Associate Professor Dr. Aimee Kendall Roundtree has won a teaching grant from WeTeach_CS to fund a $100,000 project, “Coding Across the Disciplines,” that will teach computer programming skills to middle and high school teachers from all disciplines. Along with Dr. Hunter Close (Physics), Dr. Kristina Collins (Education), Dr. Grayson Lawrence (Art and Design), and Dr. Ziliang Zong (Computer Science), the project aims to expose teachers to new programming concepts and computational thinking skills, that, as Dr. Roundtree says, will enable “Texas high school students to have points of contact with programming in addition to computer science classes.”
More than ever in the digital age, coding and programming are integral to art, design, digital media, applied and theoretical sciences, and many other disciplines. However, according to WeTeach_CS “only 2% of Texas high school graduates have taken a computer science class, despite the fact that computer skills are integral to most industries and fields.” The goal of “Coding Across the Disciplines” is to provide teachers with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) lesson plans and teaching materials for immediate integration of programming lessons into their own curricula and classrooms.
Dr. Roundtree will serve as project manager, and in addition to teaching, designing and distributing materials, and many other responsibilities, she will be gathering usability feedback for an app that Dr. Close and his graduate students designed. The app teaches Python, a general-purpose programming language that focuses on clear and easy-to-read codes. By using Block.ly and Trinket, according to Dr. Roundtree, “the app will use blocks as visual code editors to teach students fundamental programming skills like variables, logical expressions, loops, as well as create visual simulations by assembling and linking blocks in proper order.” Like any graphic user interface, the code is written underneath as the blocks are being assembled. The app resembles Scratch or Code.org, two other very simple visual code editors used to teach kids programming.
The program will run from January 16 to August 15, 2017. In that time, the teachers will complete 60 contact hours of training—36 offered by WeTeach, EdX, and other vendors, and 24 hours at multidisciplinary workshops that Texas State University will host, tentatively scheduled for mid-June. Further, the project will offer teachers flexibility to manage their learning schedules and will allow course substitutions through places like Coursera, Udacity, and EdX. Additionally, Dr. Roundtree and her team “hope to recruit teachers in underserved, impoverished, and minority student populations in communities in Hays, Guadalupe, Caldwell, Comal, and other counties along the I35 corridor.”
As a technical and scientific communication researcher, Dr. Roundtree looks forward to observing “how scientific visuals are learned and taught, as well as how professional teachers from different disciplines acquire technical expertise.” This will help to sharpen her own coding skills for teaching Digital Media and Theory courses at Texas State.
The department invites fellow Texas State faculty and staff to spread the word about this exciting opportunity to the middle and high school teachers and administrators in their own networks. Please contact Dr. Roundtree at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.