Pitt-Johnstown, Community Partners Launch Coding Literacy Initiative


posted November 10, 2016

Attending the Coding Initiative launch announcement were: (from left) President and CEO of Problem Solutions Mike Hruska, Forest Hills Superintendent Ed Bowser, Greater Johnstown Interim Superintendent Mike Vukovich, Pitt-Johnstown Interim Education Division Chair Gerald Zahorchak, and Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown announced that it is launching a Coding Literacy Initiative for the Greater Johnstown region.

“At Pitt Johnstown, we believe that given the right tools beginning at K-12, every child will be ready to compete and succeed in the Real World,” said President Jem Spectar. “We are convinced that the doors opening up in the new global technological economy should be open to all our children. Hence we are proud to join our partners in launching this Moon/Planet-shot: The Coding Literacy Initiative to re-position the Johnstown area as a leader in innovation and growth, a position enjoyed by the region at the dawn of the industrial age.”

The announcement was made at a November 10, 2016, campus launch event.

Recognizing the growing importance of coding literacy to the future workforce and overall competitiveness of our region in the 21st century, Pitt Johnstown will provide a community pilot program in an effort to add tech skills to a baseline education curriculum and bring a new form of literacy to our community. 

 Dr. Spectar

Pitt-Johnstown President Spectar discusses the need for improved technical literacy.

Pitt-Johnstown and several community partners are launching the Coding and Digital Literacy Moonshot Initiative, an ambitious project with the goal of making the Greater Johnstown region a national model for the development of coding literacy, beginning with K-12 and extending to all segments the community.

Pitt-Johnstown will lead an initiative to add "Tech Skills" in general, and specifically "Coding," to the skill base of youth in Cambria and surrounding counties. Key components include:

  • Basic coding vocabulary
  • Fun, interactive and project-driven coding classes
  • Real World application of coding skills
  • Map to current and future evolutions of Coding Accreditation
  • Free Community Coding Outreach Courses
  • Preservice Education and K-12 Certification

Education and community partners of the initiative include Greater Johnstown, Forest Hills, Bricks 4 Kids and technology company Problem Solutions. 

The global economy in the last quarter of the 20th century adversely impacted Johnstown and other “Rust Belt” cities that were battered by the loss of manufacturing – coal and steel – industries, the loss of population, stagnant wages, growing blight, rising poverty, disease and other ills.

The same global economy is ushering an unparalleled opportunity for individuals to gain and utilize new skills to empower and even enrich themselves, transcending the limitations of place. Knowledge that was once exclusive to places like Silicon Valley is dispersing to the garage next door where the next app that creates jobs for our community, helps revitalize our neighborhoods and changes the world is developed.

Interim Superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District, Mike Vukovich added “the question facing schools should not be "Why should we teach coding?"  The questions really is "How can schools afford NOT to teach coding?

"In its purest form, coding will help our students become 21st century thinkers and better problem solvers by preparing them with a greater understanding of how to analyze and solve complex problems, understand and use logic, and to embrace failure as part of the learning process. We are preparing students to solve problems we have yet to encounter, to work in jobs that have yet to be created. Through this partnership with Pitt-Johnstown, we will begin to meet this challenge. Collectively, we will become the economic engine of the entire region and the commonwealth. “

Roxanne Jenner, the Director of Pitt-Johnstown Community Outreach for the 21st Century Workforce Capacity Initiative, is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and longtime information technology professional. She will deliver the tech curriculum using project-based learning with LEGOs, Dash and Dot, Scratch and other technology platforms.

Forest Hills Superintendent Ed Bowser said “The Forest Hills School District looks forward to partnering with UPJ in its STEM initiative.  Because many of the jobs of the future will be STEM related, our elementary students will reap the rewards of STEM instruction and hands-on classroom activities in the years to come.” 

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania, was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been presented with The Seven Seals Award by the US Department of Defense’s office of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World. The distinctive combination of our people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success.