MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Teachers and students will both get a chance in 2018 to improve their computer literacy — possibly improving the long-term outlook of West Virginia’s economy along with it.

West Virginia University’s new partnership with code.org to create CodeWV, which will train teachers to bring computer science to public classrooms, has the potential to help both teachers and students improve their computer science literacy, according to Dr. Gay Stewart, Director of WVU’s Center for Excellence in STEM Education.

“If you’re a teacher in West Virginia and you’re interested in teaching a computer science course next year, even if you’ve never taught it before and you know nothing about computer science, we can make sure that you are ready to do a good job teaching this curriculum, provide the support during the academic year while you are teaching it, and give you an opportunity to give your students that opportunity,” said Stewart on the AJR News Network’s Gary Bowden Show.

The partnership is considered a smaller step for WV Forward, the new partnership and collaboration spearheaded by WVU and Marshall University, in revitalizing the state’s economy through education. In this instance, the initiative is hoping to see West Virginians fill a need that continues to go unmet — in-state computer science jobs.

“Right now in West Virginia, there’s over 1,000 open computer science jobs,” Stewart said. “But we only had about 100 kids graduate with a degree in computer science last year.”

That’s 100 kids in the entire state, according to CodeWV’s homepage. Part of the problem, Stewart said, is that most teachers aren’t properly trained to teach computer science courses at the K-12 level in public schools.

“A lot of really good teachers out there would like to teach computer science, but they don’t know it,” she said. “It wasn’t part of the curriculum when they were in school.”

The application process that opens next year is part of a four year process of seminars and workshops to help teachers become experts on bringing the subject to the students.

“They are now saying that the majority of the new jobs over the next couple of decades are going to require some computing skills,” Stewart said.

When the partnership with code.org was announced earlier this month, Stewart said the partnership would play a vital role in allowing West Virginians to tap into the number one source of new earnings in the United States. And, Stewart added, it would be a chance to increase socioeconomic, gender, and racial diversity inside the computer science world.

“For a long time the only kids taking computer science classes have been, in general, kids that were a little bit better off,” she said. “Typically male, typically white.”

“It’s really an issue of social justice to get more kids involved.”

Applications for interested teachers will open early next year and are accepted through April.

West Virginia is one of just 10 states to have K-12 computer science standards and one of 34 states, plus Washington, D.C., to count computer science toward high school graduation math or science requirements.

You can learn more here.

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