NSF grant to help Kennesaw State address need for computer science teachers
Kennesaw State University computer science professor Dan Lo and mathematics education associate professor Brian R. Lawler have been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to help meet the increasing demand for computer science teachers in grades 6-12.
The College of Computing and Software Engineering will partner with the Bagwell College of Education, as well as with the Georgia Department of Education and local school districts, to create multiple programs to train teachers in computer science. The one-year, $75,000 NSF grant has a stated goal to “create a metro Atlanta hub for computer science teacher education at KSU.”
Georgia is one of several states to adopt standards requiring all middle and high schools to offer computer science courses within the next few years, transforming it into a comprehensive discipline rather than a handful of elective classes. However, Lo pointed out, many schools do not have teachers who have a computer science degree or work experience in the field, leaving the classes to be taught by teachers without expertise in that specific area.
“There is absolutely a need for this, not only in Georgia but nationally, because a lot of K-12 schools cannot find computer science teachers,” said Lo, the principal investigator for the grant. “Our goal is to foster and grow computer science teachers who are not just qualified to teach the subject, but are high-quality educators dedicated to the field of computer science.”
That will involve developing as many pathways as possible for Kennesaw State to train computer science teachers, with the College of Computing and Software Engineering providing the disciplinary expertise and the Bagwell College of Education the teaching expertise. The possibilities already being discussed, according to Lo and Lawler, include adding a computer science concentration to the Master of Arts in Teaching, establishing a teaching minor in the computer science degree program, and creating a graduate-level endorsement.
“This is an excellent move that the College of Computing and Software Engineering is committing to preparing computer science teachers while continuing the ongoing partnership between CCSE and the Bagwell College of Education,” Lawler said. “Our neighboring school districts are clamoring for the college of education to be offering computer science teacher preparation pathways, so Dr. Lo’s grant comes at a great time.”
Lo and Lawler hope to extend the initiative beyond the one year covered by the NSF grant by applying for funding from the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. That would provide scholarships and other support for students and professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines to pursue one of Kennesaw State’s pathways toward becoming computer science teachers.
“These computer science teaching pathways provide additional opportunities for Kennesaw State to produce and support STEM teachers,” Lawler said. “When KSU has a large and robust community of future and current STEM educators, it helps our efforts for recruitment and retention and creates ecosystem of opportunities in STEM education and research.”
Along with helping meet the need for middle and high school teachers, the initiative also will provide another career option for computer science students and professionals. While many graduates might envision working as a software developer, computer programmer or systems analyst, becoming a computer science teacher could be a rewarding alternative.
“A computer science teaching career may be a great choice for STEM majors or graduates who have never thought about it,” Lo said. “We want the next generation to have at least some basic computer science concepts so that they can use that knowledge to make their lives better.”