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Montana leaders highlight importance of computer science education

HELENA – Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen and Governor Steve Bullock joined sixth grade students at Helena Middle School on Monday, December 3 for the Hour of Code.

Hour of Code is a worldwide effort to show the importance of computer science education and nearly 200 schools across the state participated in the event.

“The goal of my Montana Ready initiative is to provide students with the skills that they need to succeed in Montana’s modern economy after they graduate,” said Arntzen. “Computer science has produced some of the highest paying new jobs in our state and we must prepare Montana students for success in these industries. It was great to see students across Montana furthering their problem-solving skills today.”

Both Arntzen and Bullock participated in a computer science lesson with the students where they played an educational game that required individuals to use Python programing language to move a character and overcome obstacles.

Bullock said he was impressed with the students’ skills and wants to see more computer science education opportunities throughout the state.

“To have elementary and middle school students learning skills that they’ll use throughout their life is significant,” said Bullock, “But we also need to make sure we have qualified teachers who can actually teach these classes.”

Bullock announced he will be including $250,000 in his proposed 2-year budget for computer science education training opportunities for teachers across the state.

Helena Middle School Computer Applications teacher Michelle Erickson believes the skills her students are learning will have lasting implications throughout their lives.

“I think all the skills that they’re learning can be attached to any career of their choosing,” said Erickson. “Anything that requires an app or a computer, it’s good that they know how it works.”

Sixth-grader Birdie Heuiser said she had a fun time working with the governor on coding wants to continue to learn more programing languages.

“I honestly probably will use this later in life. I really enjoy computer science,” said Heuiser.

According to the Governor’s Office, there is an increasing number of occupations that require workers to have at least some level of basic technology literacy and proficiency. But only 40 percent of Montana high schools currently offer computer science courses.

“Computer science is not just if you’re going to become a computer programmer. If you want to be an auto mechanic, you have to have electronics skills,” said Bullock. “Just about every job someone needs has to have some computer science skills. So it really does afford the opportunity to give students the exposure early on to what they’ll need going forward.”

Even modern journalists, like those in the Montana Television Network, need to know basic computer science and programing language to ensure the articles posted have videos and pictures included.

John Riley

John Riley

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