NH educators change the face of computer science education

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NH teachers spell out CODE at TeacherCon Phoenix. Courtesy Photo

Most people wouldn’t choose to go to Phoenix in July during a heat wave, but that’s exactly what more than 50 New Hampshire educators did this summer. Dedicated to supporting computer science education in the state of New Hampshire, they attended TeacherCon, the kickoff event for Code.org’s yearlong professional learning program.

Coming from 26 Granite State school districts and representing 40 different schools, these teachers represent diverse parts of the state, from Berlin in the north to Nashua in the south to Lebanon in the west and Rye in the east. Eleven teachers attended from the Manchester School District alone. The only thing they had in common was enthusiasm; many of them have never taught computer science before. Some are math and science teachers and many are technology integrators. Even a Spanish teacher came along!

Selfie time: NH teachers at TeacherCon. Courtesy Photo

These New Hampshire teachers joined more than 500 others at this national workshop to learn middle and high school computer science curricula while also addressing topics like equity, recruitment and teaching practices. Throughout the year, they will continue to learn alongside their students and also attend four follow-up workshops at UNH. As Code.org’s regional partner, the UNH STEM Discovery Lab and the STEM Teachers’ Collaborative are able to help facilitate this process.

This summer also ushered in changes for computer science (CS) education in New Hampshire, and these educators are in a great position to help implement these changes. In June, NH House Bill 1674 was signed into law, adding CS as a core K-12 subject area. In August, the State Board of Education adopted CS standards. The goal is for computer science programs to be in place in New Hampshire schools by the 2020, ensuring students have equitable access to this foundational subject. Computer science is essential to workforce development in the state, with nearly 1,100 jobs currently open in IT, software and other computer-related fields.

Code.org founder Hadi Partovi, center, flanked by UNH Stem Lab staff Emily Kerr, left, and Laura Nickerson, right.

A recent article in USA Today shows that Code.org’s efforts to train teachers and make CS education accessible is working. Participation in the advanced placement (AP) computer science exams increased substantially this year, with young women and minority students showing the highest percentages of increase. Rural student participation also spiked. The number of rural students taking AP computer science exams jumped 42 percent to 14,184 nationwide

Windham high school teacher Raj Gupta is excited to support these efforts.

“Where we are from,” visual by teachers attending TeacherCon.

“I was fortunate enough to attend TeacherCon in Philadelphia in 2017 as a fairly new computer science teacher. I valued Code.org’s program so much that I returned to the session this year in Phoenix in a facilitator-in-training role,” he said. “My hope is that I can help bring this training to any teacher in New Hampshire who recognizes the need to offer computer science to our students but doesn’t yet know where to begin. 

“What an amazing group of teachers we took to TeacherCon! said Laura Nickerson of UNH’s Leitzel Center for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Education. “These teachers will truly change the face of computer science education in New Hampshire. The UNH Leitzel Center and the STEM Discovery Lab are proud to help facilitate this process to aid in New Hampshire’s workforce development and position our students to gain essential 21st century skills.”

In her role as the STEM Discovery Lab Coordinator, Emily supports the collaborative effort between UNH Cooperative Extension and UNH Manchester of the STEM Discovery Lab located on the Manchester campus. Emily was an English as a Second Language and English Language Learner educator for youth and adults in the greater Manchester and Seacoast areas for over 8 years and was the project assistant for the GATE CITY Project (Getting All Teachers ESOL Certified in Two Years) at UNH Manchester from 2012 to 2015. Emily earned her B.A. in international studies from The Ohio State University and her M.Ed. in secondary education from UNH Manchester. She is the mother of two active teenage boys and loves spending time outdoors.

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