UA professor leads online teacher training with help from Google, NSF

ByMike V. Cooper

May 29, 2015

Newswise – TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Dr. Jeff Gray, professor of computer science at the University of Alabama, will lead a free online course this summer, sponsored by Google, to train high school teachers in a new computer science course and future College Board exam Advanced Placement.

An estimated 1,500 teachers are expected to enroll in the course across the United States.

Google is also sponsoring programs in five other states — California, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana and Texas — that will use Gray’s course as an online foundation with teachers meeting with specialists in their home state for a face-to-face meeting. ‘one week. which provides additional instructions.

Tuscaloosa will host the training of 50 Alabama teachers June 22-26.

The online course begins the first week of June.

This is Gray’s second year leading this national online course for Google. It started with his efforts to reach teachers in Alabama through a project of the National Science Foundation, NSF, but Google provided a grant to expand the reach through a known web-based dissemination method. under the name Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC.

Last year, more than 1,200 teachers signed up in 46 states and 12 countries.

“It’s the only realistic way to do this kind of training when teachers are geographically dispersed,” Gray said. “The financial cost and the significant commitment of teachers to be away from their families make prolonged face-to-face training impossible.”

With support from the Google CS4HS program and the National Science Foundation, Gray will lead the six-week course that provides free online instruction for educators interested in learning more about CS principles, a new advanced placement course in development. by the College Board designed to increase secondary and post-secondary educational interest in computer science and to enhance college readiness.

The CS Principles course will be a new AP exam in the 2016-2017 school year, and many teachers are starting to pilot the course in preparation for the first exam, Gray said.

The course assumes that participants are secondary school teachers with no or limited computer training.

However, current primary and secondary computer science teachers, as well as college professors, may also find portions of the course useful in understanding the topics covered in the CS Principles curriculum. A certificate will be awarded to those who complete the course.

The online course parallels CS Principles professional development instruction from the CS4Alabama project, which is an NSF-sponsored project, in collaboration between UA and A+ College Ready, with external project evaluation conducted by Haynie Research and Evaluation .

The CSP4HS program was adopted from a pilot course in CS principles taught at the University since 2011.

The online course will be attended by several UA students including Jonathan Corley and Brian Eddy, PhD students in computer science; Jake Trower, graduate student in computer science; Rachael Giles, undergraduate student in media production; and Lydia Eubanks and Lauri Springer, math majors specializing in secondary math education.

Additionally, four teachers from Alabama and the United States who piloted the new AP computer science course will help train teachers online. Additionally, guest speakers from across the country will also offer appearances as part of the UA-based summer course.

“Computer science is often the major on college campuses with the most job openings for graduate students,” Gray said. “A national movement is emerging that raises awareness of the opportunities of computing. CS Principles brings the excitement of computing to a much wider group of diverse students. »

At the 50 Alabama high schools already offering the course, 46% of students are women or underrepresented minorities, Gray said.

Gray was instrumental in developing the new high school course, currently training teachers in Alabama through Google and NSF grants.

In fall 2015, four Tuscaloosa-area schools will join the other Alabama schools offering the new CS Principles course: Hillcrest High School, Northside High School, Tuscaloosa County High School, and Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy.

Computer science coverage in Alabama schools now extends from kindergarten through high school. Gray recently led a statewide effort to help elementary school teachers bring computing into their classrooms. More than 500 elementary school teachers have been trained in 20 different workshops across Alabama.

In the past, Gray worked to introduce computing to urban school districts, and for more than a decade he taught a series of multi-week summer computer camps and held similar science competitions for students. from kindergarten to 12th grade.

He helps organize an annual Alabama robotics competition at the University of Alabama for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Gray is a national leader in computer science education and is a member of’s Education Advisory Council, as well as an ACM Educator Emeritus.