GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Twenty-six years ago, Stockton University launched the Educational Technology Learning Center to create a regional network among school districts to improve education through technology.
That mission has come full circle with a recent $333,313 grant from the state to create a new regional K-12 computer science center, said Patty Weeks, director of the Southern Regional Institute and ETTC in the Stockton School of Education.
“It’s time for the next step — making sure that teachers and students can use technology to create the ideas, the code, that can support the development of computer science,” Weeks said in a release.
The money, which is part of a two-year grant, comes from a 2020 mandate by Gov. Phil Murphy to commit funds to “promote equitable and expanded access to high-quality, standards-based computer science education for all New Jersey K through 12 students in preparation for post-secondary success.”
From this academic year, all students must have access to this subject. Weeks said the biggest obstacle to the mandate is that there aren’t enough teachers prepared to teach the subject. That’s where the Stockton Institute comes in — to create a network of computer science educators across the region.
Weeks said the institute’s Coastal Computer Science Learning Center is hosting its first free group of 30 teachers from local school districts for a four-day workshop in late August. This fall, teachers will receive on-site instruction in their classrooms. Teachers will also participate in an online community where they will share ideas about teaching and learning computer science in all grades. The center will host more free training sessions in October and November.
“Teachers loved it because it’s not just about coding,” Weeks said. “It’s about thinking differently.”
Weeks said the free workshops are open to any teacher from any district, but the center is also partnering with four districts to get additional on-site support in the first year of the grant — Mullica Township, Hamilton Township, Buena Regional and Wildwood. The center plans to add additional districts in the second year.
“We really want to reach out to those areas that are typically underrepresented in computer science, areas that don’t have any computer science education,” she said.
Weeks said there is currently no standard state certification for teaching computer science, but she expects that to happen soon for a field that is rapidly growing and changing. Once the certificate is approved, the center will offer support to beginning teachers interested in obtaining it.
“I just can’t imagine the world these kids are going to be facing and the types of work they’re going to be doing,” Weeks said. “But industry needs this computer science training. They ask about it. Parents beg him. The moment is right.”
Learn more about the Coastal Center for Computer Science by visiting the program’s website and viewing a schedule of upcoming events. For questions or more information, email Patty Weeks.
The SRI & ETTC at Stockton University is one of the premier professional development programs in the state. Nearly 10,000 educators participate in its programs and activities each year on topics that include technology integration, core curriculum, instructional strategies, school leadership, special education, and social and emotional learning.