Mobile Makers Academy is Putting Coding on the Curriculum in These Chicago High Schools

August 26, 2014

6:00 pm

Back in 2012, Mobile Makers Academy launched in Chicago to offer people the opportunity to become iOS developers through its initial ten-week program offering. Since then, they’ve condensed their iOS Bootcamp to eight weeks, teach students to code in both Objective-C and Apple’s new Swift programming language,  and have even launched a program that enables students to go through the same curriculum in a strictly-online course. Hoping to spread this opportunity to a younger generation, Mobile Makers Academy has partnered with school districts in two Chicago suburbs to incorporate software development and coding into their STEM curricula.

“Overall, we want students to develop their problem solving skills and extend them to their everyday lives,” said Mobile Makers Academy founder and CEO Brandon Passley, in response to what they hope to see from this partnership. “In the long run, we hope to see more students enrolling in AP computer science classes in high school and enrolling in computer science as a college major.”

Mobile Makers Academy has been working with the Barrington 220 School District (Barrington, Illinois) and High School District 214 (Arlington Heights, Illinois) to pilot the organization’s Mobile Makers for Schools, a program designed specifically to provide students with more than 130 hours of in-class coding instruction over the course of 32 weeks. More than 375 students total are expected to participate in the class this year in District 214, while 125 are registered for the class in Barrington 220.

“Mobile Makers wanted to find a way to close the digital learning gap for students and to demystify coding…Coding is a skill that can be applied to many other parts of a student’s life. It ultimately teaches people how to solve complex problems and how to debug a solution. It’s a great creative outlet any student can immerse themselves in, and it has a great potential for real-world exposure into a booming tech industry.”

In order to prepare for the implementation of the program in this upcoming school year, Mobile Makers Academy put high school instructors through a curriculum similar to that of their eight-week bootcamp, putting the teachers through an intensive study of the core topics, Agile development, and Swift. “Current computer science classes don’t reflect the real world of working in a tech company. But to do that, we must begin with training teachers,” said Passley. So far, nine teachers have gone through the training course.

The partnership between public and private organizations to improve the state of education is obviously nothing new, but the involvement of Mobile Makers Academy does reveal one of the limitations (and biggest weaknesses) of our education system. Despite recent efforts to boost STEM curricula in our schools, we are limited by resources and bogged down by archaic beliefs of an “ideal” education. The partnership is a great example of school districts willing to experiment (which is rare in education, where theory and policy get in the way of any actual progress) and a private organization’s awareness of potential disruption.

Opining on the topic of whether we’re doing enough in this country to boost STEM education, Passley said:

“Not yet. There has been a large wave for STEM-related initiatives, but not enough, and one big reason is lack of resources at all levels. When we partnered with our pilot high schools, one of their biggest challenges was not having the expertise to build a curriculum around a fast-changing subject like programming. That’s where our program fills a gap. If you look at schools in the U.K., you will find that they are requiring students to take computer science and coding classes. I believe U.S. schools should require students to take at least two years of basic computer science in high school so they can have more exposure to the programming field.”

If the program succeeds, hopefully we’ll see Mobile Makers Academy spread the initiative to other schools in the area. In the upcoming school, the schools that will run the pilot program includes: Buffalo Grove High School (Buffalo Grove, Ill.), Elk Grove High School (Elk Grove Village, Ill.), John Hersey High School (Arlington Heights, Ill.), Prospect High School (Mount Prospect, Ill.), Rolling Meadows High School (Rolling Meadows, Ill.), Wheeling High School (Wheeling, Ill.), and Barrington High School (Barrington, Ill.).

You can learn more about Mobile Makers Academy from their website.

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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