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High school teachers training to teach dual-credit computer sciences courses


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IDAHO FALLS — Instructors in Idaho who are pushing the importance of computer science courses are training to bring new skills to local high schoolers.

The University of Idaho is now offering a dual-credit computer science course called CS-112, Computational Thinking and Problem Solving, for high school students.

Five Idaho teachers from areas like Shelley, Challis and Sun Valley are being trained to bring that course option to their high schools.

From June 19 to the 23 teachers were instructed for six hours a day on entry-level computer science courses at the University of Idaho extension in Idaho Falls. Training was funded by the Idaho STEM Action Center.

Robert Heckendorn, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Idaho, reaches out to prospective students to get them interested in the field.

“Computer science is coming and we have to respond. Our civic duty in a sense is to go and make sure that we can get that into K through 12,” Heckendorn said.

Heckendorn said the course being taught is a non-intimidating introductory course for those who are unfamiliar with computer science programs.

“We’ve developed this course that helps bridge the gap between people who have not seen and gotten to program on computers, and our first introductory programming class,” Heckendorn said.

He said computer science is not just about how a program or application is designed visually, but about its functionality.

“What goes on inside the Twitter app or inside of Facebook? What makes Facebook actually work?” Heckendorn said. “It’s not just how you present the material — it’s actually executing something.”

Pam Kantack, an instructor at Shelley High School, teaches a computer science course and hopes to offer the dual credit option locally. She says computer science courses are vital enough to begin at the elementary level.

“Computer science is one of the fields that there are so many jobs,” Kantack said. “We have so many jobs available and not enough kids to take up that. We really need to see more computer science in schools, and that’s why I’m here.”

Once the teachers have received their training, it is their responsibility to become further certified to bring this dual-credit course to their high school.

“We’re hoping that all the teachers here will be teaching this course in their high schools,” Heckendorn said.

Heckendorn said another dual-credit computer science class is offered through U of I in Sandpoint. Instructors there are hoping to move that course online. Heckendorn wants to institute computer science programs across the Gem State.

“You’ll be able to get online instruction and dual credit,” Heckendorn said. “That’s an ultimate goal of ours.”