Teachers representing both large and small school districts across the state of Iowa officially completed their training with NewBoCo’s Computer Science Professional Learning Program earlier this month. The program, made possible through a partnership with Code.org, a national nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science education, provides professional development at no cost to teachers wanting to bring computer science courses to their school district.
Part of the Professional Learning Program includes a commitment to implementing the computer science course during the year that they participate in the program. The 32 teachers in the 2017–2018 cohort went above and beyond their commitment. In this school year alone, they taught 1,774 students computer science — providing access to many students that did not have an opportunity before.
“Even if a student doesn’t become a computer programmer, computer science is a fundamental part of education in the 21st century. Computer science teaches communication, problem solving, and creativity — skills necessary in almost every profession. Having access to these classes will help Iowa’s students become prepared for a future where they use technology as more than a passive consumer,” said Aaron Horn, NewBoCo Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director.
NewBoCo partnered with Code.org to launch the Professional Learning Program in 2016. At the time, an estimated 75% of Iowa’s public schools were not able to offer computer science courses.
One of the major barriers most districts face is that they do not have a teacher trained to teach a high-quality computer science course. NewBoCo’s Professional Learning Program trains in-service teachers how to teach computer science — even if they don’t have a computer science background. English, business, history, in addition to math and science teachers, have successfully implemented computer science.
“I wanted to bring in computer science to our school and didn’t know where to start. Now I have the knowledge and confidence to start computer science at our small school,” said Jennifer Anderson, a teacher at Treynor High School in Western Iowa.
NewBoCo plans to expand the Professional Learning Program for the 2018–2019 school year with support from the Iowa Governor’s STEM Council through their STEM Scale-Up Program. Samantha Dahlby, NewBoCo K-12 Education Coordinator and Code.org Program Manager, says they’ve received more than 100 applications from teachers across the state, and she expects to double the number of teachers participating this year.
“Funding from the STEM Council and individual donors helps us keep our promise to never pass the cost of professional development on to Iowa’s teachers,” Dahlby said.
While applications for the 2018–2019 cohort have closed, teachers and school districts wanting to implement computer science can work with Samantha by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested in donating to support tech education and professional development for teachers can email email@example.com or visit https://newbo.co/donate/.
“Our goal is to ensure that every school in Iowa has a certified computer science teacher by 2022,” Dahlby said.
Also published on Medium.