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CAITE/ECEP expands computing education outreach to K12 and beyond Massachusetts

The Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE), and its successor project, the Expanding Computing Education Pathways alliance (ECEP), both National Science Foundation-funded alliances to broaden participation in computing, spent the fall semester engaging students and teachers in computing education.

In October, CAITE helped to facilitate the Women in Engineering and Computing Career Day, an event held for high school girls to become familiar with engineering and computing at UMass Amherst. Some 300 girls from across the state participated in hands-on activities, including a computer science session designed by Assistant Professor Benjamin Marlin using Scratch, a programming language designed for its ease of use. In the session, girls enjoyed creating animations in small groups while being exposed to computer science concepts. CS student volunteers were on hand to assist and serve as role models. High school teachers and counselors in attendance learned about the UMass Amherst computing curriculum from Associate Professor Yanlei Diao.  "The girls also toured computing and engineering labs on campus, so they left with both firsthand knowledge of the great resources at UMass Amherst, as well as with greater confidence in their ability to pursue these careers," says Renee Fall, ECEP co-PI and co-organizer of the event.

In September, Professor Emeritus Rick Adrion, CAITE/ECEP PI, presented "Reforming K20 Computer Science Education in Massachusetts: Issues, Options, and Challenges" as part of the UMass STEM Ed Seminar series. Adrion described the current state of computing education in Massachusetts and outlined efforts underway to develop standards, teacher licensure, and other state- and district-level policy changes that would allow all students to learn computing.

In November, also as part of its effort to improve computing education in Massachusetts and other key states, CAITE/ECEP hosted a gathering of faculty and other educators who provide professional development (PD) to computing teachers in Massachusetts. The project will be assessing teacher needs and supporting a range of PD workshops in the summer.

CAITE continues its partnership through ECEP (www.ecepalliance.org) with organizations such as GeorgiaComputes!, South Carolina's IT-ology, and the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools, to advance change in computer science education. "With events to encourage the growth of underrepresented students in the field, ECEP seeks to level the playing field for students preparing for an increasingly technology-driven workforce," says Fall.