(JACKSON, Miss.) – Jackson State University’s College of Education and Human Development teamed up with Microsoft TechSpark, Amazon Future Engineers BootUp Professional Development Program, and the CS for Y’all initiative to establish an influx of K-5 computer science teachers in the Jackson area.
Students selected for the fellowship will partake in professional development from March to June to learn to code and apply their practice at a local summer school program during the 2023 summer. Six Jackson State University pre-service teachers have been selected to participate in what will be the first teacher preparation program in the state of Mississippi to infuse computational thinking and computer science principles.
“Computer science educators are essential in K-12 to build a computer science pipeline for the future. It is estimated that in the future, more than 1.5 million jobs will be needed in computer science. In today’s job market, minorities represent approximately 10 to 12% of computer science jobs,” said Jerri Haynes, Ph.D., dean and professor at the College of Education and Human Development.
Haynes further explained that computer science education majors at an HBCU are desperately needed to increase equity and representation in the workforce.
“Teachers must be able to teach students how to think critically, use abstract reasoning, and logic—all of which are mathematical ways of thinking,” she said.
Microsoft TechSpark is a community economic opportunity program that focuses on four key issues: digital access, digital skills, computer science education, and digital transformation. This fellowship with JSU is just one example of how Microsoft TechSpark is collaborating with the region’s universities, school districts, businesses and industry groups through the CS for Y’all initiative at the Community Foundation for Mississippi to expand opportunities to study computer science and learn the skills that can lead to high-tech, high-paying jobs require.
“We are committed to increasing access to computer science education and developing a diverse pipeline of students pursuing computer science careers,” said JJ Townsend, who leads Microsoft TechSpark in Mississippi.
“The increase in computer science education and the push to cultivate technology-based businesses in the area means our youngest students of today will have the opportunity to gain the training and education needed for advanced-skilled jobs right here in Mississippi by the time they join the workforce,” Townsend said.
Three of JSU’s K-6 elementary education majors are Jackson natives participating in the training. They agree that staying in Jackson is essential to building the surrounding communities.
“I’m looking forward to having more hands-on training with learning how to incorporate technology into my lessons, and also learn how to use apps within my lessons,” said Jeremey Lynn, a senior elementary education major with a contraction in English. “I feel like it’ll give us a better foundation of different apps, such as those, as well as train us to use programs on the SmartBoard.”
Lynn mentioned apps such as Freckle, a software that allows students to interact and engage with their teachers and assignments more effectively and cohesively in the digital age while meeting students where they are in their lessons.
“I’m looking forward to learning something that I’m not familiar with and then using these trainings to elevate my teaching style,” said Brittany Webb, a senior elementary education major with a concentration in social science.
Lindsey Rufus, a senior elementary education major, is ready to bring her knowledge to the students.
“Coming from a low-income community and growing up in JPS, while getting ready to work with JPS as a pre-service teacher, I understand students’ needs and essentials. They need the same opportunities that other kids get to have, so it’s like, why not help them out?” asked Rufus, who has a social science concentration.
Rufus shared that she is really excited to see the students learn because it’s not just the teachers learning.
“I’ve also learned that it’s stuff that students could know so that it can better help them inside and outside the classroom when it comes to technology and the technology we’re using.”
Following the end of the training program, students will earn a stipend. The first in-person coding training for the students happens on March 21. More information about the Computer Science Fellowship can be found at CSforYall.org/Fellows.