the FAculty experience

"Integration of CS and CT across the curriculum is possible and now I have more ideas on how I can do that " - Amy Murzyn, CSS Assistant Professor of Education

"Much like I learned to read, write and calculate (math)... computational thinking must be embedded in all content areas in order to prepare our PK-12 students for informed, engaged global citizenship " - Annette Miller, CSS Associate Professor of Education

While in high school, Annette Miller signed up for a computer science course. At that time, computer science being offered at the high school level was very new. She describes this first encounter with computer science as a “crash and burn” experience. The class environment did not feel welcoming to her, she remembers, and recounts that it was almost all boys. It was not long before she felt that this subject was not for her. Typically a strong student who was used to doing well in school, she remained in the course, “But,” she says, “I received a very low grade (D?), and never took a computer science course again.”

Fast forward to 2017. Associate Professor Annette Miller teaches Social Studies Education in the teacher education program at the College of St. Scholastica (CSS). When she learned that the School of Education at CSS had received a grant from Google and was going to embark on a journey that would embed computational thinking and basic computer science literacy skills throughout the teacher preparation curriculum, her first thoughts included bad memories of her experience in high school. She signed on and hoped it would be better this time around, and she is happy to report that it is.

The thing that really hooked her this time around was the accessible and welcoming format of the online professional development course developed by TeachCS team members Jen Rosato and Heather Benedict. The course module developed to specifically address inclusion and equity in the computer science field spoke to her directly. She said it made all the difference to feel specifically welcome and to find out that many in the field were aggressively recruiting women and underrepresented groups to the field.

Miller says that learning about the disparities in access to the field of computer science reminds her of when in her undergraduate years training to be a teacher her eyes were opened to the inequities in the educational system in general. While participating in the TeachCS faculty training, she became aware of the need for all people to have the basic skills needed to be creators of digital content and not just users of it since computers and digital tools are becoming ubiquitous. She believes computational thinking and computer science literacy are “critical” tools that all people should have access to, and that it is necessary to start teaching these skills to all kids in grades K-12. In doing so, she hopes that all people will someday have the basic comfort level needed to feel welcome in the world of technology.

CSS Faculty members Annette Miller, Amy Murzyn, and Donna Kirk (L to R) take advantage of time waiting in an airport on their way home from the 2017 Computer Science Teacher's Association national conference to explore the book "Computational Thinking and Coding for Every Student" by Jane Krauss and Kiki Prottsman. This book is being used as the foundational text for the work of our project.