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Illinois Computer Science Teams Up With College Of Education To Train High School Educators To Teach CS

1/6/2019 4:36:32 PM University of Illinois College of Education

The University of Illinois College of Education is working with faculty and administrators from the Department of Computer Science and the
Associate Head of Department Lenny Pitt
Associate Head of Department Lenny Pitt
to launch a five-year initiative to meet a critical and growing need: educating and certifying 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, is intended to help address the shortage of high school computer science teachers in Illinois and across the nation.

“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 includes Computer Science Associate Head of Department Leonard Pitt and Associate Professor Craig Zilles, as well as Nancy Latham, the executive director of 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 of 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.”

Zilles said that teachers who go through the program should carry deep computer science knowledge with them when they go back to their classrooms.

“We hope to give high school computing teachers the same depth of background in their discipline as math and English teachers have in theirs,” Zilles said. “The program is designed to integrate the technical knowledge of programming, computational thinking, and applications with the theoretical and practical aspects of teaching the material. The goal is for in-service teachers to be able to immediately apply elements as they learn them in their courses and to confidently teach the full range of high school classes upon completion."

I-STECS is one of 14 proposed projects selected by campus to receive “Investment for Growth” funding. Now in its second year, the Investment for Growth program generates new sources of revenue while continuing to invest in the university’s missions of education, research, and public engagement.
Associate Professor Craig Zilles
Associate Professor Craig Zilles

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 that offer advanced-placement 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 of Curriculum & Instruction in the 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.”

“Computer science and programming and coding are going to become the “fourth ‘R,’” Dressman added. “Why do you need to be literate? Why do you need to learn math? It’s for the same reasons. Computer science education is the new frontier of school curriculum.”