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MUNCIE — Sometimes you don't know you have an interest in a career until you are exposed to the field. Ball State University and Muncie Community Schools have developed a unique partnership allowing computer science majors to help expose middle school students to the world of computer science.
As part of a Ball State University immersive learning project, Indianapolis resident Will English brought his passion for computer science (CS) to three middle schools, in hopes that the exposure will lure more diverse students to the field.
"For me, I was never directly exposed to computer science when I was young," English said. "But with the little contact I had with technology, it was something I realized I wanted to do."
English now sees the value of his computer science degree in the changing world.
"Any company or business can somehow use a computer scientist," he said.
English said he hopes to someday be a software developer for a company or come back to the classroom as a teacher. He's getting exposure to teaching now. English and his classmates took on a project to create curriculum and ideas for teachers at Muncie middle schools to present to their students.
"One possible explanation for the lack of diversity in computer science and low numbers of people entering the profession is simply the lack of exposure to CS and computational thinking (CT) at an early age," Dave Largent, the faculty mentor and associate lecturer of computer science, said. "Current elementary and high school curriculum expose all students to English, mathematics, social studies, and the sciences, but seldom CS or CT."
English says that computer science is a part of school curriculum now, but it is still fairly new and the field changes year to year.
"Indiana just released a new compilations of standards for computer science," English said. "So we made a lot of worksheets for them to work with that would just teach small, basic computer science ideas."
The CS curriculum also helps the schools meet the Indiana academic standards for CS, introduced in 2016.
To address this issue, English, a computer science major, and others on his team worked closely last fall with teachers and administrators at Northside Middle School and Burris Laboratory School, both in Muncie, and Daleville Junior/Senior High School. They offered detailed lesson plans that incorporate CS topics and concepts into the curriculum. The sophomore also provided resources such as computer programs, classroom activities, and training for teachers to ensure they're confident teaching CS.
English says he hopes to educate and inspire students to find a career they will love in computer science.
"This course has really helped my professional development as I've never done anything like it," English said. "I was constantly growing throughout this course because of the unique opportunities to collaborate, create and problem solve. Without this immersive learning project, there may be many young people in our community who still don't understand the importance and relevance of computer science."
Northside Middle School Principal Eric Grim said the student assistance has been a valuable resource for his teachers.
"With updating and staying up with that current curriculum, it changes so quickly," Grim said. "It kind of gets into these fields, gets them interested in this."
The partnership is between BSU and the local schools, but if you would like to see the lesson plans and website created by English and his peers you can visit http://18.104.22.168/~csformiddle/
The website was created by using their coding skills to be as true to the computer science field as possible.