From coding to e-sports, computer science offers pathway to the future

In most classrooms teachers tell their students to put their smart phones away.

Cythia Drahos isn’t like most teachers.

As a computer science teacher at Burnsville High School (BHS) Drahos encourages her students to use all available technology to explore, experiment and grow their knowledge of computer science. It’s all part of the One91 Pathways Arts, Global Communications & Information Systems career field.

“You carry a computer around with you every day — your phone,” Drahos said. “Learning how to use it is important. Students can find computer science in everything they do. The skill set, the problem solving, they will carry with them their entire life.”

What started as a single class 15 years ago has grown to offer students entry level courses such as Introduction to Programming, IT Exploration, Advanced Programming, Web Design, App Development,  Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles, and AP Computer Science A, where the computer language Java is taught. Through these courses students can find their passion whether it is in web design, software development or hardware. In the IT Exploration course alone students delve into digital media, computing systems and IT Services, network and Internet security, game development and design, programming and software development and data analytics. 

The program also allows students to earn articulated college credit, and through AP courses students can earn full college credit. Students also can apply their knowledge to the real world by offering certifications such as the Acer Chromebook Certification. That partnership lets students go through up to a month of training and testing on Chromebooks, and students can run a BHS Help Desk alongside the district’s Information Technology personnel.

And, unlike other modes of study, failure is built in.

“Not everything we do we’re going to be successful at,” Drahos said. “This helps our students develop a growth mindset. They know that they can continuously learn and have a positive attitude — that ‘I can do this.’ If the things they try don’t work one way they can figure out themselves or through group discussions how to make it work.”

In District 191, it isn’t just high school students who can study computer sciences. Drahos said that the district has been purposeful in working to assure students at every grade can study computer science. To support the computer science pathway for elementary students, the district was awarded a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education to offer computer science to second- and third-grades. There, students are introduced to the computer sciences through coding.

The program isn’t done growing. The district is looking to offer courses in areas such as networking and security. They’re also exploring one of the biggest and fastest growing areas of computer science: e-sports.

“It’s huge,” Drahos said. “E-sports would be included in programming, in our business marketing program, and in video. We know there’s room to grow this program and we’re pursuing that.”

“Not everything we do we’re going to be successful at. This helps our students develop a growth mindset. They know that they can continuously learn and have a positive attitude — that ‘I can do this.’ If the things they try don’t work one way they can figure out themselves or through group discussions how to make it work.”

- Cythia Drahos, computer science teacher at Burnsville High School