Microsoft Connects K–12 Classrooms with Computer Science Professionals

The TEALS program reshapes CS education for hundreds of schools.

There are nearly half a million open computing jobs in the U.S., but only 42,969 computer science graduates entered the workforce last year, according to Code.org.

Many experts, including former President Barack Obama, hope that better access to computer science at the K–12 level can close this gap.

With this in mind, Microsoft launched Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS), a program that connects high school teachers with a curriculum and a computer science professional who regularly volunteers in class.

TEALS, which launched in 2009 and now supports hundreds of schools in rural, urban and suburban areas, uses a co-teaching and lab support model to teach introductory computer science lessons, as well as Advanced Placement courses.

By empowering teachers to provide innovative educations, TEALS can help close the skills gap and get more students into CS degree programs. In addition, it can help students become more informed about the world they live in.

“There’s an immense need for everybody to understand the foundation of computer science,” says Anthony Papini, the volunteer manager of the TEALS program. “We live in an age where every industry has been touched by technology and our goal is to ensure that young people are no longer just passive consumers, but active participants, educated in the tools that they utilize.”

SIGN UP: Get more news from the EdTech newsletter in your inbox every two weeks!

Tech Mentoring Is a Win-Win for Students, Professionals

Lisa Miller, a programming and web development teacher at Medford Vocational Technical High School in Mass., says the TEALS program has given her CS students much-needed exposure to the tech industry.

My students have often never met somebody who is a computer science professional,” Miller says. “This is their opportunity not just to learn from the volunteers, but to learn about them and how they are doing this professionally.”

Papini says the volunteers, who range from professionals just out of college to retirees, are motivated to help students receive the same computer science opportunities that they have been afforded.

For Joanie Weaver, a Microsoft program manager based in Boston, Mass., the TEALS program gave her a chance to help ease students into CS concepts that might overwhelm them at the collegiate level and dissuade them from exploring the field any further.

“Trying computer science for the first time in college is difficult, especially when you feel the other students in your classes have been coding since they were five and you’re in a class so huge there’s no way the professor will know your name or even see your hand raised in class,” she writes on the TEALS website.

Partnerships Fuel Computer Science Education Growth

While Miller and Papini agree that Computer Science Education Week is a great way to initiate a spark for teachers and students alike, they both hope that it can act as a first step to developing a dedicated program in their schools.

Once that interest is sparked, Papini says TEALS accepts applications from educators and school leaders and then offers the curriculum and the professional development needed to create a successful CS program.

For more on TEALS, visit tealsk12.org.

izusek/Getty Images
Dec 08 2017