The Beauty and Joy of Computing in San Francisco

July 25, 2017

Back in May, the Foundation announced funding to support Computer Science (CS) professional development for over 1,000 public school teachers in 2017 at no cost. One such teacher training has been taking place on the San Francisco State University campus during the week of July 17-21.

Dr. Tiffany Barnes, a CS professor at North Carolina State University, is also Director of the Beauty & Joy of Computing (BJC) an AP Computer Science Principles course which offers computer science professional development (CSPD) workshops across the country.

"We're excited to be here at SFSU with funding from Infosys Foundation USA which enabled us to bring teachers from across the country, even from distant places like North Dakota, to our training” says Barnes. She further explains that most of these teachers have been isolated in their home districts in their attempts to bring CS education to kids that might not otherwise have access to such curriculum in high school. “This teacher training provides a unique opportunity for these teachers to meet others and know they are not alone in their educational goals for their students. This gathering gives them the energy to go back and advocate for their students and offer computer science in their schools", says Barnes.

Leslie Keller is a program manager with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University. One of Keller's main projects is Beauty and Joy of Computing (BJC) professional development, working closely with Dr. Barnes at the College of Computer Science at NC State to help spread BJC to all public high schools in North Carolina. Keller is also a North Carolina Virtual Public school teacher, and teaches computer science.

"This week, our training has reached 93 new teachers and trained them in a College Board endorsed Advance Placement CS Principles curriculum. These teachers represent 83 different schools from 23 states, including Puerto Rico. We have about a 50/50 split between male and female teachers that are coming mainly from public high schools. The only way these public school teachers have been able to attend this type of professional development is from financial support we have found through Infosys Foundation USA in the form of grants", says Keller. "When these teachers return to their schools, they will be able to bring something that is very unique within the CSP curriculum." It should be noted that many teachers that attended will be first-time CS teachers, but have taught related topics.

BJC represents just one aspect of the Foundation’s systemic approach to funding a variety of CS education programs over the past several years, including curriculum development, afterschool programs, mentoring opportunities, research, evaluation, and boot camps and hackathons. Including teachers supported in previous years, this summer’s funding will bring the total number of teachers trained in an in-person PD workshops to over 2,100 and will benefit more than a million students over the next several years.

"There is a critical need to invest in computer science education today. Teachers are the heart and soul of our children’s education and their role is even more significant in our digital world. One CS teacher alone can help hundreds, or even thousands, of students. Multiply that body of teachers by the thousands, and now you are able to achieve scale to get closer to our dream of making computer science accessible to every child in the United States."
---Vandana Sikka, Chairperson of Infosys Foundation USA.

Below are quotes from some teachers that participated in the BJC professional development course:

Holly Laird, Business and Career Teacher, Leesville Road High School, Raleigh, NC: "I will be teaching AP CSP for the first time. BJC PD is giving me access to the curriculum and structure, and the framework that the College Board has provided. But what I like most about the PD is the chance to practice the labs, the actual programming, and the support. We have many teachers in the room that have gone through the curriculum, they've taught it, and they're providing tips and tricks for what’s made it easy for them to teach. We teachers really appreciate Infosys Foundation USA support. Without the funding, I wouldn't be able to come here."

Dion St. Lawrence, Math Teacher, Brooklyn High School for the Arts, Brooklyn, NY: "I have a degree in CS and math, but I haven't programmed in about 12 years. We’re implementing a CS course at our high school, so I wanted to refresh and learn and all the updates and be able to teach new CS curriculum."

Henry Fung, Physics Teacher, Irvington High School, Fremont, CA: "In a school of 2600 students, we have about 20 kids taking AP CS. When I heard about CSP, I decided to come to this training to offer an alternative to students, Computer Science Principles course, or CSP, to hopefully get more girls and minorities to take this class. Being a physics teacher, we just started next-gen science standard. One of the standards involves engineering, programing, problem solving, breaking down complex problems into smaller pieces to solve. I thought CS could be something I could add to my existing class, and meet one standard. Just this week, I was looking through the CS curriculum and realized I could teach 15 standards just by teaching the Computer Science Principles course. So right now I can add maybe 2 or 3 months’ worth of CS into my physics course."