June 13, 2019 / Vincennes University is helping teachers expand computer science education in Indiana
VINCENNES, Ind. - Educators from schools throughout Indiana convened at Vincennes University for a free computer science workshop, aimed at introducing them to fundamentals and preparing them to meet new state mandates.
VU’s Education Department hosted the Code.org Computer Science Fundamentals Introduction workshop held at the Indiana Center for Applied Technology building on June 11.
Computer science education is expanding in Indiana.
All public schools in the state will be required by law to offer computer science programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade starting the 2021-22 academic year. Public high schools must offer at least one computer science course as a semester elective each school year.
“The kids are really going to like using technology,” said Elyssia Eaton, a fourth-grade teacher at Riley Elementary School in Vincennes. “All kids love technology. This is a good way to get them excited about learning and to keep them engaged in the classroom.”
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb believes computer science education will ready future generations for in-demand technology jobs. According to Code.org, there are currently 500,000 available computing jobs nationwide.
Tricia Hall is curriculum director for North Knox School Corporation. She attended the workshop so she could learn about computer science in order to share it with others. She left with “tons of ideas and free resources”.
Hall seized the opportunity to take part in a no-cost workshop held locally.
“I was ecstatic when I found out there was something here at Vincennes University,” she said. “Sometimes, I feel like we have to drive to Jasper or drive to Evansville. I thought since it was here that was fantastic.”
The workshop was presented by Code.org and Indianapolis-based Nextech – organizations dedicated to expanding access to computer science education in schools.
VU’s Education Department has partnerships with 42 school corporations, according to Ann Herman, the education department chair and an associate professor at VU.
“Us being able to provide a venue is a way for those corporations to meet a need and if we can help in that, it is our way to thank them,” Herman said. “We can’t do our job without those corporations. We can’t do it without them taking our students for student teaching, for all their practicum placements, and those kinds of things.”
For many participants, the workshop was their first exposure to computer science.
“I knew nothing about any of this when I came here,” Eaton said. “I am leaving here with a ton of knowledge and the confidence be able to incorporate it into my math groups. I also want to try to get other teachers on board with it and to see the importance of it.”
Kendra Swettenam graduated from VU in May with a Bachelor of Science in Special Education, Mild Intervention, and Elementary Education K-6. She is a sixth-grade teacher at North Knox Intermediate. Swettenam is excited about utilizing the material she gained particularly coding.
“I learned how well the students will be able to do it,” she said. “I learned the way they take that information and pull it all together real fast.”
Participating in the workshop was a definite learning experience for VU education major Collin Crabtree.
“I’ve always loved technology and I’ve never been able to learn how to do some of the activities that we did today,” he said. “I came here out of my own interest to learn how to do some of the things we did such as coding and the binary stuff, and to also learn how to incorporate those things into classroom activities as well.”
All of the attendees were enthusiastic about taking their newly gained knowledge back to their schools.
“Our facilitator had a passion for computer science, which hopefully excites educators to turn around and take it back to their classrooms because it’s something our students need exposure to,” Hall said. “Time is sacred and it’s not like we have ton of time in the classroom. To make time for something, you have to see the value in it. After today, hopefully our educators see that.”
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