Sullivan East’s Karen Stewart, left, and Sullivan Central’s Ginger Shackelford attended the Big Nerd Ranch program in Atlanta this summer. That training, along with a federal grant, will jump-start the introduction to mobile apps classes at both schools.
BLOUNTVILLE — Thanks to a federal grant and two “nerd”-certified teachers, students at two Sullivan County high schools will be learning how to make mobile apps starting in January.
Two veteran information technology teachers, Ginger Shackelford of Sullivan Central and Karen Stewart of Sullivan East, attended the Big Nerd Ranch program in Atlanta this summer.
That training, combined with devices funded by the federal Carl Perkins career technical education or vocational education grant, will jumpstart the introduction to mobile apps classes at both schools after the Christmas break.
Bo Shadden, supervisor of CTE, with the blessing of Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, applied for and received the $173,000 grant from the federal government with help from the teachers. Shackelford wrote the curriculum and Shadden the grant. Shadden also found the training.
“We actually have a developers license through the county,” Shackelford said, explaining that the license will allow students who develop apps to publish their apps — selling or giving them away in an apps stores.
Shackelford said the Big Nerd Ranch program turned out to be a great experience, although she said it was an almost non-stop seven days of learning how to teach mobile app programming. Days lasted from 9 a.m. to midnight, she said.
Shackelford and Stewart both are 15-year teachers who have taught their careers thus far at their respective schools.
To start the mobile app programs at each school, each of their classrooms has 27 iMacs, 30 iPads, 10 iPods, a Galaxy tablet and a Windows Surface tablet.
Also purchased with the grant money were a more than 70-inch television and a laser printer.
The program will focus mostly on Apple programming in iOS, although the two non-Apple tablets will give students a glimpse of programming non-Apple apps.
Stewart said she has about 18 students registered in one class and three registered in a second class, while Shackelford said she has about 12 registered in one class.
Shackelford said one student is already working to develop an app in an interactive multimedia class she teaches at Sullivan Central. The grant also requires students have summer internships in app development.
“Most app development companies are not in this area,” Shackelford said.
The work-based learning likely will have three possible places to occur for mobile app students in the summer of 2014.
“We’d like to get the students out in the companies,” Stewart said.
So far, identified opportunities are Times-News Digital Media in Kingsport, nTara in Johnson City and the Sullivan County school system’s technology department based in Blountville but working across the county school system. Learning to teach Apple mobile app making has included a learning curve for both teachers because up until recently, they were oriented toward the Windows-based operating system.
“I’ve always used Windows until last year, when I got my first Mac,” Shackelford said. “Dr. Yennie is a Mac man.”
Although both teachers said they have a base of students in their current classes for the mobile app class, they said they hope the new class has broader appeal.
“I don’t care what field you go into, there’s an app for that. If there’s not, there will be,” Stewart said.
As an example, she said a young man with a prosthetic leg developed an iPhone app that allows him to control that leg on mountain hikes.
Another example is a Native American who helped preserve his ancestral language through an app using recordings of his grandmother speaking Cherokee.
Another use, the teachers said, is a physician in Africa consulting with doctors in the United States.
Shackelford and Stewart teach computer application classes for Microsoft Office, game programming and interactive multimedia.
In addition, Shackelford teaches personal finance from time to time, and Stewart teachers web design.
Students have an option to get credit for the computer applications classes through an articulation agreement with Northeast State Community College.