MSU units bring computer science courses to K-12 classrooms

For immediate release: September 6, 2017
Contact: Emile Creel

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Two Mississippi State University (MSU) units are leading the charge in bringing computer science to Mississippi’s K-12 classrooms—partially through the funding of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.

The over $700,000 grant was awarded to the Research and Curriculum (RCU) to advance training and curriculum for the Computer Science for Mississippi (CS4MS) initiative with the help of the MSU College of Education. The groups will use the funding to train high school teachers in CS4MS pilot districts, which were established two years ago.

“Our state has been at the forefront of the national race to bring computer science to classrooms for the past two years. With this grant, we will increase the number of schools that offer computer science courses and the teachers we train,” said Shelly Hollis, CS4MS project coordinator at the RCU.

Currently, 44 school districts are enrolled in the training and curriculum program, and the RCU has been named a regional partner for Code.org, a national organization that shares resources for computer science curriculum.

The 3-year NSF grant aims to connect researchers to practitioners said Lois Kappler, the grant’s principal investigator and project manager at the RCU.

“The value of working with industry professionals and educators is that we can build a sustainable professional development model that will support long term success,” said Kappler.

The researcher-practitioner partnership includes public school educators and industry professionals who will help the RCU modify CS4MS curriculum based on teacher results said Hollis.

“There’s a need in the field of computer science for a rapid response to teacher feedback, and through the collaborative efforts of the team, we will design training to meet the ongoing and evolving needs of the teachers as well as strive to keep current a curriculum that centers on an industry that changes daily,” said Hollis.

Many of the teachers recruited for CS4MS courses are already in schools or are coming from alternate pathways. Therefore, the grant will also support work toward licensure pathways and endorsements in the computer science field.

Donna Shea, the director of clinical and field-based instruction in the College of Education a co-principal investigator on the grant, said that the work is of significance to creating a pathway for teachers and to ensuring that Mississippi’s children have the opportunity to pursue the computer science field.

 “We see the importance of and growing interest in exposing children of all ages to computer science; and with that, comes the need for developing a program of study and licensure endorsement in computer science,” said Shea.

The departments will work to make training and curriculum available to teachers in multiple forms, including in person and online, so that participation is less cost prohibitive, which translates to more opportunities for Mississippi’s students to receive computer science instruction and job preparation for the field.

“If students hold these skills, some of the geographical and socio-economical barriers fall away because jobs are available for them to work from home as long as they have access to a computer and the internet,” said Hollis.

For more information on CS4MS, visit cs4ms.org.

For more information on the RCU, visit rcu.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, also available online at msstate.edu