Frustrated by the lack of co-op places in computer science, an Oakridge secondary school student was “thrilled” to be offered work in her future field through a pilot program offered by teach giant Apple and her school board.
While most internships require university level education and there are few opportunities for high school students, the one offered by Apple Education allows high schoolers to develop an app in a virtual co-op setting – something of a dream come true for Grade 12 student Jeri Fan .
“There’s no one in my family or friends in this field. I really wanted to try it out myself, but it’s very difficult to find jobs related to computer science in London,” said Fan, who plans to study computer science at university. “It’s an opportunity where you actually code and do computer science related things. You get to do the cool stuff, the hard-core stuff like programming and developing software.
“I mean, it’s Apple. It’s an opportunity that is out of this world.”
Laura Briscoe, innovation learning co-ordinator with the Thames Valley District school board, said Fan is part of a pilot program that aims to “bring real-world experiences into education.” The program began in February and has four students.
“For the pilot we wanted students who were passionate about computer science and coding to give them that opportunity and exposure,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you live and if you don’t have access to in-person (placements). This will open doors. You can be in Aylmer or Woodstock or wherever.”
Students are asked to define a local problem and solve it using an app they create, she said.
Apple Education acts as a mentor and provides support in setting up the programming language created by Apple, Briscoe said.
“The skills they are learning are global competencies like critical thinking, problem solving, innovation and going through the empathy process of understanding who would benefit from their app,” Briscoe said. “I feel like the real-world skills – beyond the app design – is what is really shining through.”
The students work with industry expert Fred Cahill at STEAM Community Studio in St. Louis. Thomas, where they meet every Monday and are mentored through their work week.
The students, he said, are focused on developing prototype apps with potential to help community projects.
“The virtual co-op is allowing students the opportunity to support community projects and their own learning at the same time,” Cahill said. “It’s a delight to see their entrepreneurial spirit, innovative ideas and to have them really dig in and problem-solve along the way.”