Improving Computer Science Education
July 30, 2015 - Fewer than 10 percent of the nation’s 37,000 high schools offer computer science courses. Yet, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 1.4 million jobs for computer specialists by the year 2018. In an attempt to solve this problem, Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a nonprofit organization and the nation’s leading provider of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs for students in grades K-12, is offering a computer science pathway for students. This pathway is meant to ignite student interest early and strengthen it over time through engaging, problem-based learning.
The University of South Carolina's College of Engineering and Computing is PLTW’s official partner in South Carolina. This summer, more than 30 teachers from across the state and beyond are taking part in computer science training courses at UofSC.
Like many other fields, a student’s interest in computer science is sparked before they even apply to college. The current demand and supply are mismatched, as computer science career openings outpace students' skills and interest.
“The world is changing, technology is changing, and our students need these tools to become digital citizens of our world,” said Kelli Beaudreau, a teacher at Calvary Christian Academy in Ft. Lauderdale FL.
“Hopefully integrating computer science courses into middle schools and high schools will expose more students to the area. The field is very deficient and it needs more exposure.”
The course aims to develop students’ computational thinking, generate excitement about career paths that utilize computing, and introduce professional tools that foster creativity and collaboration.
A key differentiator of the PLTW Computer Science pathway is the in-depth teacher training, which equips teachers with the knowledge, confidence, and instructional methods they need to successfully teach computer science courses.
“We’re doing lot of hands on activities. It’s more student centered. The teacher acts as more of a facilitator rather than just standing in front of the class lecturing,” said Beaudreau.
In 2014, 90 percent of teachers who went through PLTW’s computer science teacher training were new to computer science. After the training, more than 80 percent felt comfortable going back to the classroom to teach computer science to their students.
PLTW’s computer science core training program will take place at 24 different affiliate universities this summer. There are more than 266 active programs in elementary, middle and high schools in the state. PLTW high school students can earn college credit for engineering courses taken in high school.