Google Grant Helps Gray Reach More Teachers with MOOC
By Adam Jones
Dr. Jeff Gray, professor of computer science, is leading a free, online course this summer to train high-school teachers in a new computer-science course and future College Board AP exam.
More than 700 teachers have signed up for the course from across the United States, including several teachers on military bases in other countries. The online course offered this summer, CSP4HS, began as Gray’s continued efforts to reach teachers in Alabama by training 50 teachers this summer, but Google provided a grant to broaden the reach through a web-based delivery method known as a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC.
The course began the week of Memorial Day.
With support from the Google CS4HS program and the National Science Foundation, Gray will lead the six-week course that offers free online instruction to educators interested in learning more about CS Principles, a new Advanced Placement Course under development by the College Board.
Gray has been instrumental in development of the new high school course, currently training teachers in Alabama through Google and NSF grants. In June, all of the Alabama teachers participating in the MOOC will come to Tuscaloosa for a week-long face-to-face meeting that provides additional instruction.
“This is taking the ideas that we planned regionally for Alabama and scaling it up to work with teachers across the United States who have the same interests in offering this course in their high schools in the near future,” Gray said. “This is the only realistic way to do this type of training when the teachers are geographically dispersed. The financial cost, and the extensive commitment by teachers to be away from their family, makes an extended, face-to-face training unfeasible.”
Gray is a national leader in computer science education, and he is a member of Code.org’s Education Advisory Council. With several NSF grants, he has worked with the College Board and Google to help pilot a new Advanced Placement computer-science course designed to increase secondary and post-secondary educational interest in computer science and improve collegiate preparation.
Gray has also worked to train high-school teachers to integrate computer science into technology courses and to teach the upcoming new AP computer science course. In the past, Gray has worked to introduce computer science to urban school districts and, for over a decade now, he has taught a series of multi-week computer science summer camps and hosted similar science contests for students in K-12. He helps to organize an annual Alabama Robotics Competition at The University of Alabama for elementary, middle and high-school students.
The Google project employs seven undergraduate students from UA, including one student studying telecommunications and film along with five other students from the College of Engineering. The UA team is helping to produce videos for those taking the course to watch online. The video lectures, discussions forums, curriculum resources, peer review and office hours will all be kept on the course’s website.
Four teachers from within Alabama and the U.S. who have been pilot teachers for the new AP computer-science course will help train the teachers online. Also, guest speakers from Duke University, Code.org, University of Wisconsin and Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis will also offer lessons as part of the UA-based summer course.
The course assumes participants are secondary teachers with no or limited training in computer science. However, current primary and secondary computer-science teachers along with college faculty may also find parts of the course helpful toward understanding the topics covered in the CS Principles curriculum framework. A certificate will be provided to those who complete the course.
The course parallels the CS Principles professional development instruction of the CS4Alabama project, which is an NSF-sponsored project, in collaboration between UA and A+ College Ready, with external project assessment conducted by Haynie Research and Evaluation. The CSP4HS curriculum has been adopted from a CS Principles Pilot course taught at the University since 2011.