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New Computer Science Curriculum Coming to Mississippi

Teachers across the state will get training over the summer so they can introduce the curriculum in the fall.

(TNS) -- TUPELO, MIss. – Teachers across Mississippi will introduce new computer science curriculum to their students in the fall, but not without test-driving it for themselves first.

Thirty-one high school teachers from the Northern region of the state gathered at the Lee County Schools Central Office to get a first look at the concepts and lessons they’ll be teaching their students through the Computer Science 4 Mississippi initiative.

The training continues throughout this week, and elementary school teachers will be trained in July.

The initiative comes from the Mississippi Department of Education and the Research and Curriculum Development Unit at Mississippi State University in an effort to integrate computer science principles in to kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum.

Pilot program

The MDE is offering Mississippi school districts the opportunity to participate in a pilot program, which will inform the development of standards and curriculum.

Select schools from those districts will evaluate the curriculum at the elementary and high school levels. Middle school curriculum will be added during the second year of the pilot program.

Pilot program school districts from the Northeast Mississippi region include: Lee County Schools, Houston Schools, Nettleton Schools, Pontotoc County Schools, Pontotoc City Schools, Tishomingo County Schools, Corinth Schools, Alcorn County Schools, New Albany Schools, Oxford Schools, Lafayette County Schools and Benton County Schools.

These districts and others were represented at Monday’s training.

Shelly Hollis, project manager with RCU at MSU, said the curriculum is intended to give students a broad introduction to computer science concepts.

Problem solving, critical thinking

“The primary goal of the course is to teach them the concepts of problem solving and critical thinking,” Hollis said. “We’re trying to encourage inquiry…Ultimately, as you get into computer science that is one of the main issues.”

During training, teachers model how they will teach the curriculum and work in small groups to make plans and evaluate each other. Staff from RCU at MSU lead the teachers, also modeling teaching methods for the new curriculum.

“This is all a model of what we hope the teachers take back and use in their classroom,” Hollis said.

Hollis said many of the teachers have been surprised to find that they’re already familiar with computer science concepts.

“It’s just not something that they had necessarily thought about and processed in their teaching environments before,” Hollis said. “As far as computer science principles being taught in the curriculum, that’s new to them.”

Emphasizing inquiry

Roxanne Wright, teacher at Oxford High School who attended Monday’s training, said she likes that the curriculum emphasizes inquiry. The pilot program encourages teachers to push students toward inquiry, forcing them to seek answers through problem solving rather than simply giving them the answers.

Wright said she looks forward to learning more ways to teach her students this concept and others during training this week.

“I love that we are getting a chance to get our feet wet before we teach it to our students,” Wright said.

©2016 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.