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IGNITING FUTURES

IN TECH

What We Do

SparkNC helps students–or Spark Scholars–create their own pathways to high-tech fields. Our collaborative network of 17 North Carolina school districts each operate one or more SparkLabs that serve as physical hubs for a new kind of learning. Spark Scholars engage in three different types of learning experiences.

They choose among stackable units (mini-courses) that can be combined for high school credit. Along the way, Spark Scholars track their progress on SparkNC’s adaptive learning platform, build rich networks with industry professionals, and create robust portfolios of work to demonstrate their readiness for college and careers. 

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Spark Scholar Spotlight

Reyonna, currently in the 11th grade, embarked on her SparkNC journey during the summer of 2023 as a participant in the Tech Creatives Summit. This experience ignited her passion for Artificial Intelligence, fostering a deep interest in the subject through the SparkNC program.

 

Her commitment is evident in the completion of various learning experiences, including "Teaching Computers: Fundamentals of AI/ML," "Code Art with Meaning," "Hooked on Design: The Case of the Cyber Cafe," and "Makey Makerspace."

 

Operating on a flexible schedule within the SparkNC program, Reyonna frequents the SparkLab during her free time, internship, or upon completing her classwork. Her aspirations extend beyond mere curiosity; she envisions a future career in tech-integrated law.

Mario, currently in the 12th grade, is nearing the culmination of his exploration in Roblox and AI. His enthusiasm for creating AI models and mastering Python has been a rewarding journey.

 

Having always harbored a passion for Roblox and game development, Mario now channels his expertise through SparkNC, where he serves as an intern, aiding his peers in game development.

 

Recognizing a gap in creativity and completion within modeling and game development among his peers, Mario took the initiative to address this issue. He introduced quarterly competitions, the latest being a Winter competition challenging students to craft captivating winter scenes.

 

Currently engaged in courses such as Coding with “Roblox”, “Build and AI Model Level 2”, and “Oracles and Prophecy”, Mario continues to expand his skill set and contribute to the vibrant world of game development.

Our High-Tech Fields

Spark Scholars prepare for high-wage, socially-impactful careers in high-tech fields.

SparkNC is also a founding partner in the

UNCG-Scholastic Esports Alliance (UNCG-SEA)

SparkNC is also a founding partner in the

UNCG-Scholastic Esports Alliance (UNCG-SEA)

Spark Scholars visit IBM's headquarters in RTP at SparkNC's Tech Creatives Summit

Interdistrict Network

Innovative leaders from 17 North Carolina school districts have come together to plan and launch SparkNC through an interdistrict collaborative network.

SparkLabs

SparkLabs are collaborative spaces for teaching and learning. Districts have built their SparkLabs in high schools, centers for innovation, and other locations in their communities. Each SparkLab has separate spaces focused on collaboration, high-tech computing, and individual work and ideation.

Every SparkLab has a hybrid teaching and learning zone that connects it with other districts’ SparkLabs, creating an interdistrict connected classroom where teachers and industry partners can teach and interact with students across the network.

 

Visit the links below for articles and videos about the opening of SparkLabs in the summer and fall of 2023.

What's right with our schools: Southeast Guilford High School offers SparkLab 

(Fox8 WGHP, High Point, NC)

SparkNC offers high-tech career pathways to N.C. students

(Spectrum News, Rowan-Salisbury Schools)

New Sparklab unveiled at Southeast Area Technical High School

(WWAY-TV, New Hanover County)

Ribbon-cutting celebration marks opening of SparkNC Lab

(The Warren Record, Warren County Schools)

State’s first SparkLab ignites futures in tech at Douglas Byrd High School

(Greater Fayetteville Business Journal, Cumberland County Schools)

SparkNC Learning Experiences

Spark Scholars choose among three types of learning experiences. 

Live Units are designed and led by SparkLab Leaders and industry experts in a live format either in-person or virtually in SparkLabs. Live Units will be available to students across the network of SparkNC districts and are great for those who enjoy learning in a cohort and a time-limited way. Keep checking on the SparkNC platform for new Live Units that will be launched throughout the year!

Experiential Units are live events and programs such as student conferences and summits, hack-a-thons, teamships, job shadowing and hands-on learning opportunities. They might be offered in SparkLabs, at high-tech companies, with university and community college partners, or at other sites across participating communities. Experiential Units take place in real-world settings that help learners build familiarity and comfort within professional and high-tech environments.

On-Demand Units on the SparkNC platform are available for learners to choose and complete at any time that works for them. These Units can be done by a single learner, or students can partner with others to learn in a small group to collaborate and encourage one another's progress.

See the links below for select coverage of SparkNC events by EdNC

Tech Creatives Summit

Ethics & Leadership

Elizabeth City’s visit to UNCG

Live Units are designed and led by SparkLab Leaders and industry experts and offered either in-person or virtually across the interdistrict network of SparkLabs. Live Units expand the impact of volunteer experts, enabling students across the state to learn from tech professionals and build professional networks.

