Virginia district reaches out to tech experts to promote computer science teaching

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Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia is trying to attract volunteers from the technology industry, via webinars, to help the district’s teachers and students advance their knowledge of computer science.

The outreach is part of the district’s ongoing participation in a national program called Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) aimed at attracting computer professionals to assist in teaching high school students college-level computer skills.

The program focuses on helping teachers who do not have a background in computer science become capable of teaching Advanced Placement courses three years into the program. Through the use of summer training, support groups and other methods, teachers are eased into understanding the field they are going to be teaching.

“There are over 42,000 high schools from sea to shining sea,” said TEALS founder Kevin Wang, during the webinar about the program hosted by the district last week. “Three-quarters of those schools do not even have a computer science program.”

A recent study by the Bay Area Economics Institute showed that there would be approximately 1 million unfilled computer science jobs by 2020. One theory on the lack of applicable candidates is that few kids are taught computer skills at the high school level.

The TEALS program has been working with LCPS to “drive increased enrollment and excitement and bring real industry experience into the classroom” over the past four years, LCPS officials said in an email to families of the 76,000 students the district serves.

LCPS is looking to help bridge the gap by adopting TEALS. In the program, computer-science professional volunteers are broken into two teams of teachers and teaching assistants, in addition to the normal classroom teacher.

Teams alternate schedules in a variety of ways, but always share an equal workload. Over the first year, the normal classroom teacher will be working heavily with the volunteers. Each year after that, the impact of the volunteers declines as the teacher learns the computer science field.

“The expectation is that the teacher leads the class doing classroom management,” Wang said. “The volunteers are very much taking on the responsibilities at first, but then handing them off slowly to the teacher over time as the teacher becomes more comfortable.”

Computer science professionals in the Loudon County area that are interested in joining TEALS should contact Jennifer Malone at 865-458-5411.

Follow the reporter on Twitter @edscoop_news.

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