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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How schools prepare the next generation to enter a digital workforce | Seattle Times

Provided by Microsoft Philanthropies 

Just four in 10 schools in the U.S. offer a computer science course, according to

When Sierra Acy was in high school she knew she was interested in computer science. Luckily, her high school was an exception in the U.S.— it offered computer science courses. “I took Intro Computer Science and the following year I took AP Computer Science,” Acy says.

Shuyi Ma works as a postdoctoral scientist at the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle.
Photo: Courtesy of Center for Infectious Disease Research

Early on at Disney, Acy heard about a volunteer program where people working in the tech industry could go into high schools and help teach computer science courses, giving students a chance to interact with people who actually use the content they’re teaching every day and to help classroom teachers gain better understanding of the subject matter to improve the computer science offerings in the future. She leapt at the chance.

“During my high school experience, neither of the computer science courses I took were as well done or put together as they could have been,” she says. “As is the case a lot of the time, the teachers weren’t actually trained in the computer science industry or any of the technical aspects of the field, they were just kind of put into the position and told to go.”

Women who try AP Computer Science in high school are 10 times more likely to major in it in college, according to a 2007 research study by the College Board.

Acy is now volunteering approximately 10 hours a week, along with a small team of others at Disney, to co-teach the AP Computer Science course at Walla Walla High School in southeastern Washington through the TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program.

Kevin Wang founded TEALS in 2009. At the time, he had been volunteering part time as a computer science teacher at a Seattle high school in addition to his work as an engineer at Microsoft. “When I was sent to a College Board AP Computer Science workshop, I expected to meet a lot of other AP Computer Science teachers with a similar background to my own, but I was shocked to find that most of the other teachers were not computer science people at all. I was maybe the only computer science major there, the rest of these teachers had about four days to learn a college semester’s worth of computer science well enough to teach it, which is incredibly tough.”

Wang knew there were plenty of other computer science folks like him in the industry who could help these teachers, and students, have a more effective educational experience. So he decided to do something about it. Today, Wang runs TEALS full time, funded by Microsoft’s philanthropy arm. They’re operating in 348 schools in 29 different states and Washington, D.C. Here in Washington State, TEALS is partnered with 86 schools — that’s 10 percent of all Washington high schools.

Wang suggests that the reach is even further than those numbers suggest since the program is modeled to help get classroom teachers prepared to teach computer science on their own after two years of co-teaching with volunteers who know the material by heart.

Source: Seattle Times