The STEAM addition also houses a Computer Science Learning Studio, which is unique to high schools in the area. Along with a SmartHub and instructional technology, the studio includes 30 high-powered, large-screen computers with industry-standard software that students will use to learn, and experiment with, coding and computer programming.
The computer science industry is projected to grow much faster than other industries over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And colleges and universities are reporting that more students than ever are majoring in computer science in order to pursue such careers as software engineers, web developers, computer system or security information analysts, and computer and information research scientists.
“Our Computer Science Learning Studio puts BH-BL in a position to introduce students in a more robust capacity to computer science and math applications and tools that are available in real-world settings,” says Supervisor of Mathematics William McQuay. “We offer a four-year sequence in computer science beginning with introductory principles and culminating in a capstone course in which students develop their own software solution.”
The Computer Science Learning Studio is also equipped with distance learning technology that will be used to broadcast computer science courses to other districts. Using a high-definition camera and dual-screen monitor, BH-BL students and teachers will connect and collaborate with students from other districts across the state. The dual screen allows students who are located in other schools to simultaneously view the content being taught and interact with the teacher and students in the studio.
Distance learning courses have been around for quite some time but were mostly popular in small, rural districts because it allowed them to offer electives they otherwise didn’t have the student population to support. As technology has become more advanced and college-level courses more attainable for high school students, distance learning courses have gained popularity among schools of all sizes. For instance, this school year BH-BL High School students can enroll in a Mandarin Chinese course because it’s supported through distance learning. The district is reimbursed a majority of the costs through tuition from the remote districts. And even more elective opportunities are on the horizon because BH-BL, along with many other districts beyond the Capital Region, is now part of the BOCES Distance Learning Network. Along with Mandarin Chinese and computer science courses, an early childhood development course will be taught by BH-BL faculty and offered to other districts within the network.
“Distance learning is a win-win for us,” says Superintendent Patrick McGrath. “It opens many new doors for our students and staff while keeping the associated costs low. It also helps us achieve our goal to expand our college-credit program, BH-BL+1, and make it possible for students to earn a full year of college credits while still in high school.”