also noted there's always been, dating back to correspondence courses, "efforts telling you a college degree isn't worth it, and said that if employers truly were happy with training from unaccredited sources, "they wouldn't be recruiting like crazy from universities.

When asked about Treehouse's statements about their offerings versus college degrees, Carena said she thinks the company and the club will feed students' interest in coding and give those who plan to attend college a "head start, while still providing a "certificate and expertise to students who may not be interested in or can't afford college. …

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