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Ball State developing teaching degree with computer focus

December 7, 2017

Ball State University is designing a computer science education program to fulfill one of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s new education goals for the state.

Holcomb, in his 2018 legislative agenda, announced a plan to require every Indiana K-12 school to offer at least one computer science course by 2021 and to train teachers in the subject to help them teach it.

Ball State says it will create a new undergraduate degree in computer science education as a way to meet his goal.

Faculty and staff there are developing a degree that will meet the requirements of a major in computer science with those of an undergraduate degree in education, according to the university.

Holcomb said the proposed degree “has great potential to help us get more teachers with computer science training into our classrooms.”

“To be prepared for the demands of our rapidly changing economy, Indiana students need quality [science, technology, engineering and math] instruction throughout their K-12 educational journey,” Holcomb said in a written statement. “Putting computer and information science in every Indiana school is a big part of that."

The program will have to gain approval from the Ball State Board of Trustees, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the college’s accreditor.

The university also plans to offer computer science training to assist teachers throughout the school year, and will provide programs for elementary, middle and high school students.

“I’m proud of our team at Ball State University who saw a major gap in Indiana’s educational system and came up with a long-term solution,” said President Geoffrey Mearns in written comments. “This new degree will continue Ball State’s commitment to increasing the number of Indiana students who graduate with basic computer science skills, making them better equipped to enter the workforce when they graduate high school.

"Although we have training activities planned for current educators this summer, we realized this issue cannot be fixed by simply having events. We knew we needed do something more strategic, which led to this new degree. Eventually, this degree will have positive ramifications both here in Indiana and across the nation.”

Holcomb’s proposal has garnered praise from some officials, with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce going a step further to propose that computer science coursework become a high school graduation requirement for Hoosier students. But some have also worried about public schools being given a potentially unfunded mandate.

Mearns told IBJ that “there really are a shortage of teachers” prepared to teach computer science in Indiana, and said that since 2010, just 130 teachers in Indiana have received a computer science endorsement.

“That represents less than 1 percent of the teachers in our elementary and secondary schools,” Mearns said. “There clearly is this need to train more teachers to populate those schools.”

Mearns also said he wanted to encourage the state to “provide the resources to the school systems to hire these teachers.”

“If we can demonstrate to current or prospective students that there are lots of jobs out there and schools that want to hire them, that will provide the sufficient incentives for students to major in these courses,” Mearns said.

 

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