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College of Science & Mathematics

Teaching Teachers

For the third straight year, Google and Full Professor of Computer Science at Rowan, Dr. Jennifer Kay, will work together to expose primary and secondary educators to the wondrous world of computer programming. The $34,000 grant, graciously funded by Google’s educational division, Computer Science for High Schools (CS4HS), will give Kay the opportunity to outreach not only local area teachers but also the entire world. By creating what’s called a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course), Kay elevates Rowan to a handful of online CS4HS providers that also include Colorado State University, the College of St. Scholastica, and Harvard University.

“For the past two years (with funding from Google), I’ve held programs here at Rowan in which I taught 20-25 teachers the excitement behind computer programming- we found that the 2011 teachers reached about 200 students the following academic year,” said Kay. “Imagine how many students will be reached in a course that spans across the entire country.”

In the summers of both 2011 and 2012, Rowan received grants to fund programs in which Kay aimed to get teachers using robots in students’ math and science classes, and even creating robotics clubs. “There is little computer science taught in schools today,” Kay pointed out, “kids are taught how to use tools to get by on a daily basis, but that’s not deep enough. Students should know what is behind these apps and programs and how they work.”

Professor Jennifer Kay films online courses for her MOOC

Kay’s MOOC entitled, “Educational Robotics for Absolute Beginners,” is a five week course in which each week consists of 10 lessons, and each lesson is made up of five to ten minute videos explaining concepts, along with self-test questions to assess understanding. Being a beginner course, the projects will involve the programing of a LEGO NXT robot.

The class is not only intended for teachers, but for anybody interested in gaining knowledge about how computer programming and educational robotics works. The first week does not require the use of a robot, but from thereafter, participants will need to have a robot in order to complete the projects and assignments. Teachers will need a colleague or principal to evaluate their end project of a successful program in order to receive a certificate of completion. The course is absolutely free however, teachers will need to consult with their schools about providing a robot to complete the course.

Core principles that Kay hopes the participants will learn involve computational thinking skills. These skills don’t only apply to computer programming, but apply to daily life activities. According to Google’s educational page on Computational thinking, the skills that make up such methods involve how to analyze a situation, think logically about step-by-step processes to solve a problem, and how do several solutions solve the same problem.

“These courses are important because essentially, all kids, whether or not they’re interested in computers, will spend the rest of their lives communicating with computers and people who do work with computers,” explained Kay. “When someone says ‘the computer can’t do that,’ I want kids to have the confidence to say ‘why not?’”

The class is currently in the pre-registering stage and is set to begin some time in October.

To check out the class and sign-up, just follow this link:

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