TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Dr. Jeff Gray, professor of computer science at The University of Alabama, was part of a summit to gauge the progress of President Barack Obama’s initiative to expand computer science education to primary and secondary schools.
Held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Sept. 14, the White House Summit on Computer Science for All marked progress and celebrated new commitments in support of Obama’s initiative, which he announced in his 2016 State of the Union address.
Gray is a national leader in computer science education and is a member of Code.org’s Education Advisory Council. He is recognized as a Distinguished Educator by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and has been instrumental in state and national efforts to train teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The summit brought together other leading educators and experts to meet with Obama’s chief science and engineering policy advisers to discuss new initiatives available to bring additional opportunities to K-12 schools. A specific focus was the need for diversity in computing and the desire for all students to have access to the learning opportunities that prepare them for the most desired occupations in the future, Gray said.
“This summit brought together educators and researchers from across the country who have been initiating new courses and training opportunities for both teachers and students,” he said. “The Summit was an occasion to share experiences and learn from each other’s individual projects in all regions of the country.”
With Code.org, a nonprofit that promotes computer science education, Gray has led 33 workshops around Alabama that introduce computer science to elementary-school classrooms and has four more scheduled this fall.
Before the main Summit meeting, Gray met with 20 other educators in a planning session to discuss strategies for training teachers in professional development to offer new computer science courses.
“The projects in Alabama have been successful in demonstrating how a large group of new teachers can be trained and sustained in the offering of these courses at their schools,” Gray said. “We are excited to share some of our experiences and to learn what others have gained in knowledge and understanding of the best practices for CS education.”
Besides training elementary teachers, Gray, with the support of several National Science Foundation grants, has worked with the College Board and Google to pilot a new Advanced Placement computer-science course designed to increase secondary and post-secondary educational interest in computer science and improve collegiate preparation for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) awareness.
Over the past three years, Gray also has led a free, online course, sponsored by Google, to train thousands of high-school teachers in the new AP computer science course.
This summer, he was also part of CSPdWeek, considered the largest cross-curricular professional development in CS education history that trained more than 250 teachers and counselors from across the nation.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.