The two also consulted with experts in the K-through-12 world about how to make the program appealing, then they formed partnerships with high schools in Gwinnett and Fulton counties to introduce kids to the idea.
“These are two districts that are very vested in bringing computer science courses to their schools,” said Freeman. “Typically, we put it in courses taken by 10th and11 graders.”
Mike Riley, a technology teacher at Lanier High in Sugar Hill, piloted the EarSketch program about five years ago.
“My ambition is to create more diversity among computer science learners, and this program lets all kids relate to that through music,” he said. “They can download the music they make to their devices and share it. It’s very cool, and we have some really talented kids who break out some great tunes.”
Beyond the music, Riley knows EarSketch is teaching other valuable lessons.
“It’s really computational thinking – the conditions and series a computer might go through, and music works very well with that thinking,” he said. “There are counts and measures that go into putting a song together. Kids who have used it appreciate music more, and it’s making them better musicians.”
Since he began tracking data three years ago, Freeman has noted that students who are engaged in developing their computing knowledge also tend to be more persistent in all their studies. “We’ve found statistical gains that support that,” he said. “And we’re finding across both male and female students. In fact, before they start using EarSketch, females generally are not as engaged as their male counterparts. But as a group, they respond so strongly to EarSketch that they’re on par, of even above, male students in terms of how they feel about belonging in the field.”
To date, about 90,000 students have used EarSketch, and the numbers could easily go higher. “It’s online, it’s free and anyone can use,” said Freeman.