TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — More than 70 high school teachers from across Alabama will participate in a two-day computer science workshop Oct. 27-28 at The University of Alabama.
The workshop is in its second year and is funded by a grant from Google. Both veteran teachers and newcomers will attend the workshop, said Dr. Jeff Gray, UA professor of computer science and workshop organizer.
Dr. Dan Garcia, professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley, and Crystal Furman, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment at the College Board, will be keynote speakers.
The workshop is the latest in UA’s efforts to expand computer science access in K-12 education in the state of Alabama, which has seen its number of students learning some form of computer science increase from 27 in 2007 to more than 1,700 last year.
UA has hosted teacher workshops and student computer science camps and contests over that span.
“This collaboration with A+ College Ready will provide three different parallel sessions that teachers can choose from,” Gray said. “This workshop builds from our past work with the National Science Foundation and Code.org to train our teachers. This is a special weekend to get together, share and learn new teaching strategies.”
Access to computer science courses has increased in the state. For instance, 12 middle schools and high schools in the Tuscaloosa area offer some form of CS course. The number of “expert” teachers, some of whom will lead portions of the workshop for their peers, has also increased.
Each year, select Alabama educators involved with the AP Summer Institute travel across the state and country to train fellow high school teachers in AP CS Principles, the entry-level computer science course.
Carol Yarbrough, computer science instructor at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, was a programmer for more than 20 years before becoming a teacher. Yarbrough is a member of the College Board’s APCS Principles Development Committee, a Code.org facilitator for Code.org’s AP CS principles course.
She was involved in two, three-year AP Computer Science pilot projects with Gray from 2013-16. She described the growth in trained teachers in Alabama as “exponential.”
This week’s workshop will include sessions that teachers said they want to learn more about – abstraction, algorithms, performance tasks in AP CS Principles and teaching the advanced AP Computer Science A course. This further illustrates how CS instruction has grown in Alabama, Yarbrough said.
“There were a total of three approved AP CS teachers in the state when I first started teaching, and I was one of the three,” she said. “Now we have more than 130.
“What’s interesting is some of these teachers were teaching math, then one class of CS, and now it’s nothing but CS. It’s amazing and so fun to teach; the kids get so excited about it. I’ll have a kid finish debugging a program, and they’ll start jumping up and down saying, ‘it worked.’”
Gray is co-chairing Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s Advisory Council for Computer Science Education. The council consists of educators, business and industry representatives and others that work in or advocate for computer science education.
This advisory council will make recommendations for the expansion of computer science education. While the council will prioritize computer science opportunities and courses for students, it will also focus on the professional development of teachers, ensuring Alabama educators will be better trained to teach for the modern economy, according to the governor’s office.
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.