Forward Faster with Dean JB Holston and Ruthe Farmer


They welcomed forward faster. A Limited series podcast from the University of Denver's School of Engineering and computer science. Join Dean J. B. Halston as he thought leader on hot topics in higher education and the future of work definitely. This is J. B.. Hilton the dean of Engineering and Computer Science at University of Denver and this is our podcast series. which for the moment? We're calling forward faster until until my guest today gives us a better title for it which will ask her to do? My guest is Ruth farmer who is the chief evangelist for CS for all which is a the Hashtag become a cause that we're happy to talk about here and Roof welcome good you. It's great to be here thanks. You're off the road which is nice for a couple days for a couple of days. I'm sure that's about as long as it gets payments. Yeah Yeah Let's talk a little bit about you and your background on in how you came to this kind of work and then we can talk a little bit more about about the word because it's an interesting combination of kind of advocacy and policy It's a real kind of modern mishmash of a lot of interesting things so I have a really circuitous and kind of non traditional background. I I'm not a computer scientist. I'm not an engineer. Actually have a background in marketing. Communications I like to say that instead of becoming an engineer manufacturing engineers uh-huh and I kind of got into this because I was doing actually marketing and communications work for Machinery Company. They made down line plastics automation and machinery. I now and so like when you make a plastic bottle you have to cut the neck off oriented all these things and when I was working working there I kind of learned to speak engineer and I kind of like hey. If this was different it could be modular. We could change it and after that job I spent some time. I always done sort of nonprofit. Pro Bono work in marketing and communications and I spent some time supporting nonprofits in their fundraising and then The job came up at the girl scouts and the girl scouts had just We're just starting to launch a focus on stem in. This was like two thousand one and I was fortunate enough to be in Portland Oregon where Intel's largest office was and got to be the pilot site for a big program called design and discovery which we later scaled to sixty three girl scout councils. The Irish public schools country of Israel whole thing and so I kind of found found that like the combination of stem education in my fundamental beliefs. Feminism came together really well in this idea of like. What is the one place that I can help? Girls get that is going to get them. The most economic freedom they get to contribute to the world of innovation and make the world a better place which is really what girl scouting is about. Um Yeah well. That's great. Well that is the not expected path to becoming chief evangelist for and then Take from there. Because this organization itself is technically only existed for a few years in a way so see us for all is a national nonprofit focused on on rigorous inclusive sustainable computer science for all students. And that's in and out of school. Like what is the three hundred sixty experience that all kids have where it's totally normal right and expected that they do computing and so there's been a movement bubbling for a while and I really started started focusing clearly on computer science when I joined the National Center for Women in it which is here at cu boulder in Colorado. which is what brought me to Colorado after graduate twit school and they'd been at that time like Oh there's not an women in computer science? Will we quickly realized. There's just not enough computer science in K.. Twelve we are not enough women. There's not enough boys. There's not enough anyone because there was a real decline in the availability of computer science in K.. Twelve and there's a lot of reasons for that got so there's been a lot of sort of points of light and people working around the nation on this issue and then in two thousand sixteen. President Obama announce a computer science for all initiative as the final initiative of his administration but before that Chicago had announced Cs for all Chicago New York irk shortly thereafter had announce his New York so there was already a move by a number of communities to make this happen. And now it's got a name and it's has got some legs on it and so coming out of the Obama Administration and deciding what I was going to do next. I joined with an organization called Altius. NYC and Together we sort of pivoted. There're really really successful model of bringing computer science to New York City public schools also outward to replicate that around the nation. Right got it cool after what you open your water bottle. Oh It's already opened awesome. Oh Yeah House afraid we're GONNA have you keel over there in the middle of the conversation. which is the thing that never do? podcast yes But so take me through the New York example or Chicago. Whatever one you think is working well and contrast that with Colorado which may be working well doc well they're all unique in in Chicago? It was like one giant school district and there was a pivotal person in that school district. Brenda Brendan Wilkerson. Who was pushing for this to happen and then it happened to be that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was the mayor you know and there were the confluence of things in New York? It was actually Two People Fred Wilson and Evan Korth prisoner board right. Yeah he's our our chair or something Jeremiah's or something Um Fred is venture capitalists and invest money in computers in startups and. He was finding lack of talent. That was coming out of the The New York public schools. Evan is faculty at Nyu and and so together. They kind of see if this idea of like. Let's do a computer science high school and then they started to think about route. Okay what does it look like for all kids to get some computer science and so now the New York public schools actually at every sort of major grade band you will experience