Sacred Heart University will be the first and only college in Connecticut to offer teachers licensure in computer science with tracks at both the elementary and secondary school levels.
“Currently, people who are teaching computer science have gained interest and expertise in the area, but until recently there have been no real state standards undergirding these folks preparation to teach computer science,” said Michael P. Alfano, dean of SHU’s Isabelle Farrington College of Education. “This unique endorsement is a formal pathway that is standards-driven.”
Students will be able to complete the four-course track in as short as a calendar year. Sacred Heart will launch the initial courses for 30 participants this summer, open to practicing and aspiring teachers, both current and non-matriculating students.
The college’s new offerings are part of a nationwide effort to offer credentials for computer science teachers, which Alfano and others believe will strengthen computer science curricula K-12 and lead to better-prepared students in this vital and ever-changing field.
“Teachers are clamoring for the state to recognize computer science as an instructional area and this credential is a major step forward in that effort,” said Darcy Ronan, assistant professor in teacher education. “Sacred Heart is leading Connecticut and becoming the a hub of computer science education in the state.”
Computer science is often taught by library media specialists at the elementary level and by math and business teachers at the secondary level. While many have had a career background that incorporated computer science or sought out professional development opportunities in the field, the new state licensure establishes professional experiences that support high-quality, age-appropriate instruction in computer science K-12.
Elementary and secondary teachers will take one shared introductory course and then complete three more that are designed specifically for the separate tracks. Topics will include coding fundamentals, algorithms, network problem-solving, debugging programs and creating software.
Sacred Heart is the Connecticut partner of Code.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. Code.org provides the leading curriculum for K-12 computer science in some of the largest school districts in the U.S.
Ultimately, SHU would like to offer a post-graduate certificate of advanced study in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics).
“Creating both the computer science unique endorsement, and eventually the post-graduate certificate of study in STEAM, is part of SHU’s larger effort to become a hub of innovation in the region,” Alfano said. “This computer science teacher lincensure program is the next step towards that goal.”