CEISMC Secures $2.5 Million Grant to Help Improve Pre-College Computing Education in Georgia

Three-year grant aims to transform Georgia’s information technology curriculum in K-12 schools

“In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by…offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one,” President Barack Obama said in his 2016 State of the Union Address. Soon after, the White House launched the CS for All (Computer Science for All) initiative “to empower a generation of American students with the computer science skills they need to thrive in a digital economy.”

In Georgia, the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) is leading the march toward this vision with help from a recently awarded $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). CEISMC is the Georgia Tech College of Sciences unit dedicated to educational research and enhancing K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in Georgia.

CEISMC will use the grant to develop and implement a program called CAPACiTY, for Culturally Authentic Practice to Advance Computational Thinking in Youth. It has partnered with Fulton County Schools and Gwinnett County Public Schools for this program. The $2.5 million grant will be used over the next three years to develop curriculum materials, train teachers, and conduct research on student learning outcomes. 

CAPACiTY will revise the first course in Georgia’s high school information technology (IT) career pathway—Introduction to Digital Technology (IDT)—to increase its relevance and accessibility. It will create learning contexts for the IDT course that are relevant to students who are underrepresented in computer science, especially African Americans, Latinos, and women.  The program aims to encourage these students to continue on a computer science trajectory, says Marion Usselman, associate director for development and educational innovation at CEISMC and principal investigator (PI) for CAPACiTY.

The NSF grant will enable CEISMC researchers, led by CAPACiTY co-PIs Meltem Alemdar and Douglas Edwards, to determine the effects of the revised IDT course on students’ mastery of digital technology skills and computational thinking and on their attitudes toward computer science and other IT fields, Usselman says.

Yalanda Bell, executive director of career and technical education for Fulton County Schools, will help facilitate CEISMC’s partnership with Fulton County. “I would like to see Fulton County’s current digital technology curriculum aligned to industry best practices,” she says. “IDT also needs to challenge students with previous exposure to computer science, as well as students who are new to computer science.” These expectations are shared by Bell’s colleagues at Fulton County Schools and her counterparts at Gwinnett County Public School.

The revised IDT course will be launched in August of the 2017-18 academic year at two high schools, one each in Fulton County and Gwinnett County. If successful, the CAPACiTY-developed IDT course may be implemented across Georgia and the nation.

Matt Barr

Science Communications Intern

College of Sciences

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  • CEISMC will use $2.5 M grant to cultivate Georgia students’ interest in computing careers. Photo courtesy of CEISMC.

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A. Maureen Rouhi

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College of Sciences