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Published July 23, 2019
The University of Wyoming has recently created a partnership with Code.org to join a nationwide network of regional partners that support efforts to expand access to computer science in K-12 schools. UW will be the only Code.org regional partner in Wyoming and the only university-based member in the Rocky Mountain region.
Through this partnership, UW provides quality professional development to educators in Wyoming through teamwork with local district partners and by building a positive local computer science educator community. The effort is a cross-disciplinary collaboration between UW’s College of Education and College of Engineering and Applied Science.
“UW and Code.org have taken quick action to address an urgent need. Since many teachers have never taken a computer science class, the expertise of both of these entities is critical. We want to ensure every student has access to relevant and 21st century learning experiences at every grade level,” says Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.
UW College of Education Associate Professor Andrea Burrows is the regional partner director. Mike Borowczak, assistant professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and CEDAR (Cybersecurity Education and Research) director, is the co-regional partner director. UW curriculum and instruction master’s degree student Kyle Mogensen, of Gurnee, Ill., and computer science Ph.D. student Shaya Wolf, from Buffalo, are the graduate students providing support to the partnership.
Funding to support the graduate assistants was provided by Microsoft’s TechSpark Wyoming, The College of Education Dean’s Office, and the College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean’s Office. TechSpark Wyoming is an initiative to spark new economic opportunities in rural communities.
“The College of Education is pleased to be a regional partner with Code.org in the important work bringing greater awareness, understanding and knowledge in computing sciences to teacher candidates in preparation, practicing teachers in our K-12 system and students in our state’s schools,” says UW College of Education Dean D. Ray Reutzel. “This work will be transformative in its effects on our state’s economy and postsecondary education attainment goals as best expressed in Wyoming’s ENDOW Initiative.”
The ENDOW initiative is a program to diversify Wyoming’s economy.
Through the Code.org collaboration, UW provides outreach support to Wyoming teachers and others to help prepare them to embed computer science into their classrooms. This effort assists in the success of Senate Enrolled Act 0048 that mandates all Wyoming school districts must offer computer science no later than the start of the 2022-23 school year.
“As the Code.org regional partner, UW is providing support to help Wyoming districts with the heavy lift of the computer science instruction in K-12 classrooms,” Burrows says. “We need qualified teachers using computer science in both discipline-integrated fashion and in stand-alone computer science classes.”
This role also strengthens the university’s position as a leader in delivering professional learning opportunities for the state’s educators as well as helps expand computer science to all schools.
“UW is an ideal partner for Code.org because we can offer the resources such as computer science and education expertise and connections to the Wyoming Department of Education and the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board that are needed for teachers and districts to ensure a streamlined move into integrating computer science classes or offering stand-alone computer science courses,” Burrows says.
She will attend a five-day regional partner Program Manager Onboarding program in September. She will then work with the UW team to organize and host workshops throughout the year for districts and schools implementing Code.org’s K-12 programs.
The first workshop, “Code.org Discoveries,” will take place over a week in summer 2020 and will focus on introducing the fundamentals and principles of computer science to 6-12 grade teachers. Another weeklong summer workshop, “Code.org Principles,” will be directed to schoolteachers currently participating or interested in participating in Code.org’s professional learning workshops. Burrows also will offer a one-day “Code.org Fundamentals” workshop geared toward elementary teachers incorporating computer science into their classrooms.
“Jobs in the near future will require basic computer science proficiency in much the same way that jobs of today expect fundamental general computing competencies,” Borowczak says. “Jobs from ranching and farming to health care and high-tech advanced technology development will require employees to understand, modify and perhaps create functional programs. Being proficient in computer science will allow our future generations to interact in the world around them.”
“Making computer science education an opportunity within reach of every student ensures Wyoming’s children can be future ready and will make our state attractive to public and private investments that can drive economic growth,” says the manager of Microsoft’s TechSpark Wyoming, Dennis Ellis.
Code.org provides UW with funds to support the partnership during the initial year, after which UW will fund the program by offering the training to educators for a fee. A Code.org regional manager, offering guidance and coaching through in-person meetings and virtual trainings, also will provide support to the UW team.
As a requirement of the collaboration, UW sets goals to meet based on the needed growth of teachers and students in the region; number of courses implemented; diversity of participants; teacher participant data; and quality of workshops provided. UW aspires to provide outreach each year to at least 100 K-5 teachers who intend to implement computer science fundamentals in their classrooms.