The students in Room 114 were discussing the functions of both Anaconda and Spyder. Bio class?
Then they moved to the intricacies of print statements, syntax, parentheses and proper comma placement. English class?
Finally, they focused on their first hands-on assignment: Create an innovative artifact using visuals, graphics and even audio. Studio art class?
Actually, the girls in Room 114 are ensconced in Advanced Placement Computer Science, a class that was in such high demand this year that we carved out two fully-enrolled sections on the schedule. The intense interest among these “Gen Z” students—the first generation that has never known a non-digital world—reflects two important facets of a Mayfield education:
First, we foster a learning environment that encourages curiosity and problem solving. In Room 114 students are not figuring out how to post pictures or sitting alone in front of their computers coding. Instead, they are going behind their screens to understand the fundamental science behind the omnipresent technology in their lives.
“This class is about teaching how the internet works, the fundamentals of computing, including problem solving and working with data and coding,” said instructor Michael Dimen, our new computer science teacher, who graduated from Notre Dame University. “This opens the door for students to develop more skills. Learning how our digital world works is an integral part of their education.”
Mr. Dimen will be introducing students to the binary number system which represents all information as 0s and 1s. He’ll answer the unasked question: What’s in a JPEG anyway? They’ll learn about cyber-security concerns, algorithms and large data sets.
Second, Mayfield educators are deeply committed to preparing girls to take on STEM careers at a time when women are direly needed in science, technology, engineering and math fields. This course is a part of Mayfield’s enhanced STEM program that includes:
A world-class robotics team in partnership with the Girls Scouts of America
AP courses in science, technology and math
Opportunities for advanced research and internships
“We believe that every student’s future success will involve the ability to deftly interact with technology,” said Head of School Kate Morin. “The time to prepare them to be strong and confident digital creators is now.”
Back in Room 114, student Julia Watson ‘19 said she appreciates both the broad-brush learning in the class, as well as some helpful specifics.
“This class is showing me just how interconnected the world is and how we can learn to create and solve problems with code,” said Julia Watson ’19. “Plus I’m learning how to organize my computer and understand how the internet works.
Students who have grown up expecting to connect to WiFi like turning on a light now say they are learning more deeply about the technology they take for granted.
Melanie Ahn ’21 credits the class with helping her think through a “scary and frustrating” situation. Recently every open tab on her computer froze up with the dreaded “spinning rainbow circle.” All her homework assignments were open. A sense of impending fear began to grip her.
“Then I remembered this discussion we had about abstractions,” the process of focusing on a few concepts at a time. “I started going through one tab at a time and fixing settings. It worked.”
As students began their fourth week of school, they are already at work creating their digital artifact. The students must research and present on an important technology innovation that is changing the world of retail shopping, social media, cloud computing, cybersecurity or banking.
Mr. Dimen told his students can use any medium “as long at it’s computer based.” But the most important instruction: “I want to see you all stretching it, I want to see you explore.”