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Seventy-five Maine Teachers to Prepare Engaging New High School Computing Course

September 12, 2014

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a three-year $469,369 grant to improve access to computer science instruction for Maine high school students. 

The project is being led by the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA) in partnership with RSU 26 (Orono) and the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA). Maine business partners include: Axiom Technologies, The Jackson Laboratory, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Kepware Technologies, and LL Bean. Project>Login will help raise awareness for the project, and encourage students who are sparked by computing technologies to enroll in courses when they become available.

Maine businesses are being challenged by a large and increasing need for workers who are well-versed in computing technologies, especially as a silver tsunami of retirees leave the workforce. According to some estimates, Maine will need over 1,700 new Computer Science-trained workers with at least 2-year college degrees by 2018, yet only a small portion will be prepared. Few schools offer computer science courses at the high school level, and Maines public university system graduated only 43 computer science graduates in 2012. Even doubling or tripling the number of graduates will not meet the demand.

In addition, some business leaders have called for every new college graduate to have some background in the basics of computer science, including the ability to think algorithmically. The key to much-needed growth is to get more students engaged in computer science before they reach college.

Ultimately, the problem we're addressing is getting younger students to the point where they might seriously consider pursuing a computer science degree or a computer science-related career, said MMSA's Dr. Tom Keller, the grant's principal investigator. Dr. Glenn Cummings, the new President of University of Maine at Augusta, believes that this project is a key step in developing pathways from high school into the study of CS at college. He said, "UMA produces the second largest number of CS graduates in the UMaine system, and we are delighted to extend our work to the area of teacher professional development.

The project builds upon the existing, highly successful, research-based Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum and teacher professional development materials. The major goal of the project is to prepare 75 high school teachers to implement ECS with high school students throughout Maine. The project will also build, grow, support, and sustain a community of high school computer science teachers and will work with Maine's Department of Education to develop educational policies that encourage teaching and learning of computer science.

The projects five Maine business partners will participate to incorporate workplace computer science examples into the professional development program for teachers. Joanne Harriman, Superintendent of Schools at RSU 26 (Orono) and Co-Principal Investigator, will establish a model site and lead teacher recruitment. Dr. Joseph Szakas, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost at the UMA, is responsible for development and implementation of a computer science methods course. This work is supported by NSF grant #1440464.

For more information, contact Tom Keller at the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance: or (207) 626-3230

Image: via Flickr Creative Commons

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