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Inspiring Student Creativity with Computer Science

Inspiring Student Creativity with Computer Science

Standing in his classroom, Mark Frey, Director of Computer Science Pathways for Skyline High School At Skyline High School, Mark Frey has walked students through the "mysterious" world of Computer Science since 1998. It starts with saving files and has led to a former student winning a Directors Guild Award for Young Filmmakers.


When the San Francisco-based cloud software company SAP was looking two years ago for a school with an established Computer Science program to help develop, Mark's Computer Science and Technology Academy was its clear choice. With the announcement of SAP sponsorship in September, his Academy reflects a deeper approach to learning the technical and creative sides of computer science, as well as career pathway development. The vibrant Apple computer lab, which is plastered with movie posters and now infused with outside support, is a far cry from the way Mark began.


“The first year was a mess, we had all these broken machines. Kids would crowd around me on the one working machine, and at that point we didn’t have the internet,” said Mark, Director of CS Pathways. “I got there and was like ‘how are we gonna do this?’ so we started with computer basics and programming.”


Technological advancements have made computer science and digital arts increasingly accessible over the years. Mark says the progress allows him to take his classes in a more creative direction.


“Digital arts are a great way to get kids engaged” he explained. “In order to be a well-rounded Computer Science program, we need to cater to the analytical programming side as well as content creation. These worlds are much more intertwined than they used to be, and it’s best to have experience in both.”


Mark taught speech at community college for seven years prior to joining OUSD and continues to teach a class on interpersonal communications at Contra Costa College. He has been instrumental in making multimedia and video production the “flavor” at Skyline, whereas schools like Oakland Tech have Computer Science strengths in other areas such as databases and 3D animation. Every June, his students present their work during a film festival.


Reflecting on his 20 years at Skyline he says, “one thing I love about OUSD has been the freedom to find a niche that I have been happy and successful in.

“I have fun showing the creative, expressive side of computer science to my students. You have to remember, most of the programs I teach were not even thinkable 20 years ago and for this generation it’s really true that the job they’ll have in ten years doesn’t exist today.”