computing. It's by no means yet you know. Pervasive and equal for everyone. But it is there and so I think it's the biggest school system in the in the United States. So saying we're going to change the public schools that's a big undertaking and it's a multi million dollar undertaking Colorado is unique in the the level of local control in this state is very Right down to the level of a high school principal so a lot of states have been like we now count computer science towards a math or science credit but it took Colorado a long time because is for them to comply with that. They would have to override this local control and so there are some challenges around that I Know Colorado has put together together a statewide strategic plan. And now that we've got governor. WHO's actually a computer scientists? It May Move US further faster. I don't think we've actually put any state level funding into building this pipeline But we need to. I mean if you look at the industries that are pouring into Colorado and the growth here the telecom telecom and the tech of course we need to and Wyoming beat us to the Punch Wyoming passed statewide legislation for computer science like two years ago so we should get a little competitive with our numbers on the. I'm totally tweeting. tweeting jared that Wyoming. Two Years Ahead You're behind come on man. You know you've been going on over eleven months or whatever. Let's get on with this but from a funding perspective. What what is the funding? Do I I mean what does it kick start to pay for training for prospect. The teacher is what's the well. Okay so we need funding for teachers to be in in classrooms obviously And if you think about you know the sheer volume of math teachers that we have in the world. We have a tiny fraction of computer science teachers. I also had this Aha moment a few years ago and I'm like you know what there's a whole lot of former math teachers who are now principles. There are virtually no principals who I used to be computer science teachers right so like principles understand math right. And it's something we've we've had forty years to agree on what Algebra is and for a long time computer. Peter Science was in this problem with nomenclature and definition and like what is computer. Science will kids. You're playing with robots great. That's computer science. or No we have a networking class. That's computer science. So Oh or we're we're learning Microsoft word which is terrible for them to think that that is computer science and so Teachers being prepared as part of it but not just like taking one class to teach but like becoming experts in the discipline and we're in a weird place because almost every other disciplined you go you study history in college. Then you become a history teacher. Our likelihood of filling the halls of our schools with teachers who have undergrad degrees in computer science is close to zero. So we're repurposing existing teachers physics teachers math teachers librarians other people that are interested and willing to take this on on but the big sticking point in the thing that universities need to be doing is. There's no nothing is happening. In Pre service like we we have failed to create a pipeline of PHD's of see US education to teach teachers to teach sets so there is some legislation coming Down the Pike. Soon that we've heard about that's coming from representative kilmer in Washington called the computing teacher. Act I believe that is to fund tenors of excellent at schools of education. Because we just don't have people qualified to teach teachers how to teach computer Peter Science. We have computer science faculty yourselves at universities who teach computer science to undergraduates but that is not the same teaching at teacher teach computer science so the call called action. I think for the universities is we need meaningful relationships between colleges of Ad and colleges a computer science and we need to start start developing that pipeline of faculty that will populate the College head so when we talked with our colleagues in the college who had about that sort of thing. One of the This is I'm GonNa be skis here momentarily so you can correct me. But one of the things they say at least in Colorado is that I'm GonNa get the terminology the certification and so I did totally wrong because you're nodding. But there is some certification issue. It isn't category yet that is sufficiently certified again. That's probably long has has been pretty much a national trend in that. Why would a college of education trained teachers to teach something? They can't get certified to teach right right and in some states people who were qualified teachers and other states had them go get a masters just so they could legally teach. Yeah yeah that's the sort of thing and so it's like okay. You get the standards and then you get the certifications but meanwhile ten years have gone by and now we are continue pumping out teachers. Who Don't know anything so one strategy that I've seen be really successful as that Michigan State. They took about like Ed Tech. You know educational technology basics class that all teachers take and they transform that class. Because if you're learning to become a teacher during get your master's in teaching you don't need to be told how to use Microsoft word. Thank you should know how to do that by then so that class. That is like training teachers. On how to use technology tools we can start to infuse some computing in there and I think a big part of our problem as a community has been this conflation of Ed Tech and technology education. The belief that technology existing in school equals computer science being taught and And I hear it all the time people like oh well. My daughter's on her ipad all day long doesn't mean she's learning anything about computing and Just like riding. A bus doesn't mean you're learning how to drive the bus and so because technology is an enabler of so many other things things often the school district's when they're looking at the budget they're like we're spending all this money on

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