Teachers go back to school to learn computer coding - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Teachers go back to school to learn computer coding

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Computer science is one of the fastest growing industries in the nation. The same goes for here in Alabama.

In fact, computer science and coding is being offered as a high school math credit, that goes toward graduation.

We already knew that though. Focus at Four brought you this story in April. At the time, ten high schools in Alabama offered two computer science courses.

Next year, 25 additional schools will sign on.  That means, more teachers are needed to instruct students in computer science. A new grant makes it possible to train fifty teachers from Alabama. And, hundreds more online.

The idea is to prepare teachers on how to instruct a computer science course. Which in turn, gets students college and career ready.

"We feel that students need to know in the modern economy and in the modern world need to know how to dissect the internet or understand how an app works, as they need to know how to dissect a frog," says Dr. Jeff Gray, professor of computer science at the University of Alabama.

Gray has been instrumental in developing computer coding as a high school course. 

"The demand has been high as far as job offers in computer science. So the economy and the demand from graduates in this area is what's feeding some of this," says Gray. 

This summer, high school teachers from across the state will come to the University of Alabama to learn how to instruct computer coding.

Many of the teachers in this classroom have limited to no training in computer science. 

"A lot of teachers are coming from math backgrounds and science backgrounds, and they have the necessary skills, but they don't have the overall content knowledge."

However, this week of instruction aims to change that. 

Gray says, "Part of it is continuing their content knowledge. They're learning about what's called the 'seven big ideas' of this course. They're also learning about how the college board is expecting them to prepare their students."


The university is also offering a free, online course: called a massive open online course, or MOOC.

The program is being offered to more than 900 teachers nationwide through Google. 

"We need to elevate, escalate and make computer science more of a first class citizen in our education offerings to our students," says Gray.

The advanced placement computer science course is offered to high school students as a math credit toward graduation. It is aimed at increasing secondary and post-secondary education interest in computer science.
Getting students college and career ready. 

Jill Westerlund, who currently teaches computer science at Hoover High School says, "Every student has that opportunity, They are better prepared to go to college. They're better prepared for a career. They're better prepared to get an industry credential in these fields. So I think they aren't wasting their time and the teacher isn't wasting their time either."

Westerlund says teachers who are taking on computer science for the the first time, should expect the unexpected. 

"We're all building a plane, as we fly the plane. We're all in this together."

Carol Yarbrough teaches computer science at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Yarbrough's experience has taught her, the course is ever changing

"The biggest challenge with learning and teaching this is, it's a moving target. It changes so much. Two months later you're teaching something that's outdated. Something you taught is outdated and there's something brand new. So, as a teacher it's important to keep up with what's going on," says Yarbrough.

Jeff Gray encourages teachers with an adventurous spirit to become part of this new educational frontier. 

"We call these teachers our pioneers. They really are pioneers within the state of Alabama, offering this to students in localities that have never had any form of computer science."

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