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Lamar University partners with Texas teachers to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow

Lamar University is thrilled to support 50 teachers in Houston and Austin in a year-long program to advance computer coding curriculum in their classrooms in return for credits toward a master’s degree.  TheApple Coding program also reaches more than 800 students with summer coding camps and hundreds more students during the following school year.

Lamar University is collaborating with Apple as part of the company’s Community Education Initiative.

“This collaboration exemplifies Lamar University’s astute capabilities to work with business, industry and the community to provide invaluable deliverables,” said Kenneth Evans, president of Lamar University. “In this situation, Apple identified LU for its online competencies, its dynamic computer science program and overall commitment to STEM curriculum, plus the university’s pliability. We have the talent and resources to devote to constructive partnerships, like this relationship with Apple.”

The program kicked-off this summer with educators from eight school districts participating in week-long coding academies in June. Those teachers then offered summer coding camps for students in their districts throughout the summer.  As school resumes this fall, those teachers will continue their professional learning with a 32-week online program offered at Lamar University to help integrate coding into their courses.

“The primary concept behind the Coding in Schools Initiative is to provide high quality professional learning experiences for K12 educators,” said George Saltsman, director the Center for Educational Innovation and Digital Learning at Lamar University. “The program provided summer coding camps for children, which serve as a learning activity for teachers to apply what they have recently learned and to build their confidence in delivering coding lessons. A year-long professional learning experience follows, which focuses on the active integration of coding concepts into the curriculum with oversight from experts and mentor coaches.”

Saltsman says the initiative is aimed at solving a national workforce problem. According to the Conference Board, a non-profit industry organization, there are more than 500,000 unfilled coding jobs in the U.S., yet data by the National Center for Education Statistics reported only 63,744 computer science graduates entered the workforce last year. 

“If the U.S. is going to address this growing gap between newly created jobs and a capable labor force to drive our emerging digital economy, we must expose more students to computer coding concepts and entice them to enter into computer science degrees,” said Saltsman. “That begins in schools, which means we need to ensure there are teachers sufficiently qualified to teach coding and other STEM skills.”

According to Tilisa Thibodeaux, assistant professor of Educational Leadership at Lamar University, participants in the program will extend their coding or digital technology skills in Apple devices, macOS and iOS software, Swift and relevant coding applications.

“LU’s 32-week program to teach educators coding will run concurrently with the school year, August through May” said Thibodeaux. “During the program, LU will host weekly video conferences and provide weekly interaction with teachers.”

Lessons delivered will include Everyone Can Create and Everyone Can Code curriculum, hands-on activities with Swift Playgrounds, Sphero SPRK+ and other coding resources and a Community Challenge activity which utilizes Design Thinking, Prototyping and UI/UX design.

“Our stated vision for the 32-week program is that participants will emerge and assume leadership roles as change agents in their schools able to utilize innovation to advance educational outcomes to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Saltsman.