Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the Learning Blade statewide initiative, supported through a $400,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to the Arkansas Public School Resource Center (APSRC), to increase student awareness and interest in computer science and STEM (acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers.
Arkansas is the second state to implement the initiative and, at the Governor’s request, Arkansas is the first ever state to deploy Learning Blade with a computer coding aspect. The governor said it is an effort, along with his computer science initiative, putting Arkansas’s students in an even better position to land tech-driven jobs. The program will offer coding classes at every Arkansas public high school by exposing middle school students to STEM education concepts.
In the program, students are taught computer science skills through engaging academic exercises. Lessons are self-guided, allowing students to work on STEM-based activities at their own pace in the classroom or during after-school programs at no cost to Arkansas’s middle schools. The program will be implemented across Arkansas beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.
“I am excited that Learning Blade is being made available to teachers and students across Arkansas,” said Anthony Owen, ADE Coordinator of Computer Science. “Building interest in STEM subjects and awareness of related career opportunities, including jobs in the field of computer science, is crucial in ensuring that Arkansas graduates have the knowledge and skills that technology-based industries are seeking for their workforce.”
Several benefits for students who have participated in the Learning Blade program include,
an increase of 71 percent of students say they learned about new careers after using Learning Blade, 37 percent of students say they are more likely to pursue STEM careers and 57 percent are more interested in taking advanced math in high school, and 69 percent more students recognize what they learn in school will be useful later in life after graduation.
By 2024, there will be more than 126,000 computer science and STEM jobs in Arkansas, which opens up opportunities for Arkansas’s upcoming workforce to pursue high-paying career paths in these fields.
“The Arkansas Department of Career Education (ACE) sees the Learning Blade online program as an opportunity to further demonstrate the importance of STEM education and bring awareness and interest to STEM careers in Arkansas,” said Dr. Charisse Childers, Director of ACE.