CSU Targets Computer Science Education in Regional Schools

COLUMBUS, Ga. Columbus State University officials are tackling a national crisis at the regional level. The problem is pre-college level computer science education, which was recently assessed at a crisis level by the Computer Science Teachers Association.

In response, CSUs TSYS Department of Computer Science and the Center for Quality Teaching Learning have created the CSTA Academy, a four-workshop series targeting middle and high school educators in west-central Georgia who teach computer science and business education.

Accompanied by a selected student from their schools, teachers will participate in each of four, daylong sessions at the Cunningham Center for Leadership Development, delivered by CSU computer science professors Wayne Summers and Rodrigo Obando:

  • Teacher Engagement for Computer Science, Sept. 26, provides an introductory, but high-level overview of training modules with attention to educating others in computer science education.
  • Understanding and Building Basic Networks, Nov. 14, focuses on computer organization, including simple network environments for information sharing, and examines Internet concepts, including Web design and development and ethical issues.
  • Having Fun with Computers, Jan. 25, will introduce artificial intelligence, game playing and robotics, plus the use of audio, video and graphics in a variety of computer applications.
  • Programming Basic Applications, March 20, covers programming concepts and languages, introducing the hierarchy and abstraction in computer programming, and acquainting participants with objects and object-oriented programming.

Too often, high school business education and computer science courses are taught by educators who are not prepared to teach modern concepts like programming and networking, said Beth Holmes, director of the Center for Quality Teaching and Learning. She cited 2005 statistics, which report declining trends in the number of students enrolled in high school computer science courses and lower numbers of students considering technology careers. As a result, a serious shortage of information technologists exists at all levels throughout the U.S., she said.

This skill-level deficiency compounds another nationwide trend of low college enrollment in the computer science field, and is impacting the Columbus area also, said Summers, who chairs CSUs computer science department. Were not able to meet the local job market demand for IT graduates, he said.

Summers has begun working with officials at Columbus-based TSYS, one of the nations largest credit card processors, to review and potentially restructure CSUs computer science curriculum to better account for the needs of one of the regions largest employers of IT specialists.

Meanwhile, CSUs focus on middle and high school teachers is designed to strengthen the local technical capacity from the bottom up. Participation incentives include professional development units plus the inclusion, free of charge to the school system, of an accompanying student to jump start the impact of the program, Holmes said.

Holmes and Summers proposed the CSTA Academy in a May meeting with regional school leaders. Subsequently, the Chattahoochee, Fort Benning, Harris, Muscogee, Schley, Talbot and Taylor public school systems have registered teachers to participate in the academy.

Holmes said she hopes to add private schools and schools from outlying counties to the academy.

For more information, call Holmes at 706-565-3645 or visit http://cqtl.colstate.edu/it/initiatives/csta.htm.