Merced College is partnering with area high schools to create pathways for success in computer science with a $35,000 grant from Google.

According to Merced College Computer Science Professor Kathy Kanemoto, the Google CS[4]HS grant will fund a professional development program for area computer science instructors in Merced County schools.

“This is a great training opportunity for the current eight computer science teachers at six local high schools,” Kanemoto said.  “We will mentor these high school teachers in instructional design, which will help their students learn computer science so that they can pass the Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles exam.”

In addition, the program will create interactive instructional materials for use in local high schools, while delivering methodologies to effectively teach algorithms to students for problem solving. Lesson plans will be created, and skill sets will be enhanced, she said.

“We will be utilizing programming languages and computational tools to develop the high school teachers’ own skills as they also learn how to teach effectively,” Kanemoto said.

Kanemoto noted that complex problems in computer science also involve the students’ inability to comprehend topics such as recursion and sorting algorithms.

“Algorithms are hard for students to understand . . . and most students will have a hard time learning the material,” she said.  “Most students are visual learners and need to have a visualization of the code in order to understand it. Sometimes this visualization is just drawn on the board, but utilizing multimedia tools makes the comprehension quicker and easier.

“Having the teachers use these tools effectively will give them confidence in teaching because students will be able to understand the material.”

The program will measure its success by having the teachers create at least 10 complete learning modules for their classes, organizing lesson plans and keeping digital archives. Also, the program will track a cohort of students as successive classes take and pass the AP CS Principles exam.

“By seeing the results, which will be how well the students are learning computer science, the confidence of the teachers will build and by enhancing their skills, their students will become more successful,” Kanemoto said.

 The teacher development program will be conducted from September to November. 

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