UNM hosts New Mexico computer science teachers in June

May 18, 2018 - By Kim Delker

Around 150 K-12 teachers from around New Mexico are converging at The University of New Mexico June 4-8 to learn more about how to bring computer science to their classrooms.

The inaugural New Mexico Computer Science Professional Development Week (CS PD Week 2018) is hosted by the UNM School of Engineering.

Paige Prescott, president of the New Mexico chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association, said that the purpose of the event is to give K-12 teachers a firm foundation in how to bring computer science to their classrooms, which is a growing need in an increasingly technical world.

“According to the latest data, there are only about 30 classes total in New Mexico focused on computer science and less than 10 teachers in the state who teach computer science full time,” Prescott said. “In Albuquerque, less than 1 percent of high school students are enrolled in computer science classes. As computer science grows as a field, we need to find a way to get more students educated in the subject, as more and more jobs of the future will require computer science skills.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in computer science and related fields are expected to grow substantially in the next decade, with demand being created due to a greater emphasis on cloud computing, big data and information security. Salaries in these fields are higher than average as well, with the median annual wage being around $85,000.

Prescott said there has also been a push from the New Mexico Public Education Department for more computer science instruction in K-12. This spring, it decided to allow some students to be able to use computer science courses toward graduation requirements in math or science, for instance.

CS PD Week will feature various tracks for teachers in different levels, such as introductory curriculum lessons for elementary teachers and how to incorporate computer science into both middle school and high school math, science and technology courses. There will also be sessions using Code.org’s curriculum, New Mexico CS 4 All lessons, Oracle’s Database Foundations, Bootstrap: Algebra and Project GUTS. A full schedule of events can be found here.

Prescott said due to the popularity, registration for the event filled up quickly and there is a waitlist of teachers interested in the program.

Sponsors of this year’s event include the Air Force Research Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories foundation, Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, Descartes Laboratories, Oracle Academy and the UNM School of Engineering.