President Obama's Computer Science for All (#CSforAll) announcement in early 2016 emphasized that “we live in a time of extraordinary change.” Computer science (CS) education is being recognized at the federal level as a catalyst for future success. Last month, we joined an open letter to Congress, a request for national funding that would give every student across the U.S the opportunity to learn computer science. The movement to provide quality CS programs is gaining momentum, and Google is proud to be part of the community working toward that goal.We believe that it’s not only important for our students to be creators of new technology, but for our teachers to also have the opportunity to be innovators and out-of-the-box thinkers. A global study conducted by McKinsey found that one of the main drivers of excellence in the best performing schools worldwide are tools and programs provided for teacher professional development. These opportunities give educators access to share best practices and create improved resources for the curriculum and pedagogy of any particular subject. At Google, we are committed to supporting the professional development of teachers though CS4HS, an annual funding program for global CS teacher professional development opportunities at the high school level.
CS4HS awards bring professional development opportunities to high school teachers who often lack the support and resources to teach computational thinking and computer science in their classrooms. Research institutions or professional development organizations partner with communities of local high school teachers to help them build knowledge, skills, and confidence in teaching computer science and computational thinking through ongoing professional development opportunities.
Almost every state in the U.S. is grappling with a need for more CS courses and professional development opportunities for teachers. In Nebraska, for example, only nine out of 144 schools (63 high schools and 81 middle schools) offer an IT-related course. Through CS4HS funding and a PD program created by the University of Nebraska at Kearney, teachers will be able to participate in workshops, near-peer mentoring, and a community of practice that helps them integrate CS/IT teaching methodologies into their classrooms, and inspire a new generation of young people in rural Nebraska to become creators of technology.
Programs like the one at the University of Nebraska at Kearney are growing on a global scale. Since the launch of CS4HS in 2009, over 20,000 teachers have been trained through CS4HS professional development opportunities, and over one million students have benefited from these trainings. Funding is awarded to applicants that demonstrate a sound pedagogical approach to CS and a foundation of an ongoing community of practice around CS professional development. This coming school year, Google is increasing its investment in professional development by funding 34 institutions in the US and many others programs worldwide. Check out the CS4HS site for more information, or to learn about the 2017 funding cycle.
Perhaps the most significant emphasis of the McKinsey study is that the “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” The solution lies in a community of advocates that extends beyond our teachers, and builds a culture of dialogue through administrators, parents, policy makers, and companies. By providing funding for CS professional development programs, Google is working to ensure that our teachers are best prepared to serve the next generation of creators, embracing this time of innovation and extraordinary change.