Frank Novak is one of the teachers of Prospect's app development class.  The year-long elective leads students from the basics of coding to designing and building iPhone apps that are used by businesses. 
 
We had another speaker from Prospect High School today and they were just as good as the others who have visited us this month! 
 
Frank Novak is one of the teachers of Prospect's app development class.  The year-long elective leads students from the basics of coding to designing and building iPhone apps that are used by businesses.  The class has been a runaway success, exceeding all expectations held by faculty, school administrators, sponsors, and students.  Plans to build upon the class have been accelerated with a new App2 class being offered next Fall. 
 
Since the students are learning and using the latest iOS, SWIFT, in the class, they have a leg up on many other more experienced coders.  As a result, several students, as young as 15 or 16 have been hired by local tech firms as junior apprentices.  Students also won the State Championship for the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.
 
Prospect's example has led other District 214 schools to initiate similar classes.  But Prospect remains unique in that they allow all freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors to take the class.  As a result, the number of students working towards and taking the AP computer science test has increased exponentially. 
 
The physical layout of the classroom is also unique.  It looks more like something out of Silicon Valley - desks and chalkboards are nowhere to be seen.  Instead, students take iMac laptops and work together in small groups on couches or on the floor.  If they want wider collaboration, they display their problem on a large digital screen that mirrors their laptop screen.  In one case, a new update to SWIFT resulted in several hundred errors showing up in a student's app.  He put it on the big screen and the whole class helped him whittle the number to just sixteen when class ended. 
 
Novak feels that the classes teaches something more important than coding.  Since there is no 'book answer' to the problems students encounter, they are developing strong problem solving skills.  If they can't figure it out, no one is going to hit a reset button for them.  They're also developing their collaborating skills by identifying the best people to work on different aspects of the project (graphics vs. coding for example). 
 
In the App2 class next year, the school will introduce more entrepreneurial aspects to the class.  How to identify and design apps that are not just useful, but also potentiall profitable.  There's even talk of a Shark Tank-type scenario where faculty (or even the public) pitch app ideas and the students select the best ones to develop. 
 
It's been great month learning about some of the fantastic ways Prospect High is preparing their students for life.  Kinda makes you wish you were 16 again, dosen't it? 
 
(naahhhh)
 

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