UTD Broadens Efforts to Teach Computer Skills to Children, Teachers Across North Texas
UT Dallas offers year-round coding camps and workshops for students of all ages and skill levels. Now, as a Code.org Regional Partner, the University will provide professional development to teachers through partnerships with local school districts and will act as a regional hub for computer science education advocacy.
The University of Texas at Dallas is expanding its ongoing efforts to promote computer science education to K-12 students — and teachers — throughout North Texas.
The University currently coordinates programs that range from providing training and professional development for science, math and computer science teachers, to year-round coding camps and workshops for students of all ages and skill levels.
Adding to those efforts, UT Dallas recently was selected as a Code.org Regional Partner. Working with the Seattle-based nonprofit, UT Dallas will provide quality professional development to teachers through partnerships with local school districts and will act as a regional hub for computer science education advocacy. Rice University and The University of Texas at Austin are also Code.org Regional Partners.
Since launching in 2013, Code.org has partnered with public school districts nationwide to expand access to computer science and increase participation by women and underrepresented students of color. The organization has helped change policies to expand computer science programs, built K-12 curriculum, and organized the Hour of Code campaign, which has introduced computer science to more than 300 million students worldwide.
“Code.org’s Regional Partners are selected through a rigorous application process,” said Carina Box, national partnership manager for Code.org. “We look for innovative partners who are known in their communities as a provider of quality professional learning, knowledgeable about the computer science education landscape in their region, and invested in making computer science accessible to all students.”
Dr. Joseph Ferrara, director of the Institute for Instructional Excellence, is program manager for the University’s partnership with Code.org. In September he met with more than 40 other regional organizations at a computer science education event hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.
“Code.org is dedicated to preparing computer science teachers for K-12 classrooms and promoting the adoption of high-quality computer science courses,” Ferrara said. “Their efforts dovetail nicely with UT Dallas’ ongoing programs to train and support science, math and computer science teachers, and the plethora of coding camps and workshops we offer year-round to kids on campus and throughout the Dallas area.”
Texas requires that high schools offer computer science courses and allows computer science to count for a core graduation requirement.
“The perception has been that computer science is just about writing code and programming,” Ferrara said. “But computational thinking, the type of logic and problem-solving that is used to write computer routines, translates into other academic subjects.”
Ferrara said his efforts as a Code.org program manager will focus on working with educators and school districts to develop effective approaches to teaching computer science, advocating for computer science courses, and creating classroom environments that will spark students’ imaginations.
“Computational thinking requires not just getting the right answer, but makes students think about how and why they got to that answer,” he said. “That type of ‘learning how to think’ benefits students across all content areas in school and into the working world.”
Computer Science Education Week: Dec. 5-11
As part of Computer Science Education Week, this Monday through Saturday, UT Dallas will partner with Code.org to host Hour of Code signature events at three North Texas schools:
- Wednesday, 1-3 p.m. Harmony Science Academy, Carrollton
- Wednesday, 5-7 p.m. Emmett J. Conrad High School, Dallas ISD
- Thursday, 1-3 p.m. Harmony School of Innovation, Fort Worth
Hour of Code is a national initiative to demystify computer science and introduce students to elements of writing computer code. No previous experience with computer coding is necessary to participate. Code.org provides tutorials, activities, teachers’ guides and other materials to support outreach efforts.
"Accenture is delighted to participate with Code.org and UT Dallas to help build local computer science skills for students,” said Kimberly Schwartz, managing director in Accenture’s Health Technology practice. “Technology is changing the workplace in many ways, and we are committed to helping the next generation of North Texans build these skills that will help them succeed in the new digital economy.”
Computer Science Advocacy at UT Dallas
Dr. Jey Veerasamy is a senior lecturer in computer science and director of the Center for Computer Science Education and Outreach in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. He oversees multiple outreach programs aimed at introducing and encouraging computer programming skills in children in the Dallas area, including coding camps throughout the school year, during holiday breaks and summer. Specialized camps and workshops focus on cyber defense, robotics, game design, coding competitions and app development. The center also offers teacher training workshops and professional development programs for adults.
“The U.S. is expected to see continuing shortages of computer engineers for the foreseeable future,” Veerasamy said. “These are high-paying and very marketable skills. We provide an enjoyable way for students to learn these computer skills from a young age and encourage them to advance.”
“In addition to fostering interest in computer science among K-12 students, it’s vitally important to support the educators who are and will be teaching computer science skills,” said Dr. Mary Urquhart, head of the Department of Science and Mathematics Education in the UT Dallas School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The department is home to several initiatives aimed at training, supporting and retaining top-quality K-12 science, math and computer science teachers in North Texas, including UTeach Dallas, where UT Dallas students graduate with a BA or BS in a STEM field, or a master’s degree, while also earning their teacher certification.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].