Today, The White House is recognizing the progress being made across the country to incorporate computer science curriculum into the classroom. Southern Utah University in partnership with North Elementary will be one of the programs acknowledged today during the White House Computer Science for All Summit live stream event happening at 11 a.m. (MST).
SUU and North Elementary are working with BirdBrain Technologies to engage 500 elementary students in a 3 to 6 hour robotics and computer science course during the upcoming fall semester. The principal at North Elementary will supervise scheduling of this school activity, while SUU faculty and students will help develop the curriculum and evaluation.
Dr. Cecily Heiner, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information System at Southern Utah University, will oversee the project.
“In our rural community it can often be hard for kids and families to see the relevance of math and programming,” said Heiner. “Our goal is to use the robots to make the abstract ideas more concrete and relevant.”
Heiner holds a secondary teaching license, has been a co-PI on an NSF grant to train 100 teachers on the Exploring Computer Science Curriculum and has done research in computer science education, participating in the SIGCSE community for the last 10 years.
According to a press release issued from The White House in January 2016, only one quarter of K-12 schools in the United States offer computer science classes with programming and coding. During President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the POTUS unveiled his plan to give all students nationwide a chance to learn computer science in school.
As the first President of the United States to write a line of code in 2014, President Obama has been heavily involved in early childhood education programs. His vision for better-prepared students to enter the workforce helped create CSforAll and has called multiple businesses to action by partnering with more than 35 cities, states and rural areas to provide job opportunities to a broader audience.
STEM subjects, computer science in particular, are areas where the economy is experiencing significant growth. This economic growth produces jobs that require a college-level education. Early exposure to STEM-based programs and research can reduce barriers to developing related interests and also help students develop the determination to persevere through tough classes in college. Projects like this also give students opportunities to develop vital social and collaborative skills in a non-athletic context.
Programming can be fun, instill confidence in students and help students learn life lessons that extend far beyond the 1's and 0's that control the machine. Younger students have the benefit of curiosity and smaller egos - they expect to make mistakes and don't assume they are incompetent if their program doesn't work the first time.
Southern Utah University has risen to the challenge issued by President Barak Obama to offer “…every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”