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Future Proofing our Kids for Tomorrow

in Technology/Column
Microsoft
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By Dennis Ellis, special to Cowboy State Daily

It’s been amazing to watch Wyoming become a national policy leader on growing computer science opportunities for our kids, enriching their education and giving them skills to compete in the future.

It’s no surprise that computing jobs are the number one source of new wages in the U.S. and that nine out of 10 parents want their children to learn computer science. Many even suggest that 70 percent of students will work in jobs that don’t even exist today. Technological change, economic turbulence and societal transformation are disrupting old career certainties and it is increasingly difficult to judge which degrees and qualifications will be a passport to a well-paid and fulfilling job in the decades ahead.

You can bet your paycheck I want my kids to have at least a basic fluency in computer science so they can be more impactful in whatever career they choose, as nearly every job becomes a technology-driven job, and future proof their careers. Our kids need to move beyond just consuming technology, and begin to learn how to create technology.

For Wyoming to continue to make leaps in giving our children a bright future in the face of such uncertainty, it takes a strong commitment from our policymakers, education system, business community and parents. Here are some great examples of this commitment I see around the state:

Governor Gordon signs a 2019 Computer Science Week Proclamation with Array School students on hand
  • Governor Mark Gordon recently signed a proclamation declaring Computer Science Week, recognizing the importance of providing our students new opportunities.
  • In 2018 Governor Matt Mead signed seminal legislation requiring each school to include computer science and computational thinking opportunities for all Wyoming students.
  • The State of Wyoming is developing K–12 computer science standards, blazing trails on how to provide professional development and micro-credentialing for in-service teachers to bridge the gap in teaching capacity.
  • Last year 60 percent of Wyoming high schools taught at least one computer science course. That’s the third highest rated state west of the Mississippi River and eighth best in the country!
State by State offerings for Computer Science in High School

Addressing the STEM Gap

Because I have two daughters, I’m highly concerned about the gap in STEM and computer science participation for females. We all should be.

Alarmingly, in 1995 just 37 percent of computer scientists were women. Today, only 24 percent of women. If we do nothing, in ten years the number of women in computing will decrease to just 22 percent. We can and must do better. 

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Fortunately, for the sixth year in a row, the percentage of female AP Computer Science exam takers rose, steadily chipping away at the gender gap in high school computer science. Closing the participation gaps in computer science will take years, but there are clear signs that states are on the right path. Wyoming has already launched five Girls Who Code chapters to close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.

Microsoft recently partnered with the Array Foundation, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and Girls Who Code to launch Cheyenne’s first chapter. The chapter will enable girls to learn computer science from a female role model in the tech industry. Research shows that 31 percent of middle school girls and 40 percent of high school girls believe that jobs requiring coding are not for them. Increasing the amount of female role models can play an important role to shift these perceptions.

Girls Who Code Chapter launch with Array Foundation

Anyone interested in bringing Girls Who Code to their town, or get engaged in other areas of building a strong ecosystem of computer science in your community, contact me or the Array School of Technology and Design and we can help show you a simple playbook to help shape a bright future for Wyoming!

Microsoft contributes to computer science training

in News/Technology/Education
Microsoft contributes to computer science training
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By Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Microsoft Corp. will provide more than $95,000 in grant money to the Wyoming Department of Education to provide computer science training for the state’s school districts.

The grant money is part of Microsoft’s TechSpark Initiative to offer computer science program implementation and training through the organization CSforAll — Computer Science for All.

CSforALL strives to make computer science a part of every student’s K-12 education.

The help from Microsoft is especially important now, given that the state Legislature passed a bill in 2018 that districts must offer computer science education to every K-12 student, said Laura Ballard, the Education Department’s supervisor for its student and teacher resource team. The goal must be reached by the 2022-23 school year.

“The timing is perfect,” she said. 

Training will involve several self-assessment and goal-setting activities.

“It will give districts the opportunity to think strategically about how to implement a high quality education in the districts,” Ballard said. 

Dennis Ellis, the manager of Microsoft’s TechSpark program in Wyoming, said in a news release that computer skills will be essential for students seeking jobs in the future.

“Making computer science education an opportunity within reach of every student ensures that Wyoming’s children can be future ready and will make our state attractive to public and private investments that can drive economic growth,” Ellis said.

Computer science education will be the first content area that educators and education officials in Wyoming will implement from the ground up, according to Ballard.

The task can be overwhelming to think about, she said Tuesday.

“When I was talking with some of our partners with Microsoft, they pointed me in the direction of CSforALL training,” she said. “It really is intended to help districts take a systems approach to create a plan to implement computer science.”

This training will help educators create a vision of computer science education and how it fits in their district’s vision for education, Ballard said.

Districts have to apply to attend the training, which will take place one of five locations around the state.

Locations and dates are:

·  Casper:  May 14-15; Oct. 15; and May 20, 2020.

·  Rock Springs: June 4-5; Nov. 14; and June 4, 2020

·  Cheyenne: June 11-12, 2019; Nov. 19, 2019; and June 11, 2020.

·  Worland: Aug. 5-6, 2019; Jan. 7, 2020; and Aug. 6, 2020.

·  Gillette: Sept. 24-25, 2019; Feb. 25, 2020; and Sept. 24, 2020.

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