Google recently started up an exciting new program to ignite interest in computer science (CS) for K12 kids. Located in our South Carolina data center, the Computer Science Teaching Fellows is a two-year post graduate fellowship for new STEM teachers and CS graduates. The goal is to bring computer science and computational thinking to all children, especially underrepresented minorities and girls, and close the gap between the ever-increasing demand in CS and the inadequate supply. We hope to learn what really works and scale those best practices regionally and then nationally.

The supply of CS majors in the pipeline has been a concern for many years. In 2007, the Computer Science education community was alarmed by the lack of CS majors and enrollments in US colleges and universities.

Source: 2009-2010 CRA Taulbee Survey (http://www.cra.org/resources/)

This prompted the development of several programs and activities to start raising awareness about the demand and opportunities for computer scientists, and to spark the interest of K12 students in CS. For example, the NSF funded curriculum and professional development around the new CS Principles Advanced Placement course. The CSTA published standards for K12 CS and a report on the limited extent to which schools, districts and states provide CS instruction to their students. CS advocacy groups, Computing in the Core and Code.org have played an instrumental role in adding provisions to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Act to support CS education. More generally, we have seen innovations in online learning with MOOCs, machine learning to provide personalized learning experiences, and platforms like Khan Academy that allow flipped classrooms.

All of these activities represent a convergence in the CS education space, where existing programs are ready for scale, and technological advancements can support that scale in innovative ways. Our Teaching Fellows will be testing after school programs, classroom curriculum and online CS programs to determine what works and why. They’ll start in the local Charleston area and then spread the best programs and curriculum to South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina (where we also have large data centers). They are currently preparing programs for the fall semester.

We are very excited about the convergence we are seeing in CS education and the potential to bring many more kids into a field that offers not only great career opportunities but also a shot at really making a difference in the world. We’ll keep you posted on the progress of our Teaching Fellows.