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Initiative Will Educate High School Teachers in Computer Science

grade school students at computer

The need for certified CS teachers is driven by Chicago Public Schools' mandate that students take a computer science class to graduate.

Credit: University of Illinois

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has launched a five-year initiative that will educate and certify high school teachers to teach computer science. The Illinois Secondary Teacher Education and Computer Science (I-STECS) initiative, funded through the campus' Investment for Growth program, will help address the shortage of high school computer science teachers in Illinois and across the United States.

The goal is to ignite an enthusiasm for expressing ideas using the language of the computer.

"The I-STECS initiative responds directly to recent, urgent calls from politicians, business leaders, educational policymakers, and school administrators, especially in Chicago, for the establishment of programs of computer science throughout secondary schools in the State of Illinois and nationally," says College of Education Dean James D. Anderson.

I-STECS will recruit undergraduate students to enroll in its program, including incoming freshmen in math and physics, students already in computer science, and education students who are interested in incorporating technology in their classrooms. In addition, I-STECS is developing summer institutes where teachers can receive credit. The program is also establishing connections with local schools to generate more computer science education beyond introductory classes. Initiative officials are encouraging schools who offer advanced placement (AP) classes in computer science to expand those offerings.

"We will build capacity by developing a secondary teacher education program in computer science and an endorsement program for teachers locally, across the state, and nationally," says Mark Dressman, a professor in Curriculum & Instruction in the University of Illinois' College of Education and lead author and project coordinator of the initiative. "In these programs, teachers and pre-service teachers will acquire content knowledge in computer science as well as knowledge of how to teach this content to students in K-12 and, possibly, community college settings."

I-STECS is a collaborative effort involving faculty and administrators from the College of Education, the College of Engineering (including the Department of Computer Science), and the Council on Teacher Education.

"Between the College of Education and Department of Computer Science at Illinois, the expertise and experience are in place to develop a very strong program and help Illinois excel in this area," says Chad Lane, associate professor in educational psychology. "It will also open up new possibilities for developing and deploying innovative methods for teaching computer science that are more age-appropriate and potentially engaging for younger learners."


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