TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools)

Today’s post is a guest post by Kevin Wang who has started a program at Microsoft to put engineers and software professionals in the classroom on a part time teachers in a team teaching model in some Seattle area high schools. I think has great potential for helping  schools around the country. (If people have specific questions from Kevin you can reach him at  kevw@microsoft.com or kevinkw@post.harvard.edu)) or visit his site at http://www.tealsk12.org/

Hello everyone in the K-12 CS community! My name is Kevin Wang, and I have been asked by Alfred here to do a guest blog post about the TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) program I started in Seattle.

I think frequent readers of this blog are well aware of the problems we face as a country in terms of technology literacy and computer science education in K-12 and its ramifications in post K-12 engineering enrollment rates as well as worldwide technology leadership and national defense.

While this is a multifaceted problem that really needs a shift in social trends, political and educational policies, what we really need right now is qualified teachers in the classrooms. Barring another Sputnik moment in the near future to once again spur the nation into pouring enormous resources into technology and science education, I tried to figure out what we can do now to bridge the gap.

At this juncture, this might be a good place to talk about how I got to this point. I have been tutoring and teaching ever since I was in high school. It is a passion of mine, and although I ended up majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in college, I saw that there was a need for CS teachers in the K-12 space. So I put my money where my mouth was although it was an incredibly difficult decision. My in depth discussion about pay differential between industry and schools is here: http://kevinkw.blogspot.com/2009/04/computer-science-pay-difference-in.html. Nonetheless, I ended up teaching at a Bay Area school before going on to graduate school in education and later on working at Microsoft.

While at Microsoft, I realized that I was able to teach CS part time at a local school 1st period and still make it to work pretty early compared to some of the developers. This got me thinking, if Microsoft has taught me anything, it is scale. I needed to scale. Fortuitously, a high school 15 minutes away from Microsoft ended up getting in touch with me about teaching an AP CS and web design class. I knew teaching three classes part time by my self was out of the question. It was then I knew I needed to make scaling myself out a reality.

All I really needed to do was to start a program that lets technology company employees teach at local schools in the mornings and match them up with schools that needed technology literacy or CS teachers. It is an oversimplification of the program, but TEALS brings technology companies, technology company employees, school districts, schools, school teachers, students, curriculum and mentoring all together. Of course the devil is in the details and I won’t go into all of it here. The end result is that schools without technology literacy and CS teachers can start a program immediately, and technology company employees who are interested in teaching can do so without jumping through a lot of hoops or have to give up their day jobs.

The TEALS program works with the schools to see where their needs are in terms of classes and work with them to get a TEALS friendly schedule out for the school year (CS classes in the morning). I then work with the schools to figure out what the actual course description and contents should be. Our TEALS teachers and I then come up with a curriculum for those classes. I do not provide a full curriculum for them (it’d be too tempting to show up and read it to the class) but rather the skeleton of one that the teachers have to flesh out over the course of a few months before school starts. During that time, TEALS also prepares the teachers for the actual classroom management and teaching part of the class. Although as we have found out, some of it has to happen during the school session there is no real substitute for being in a real classroom.

In the spring semester, TEALS will expand to 11 teachers, 6 courses, and 4 high schools across 2 school districts in the Puget Sound Area reaching some 250 students. We are looking to double those numbers next school year as well as expanding the model outside of the Puget Sound Area and Microsoft.

Comments (2)

  1. Emmanuel Schanzer says:

    Terrific program, Kevin! I do a lot of work with professional programmers in this space, but at the middle school level. Have you ever thought about working with younger students? Or providing a larger dosage than a single day?

  2. Kevin says:

    Hi Emmanuel,

    We are currently just in high schools, that's where we think the greatest need is.  Of course middle schools is next in line.

    TEALS teachers are in the classroom every day, so this isn't a one day visit type of program.

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