Experiential Units are live, in-person events and programs such as conferences, team-based internships, job shadowing, and other hands-on learning opportunities. These Units take place in real-world settings that help learners build familiarity and comfort within professional high-tech environments.

On-Demand Units on the SparkNC platform let learners choose from a menu of learning experiences in high-tech fields and complete them at any time and at any pace that works for them. Some Units may be completed individually while others may be completely collaboratively in small groups.

Experiential Units are live events and programs such as student conferences and summits, hack-a-thons, teamships, job shadowing and hands-on learning opportunities. They might be offered in SparkLabs, at high-tech companies, with university and community college partners, or at other sites across participating communities. Experiential Units take place in real-world settings that help learners build familiarity and comfort within professional and high-tech environments.

On-Demand Units on the SparkNC platform are available for learners to choose and complete at any time that works for them. These Units can be done by a single learner, or students can partner with others to learn in a small group to collaborate and encourage one another's progress.

Stackable Units
for Credit

SparkNC’s Unit Catalog offers more than 50 learning experiences (and growing!) related to high-tech fields.

Each Unit covers about the same amount of content as ⅛ of a traditional course. Eight Units, plus a required introductory module and a capstone experience, earns a local elective course credit toward high school graduation.

Spark Scholars choose which of the units they want to take and then stack them together like building blocks. No two paths need to be the same. It’s entirely up to each Spark Scholar. Some of SparkNC’s learning experiences can be done individually. Many are cohort-based or can be done in teams. 

 

Each Unit has been carefully designed by our team and partners according to a detailed unit planning guide that includes learning objectives, a focus on durable skills and tech skills, leading to a performance task and final reflections.

Spark Scholars choose which of the units they want to take and then stack them together like building blocks. No two paths need to be the same. It’s entirely up to each Spark Scholar. Some of SparkNC’s learning experiences can be done individually. Many are cohort-based or can be done in teams. 

 

Each Unit has been carefully designed by our team and partners according to a detailed unit planning guide that includes learning objectives, a focus on durable skills and tech skills, leading to a performance task and final reflections.

Sample Spark Scholar pathway: Intro, eight stackable Units, and capstone, resulting in one elective credit toward high school graduation

Stackable Units
for Credit

SparkNC’s Unit Catalog offers more than 50 learning experiences (and growing!) related to high-tech fields.

Each Unit covers about the same amount of content as ⅛ of a traditional course. Eight Units, plus a required introductory module and a capstone experience, earns a local elective course credit toward high school graduation.

Sample Spark Scholar pathway: Intro, eight stackable Units, and capstone, resulting in one elective credit toward high school graduation

SparkNC is partnering with Area9 to design a learning management system where Spark Scholars learn about and select Units; complete on-demand Units; track their progress on all three types of Units; connect with peers, SparkLab Leaders, and partners; and upload evidence of their learning.

 

Over time, SparkNC and Area9 will continue enhancing the platform to better track students’ progress related to elements of North Carolina’s Portrait of a Graduate, and to take advantage of new adaptive learning features and uses of AI within the student and educator experiences on the platform.

SparkNC Adaptive Learning Platform
Networking with Industry Professionals

Our industry partners are eager to connect with Spark Scholars, through special events, mentorships, opportunities to interact with students through the hybrid teaching and learning stations in the SparkLabs, and work engagements like internships and job shadowing.

 

Learn more about how Spark Scholars are working with tech industry partners through Spark Teamship, a partnership with District C:

At events like SparkNC’s Tech Creatives Summit, Spark Scholars have opportunities to visit tech company headquarters and meet with and learn from industry experts about their cutting-edge work and pathways into high-tech fields.

Spark Scholars collect evidence of their learning in personalized digital portfolios of work. By helping them build these portfolios, SparkNC gives students a competitive edge on their way to high-wage and socially impactful careers, providing a dynamic talent pipeline for North Carolina.

Student Work Portfolios

IGNITING FUTURES IN TECH

Learner-Centered

Students own their learning journeys. SparkNC lets students choose learning experiences to explore fields like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, software development, data analytics, game development & design, and computer systems engineering.

Industry-Relevant

Through partnerships with tech businesses, SparkNC helps students develop professional networks and build the “success skills” employers value. Students gain a competitive edge by completing real-world projects that create strong portfolios of relevant work.

Competency-Based

Students move at the pace of learning. They can speed up, or slow down, based on their passions, their abilities, and their learning styles. SparkNC sets learning targets and empowers expert educators to advise and support students on personalized paths to success.

What We Do.

SparkNC is supporting NC districts to pilot new interdistrict approaches to teaching and learning that will accelerate student progress on pathways to careers in high-tech fields like artificial intelligence and machine learning, software development, computer systems engineering, and cybersecurity.

Why We Do It?

Too few learners know about high-tech jobs that will dominate the future job market in North Carolina. Even fewer see pathways for themselves into these jobs.

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