South China University of Technology provides training, national contest based on local needs
Mobile devices are more common in China than desktop computers or laptops. Dr. Yue Li, an instructor at South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, China, is passionate about using mobile apps to teach students the power of computer science (CS). Lectures on CS wouldn’t be enough to give students the skills they needed – the concepts had to be tested and understood through project-based learning.
Li saw the answer in MIT App Inventor, an online tool for creating apps using drag-and-drop building blocks. After establishing a stand-alone server for App Inventor in Guangzhou, so that users in China could access the tool, Li needed to help teachers learn how to use the technology with students and create new lesson plans. "Most teaching material about CS comes from Western countries – but we need Chinese material," says Weiguang Gao, an information technology teacher at Guangzhou Baiyun Middle School.
"When students learn how to create applications for their own phones, they become more confident in their future."
To give teachers a deeper understanding of App Inventor, Li applied for funding from Google's CS4HS program. Hal Abelson, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the creator of App Inventor, consulted with Li. Teaching the basics of app development, Abelson says, can highlight CS concepts more quickly than a standard lecture. "We like to talk about ‘apps that matter," Abelson says. "Students can build apps that make a difference, not only for themselves, but for their community and their country."
The CS4HS funding covered the development of a four-day master training workshop at SCUT, in which attendees from 23 institutions from across China would learn to train other teachers to teach CS through App Inventor. The funding also helped Li, SCUT and Google China co-organize a nationwide App Inventor contest for students In 2015 and 2016, the competition attracted over 3,000 entries, including apps such as a mobile eye exam chart, a calculator, and a biology study aid.
App development allows teachers to meet students on common ground
Since mobile devices figure prominently in students' lives, says Li, teachers who build lessons around app development generate greater enthusiasm from students – and at the same time, ensure that students learn CS.
Hands-on teaching helps trainers and students learn more quickly
For teachers like Weiguang Gao, getting the chance to create their own apps during the workshop offered a solid grounding in app development and project-based learning. "My students don't have lessons on information technology every day," he explains. "With project-based learning, students can see results of their lessons in just one class."
Master training spreads the benefits of workshops to more teachers
A single master trainer workshop, Abelson explains, can deliver trained instructors to dozens of universities, generating an exponential increase in teacher expertise and student engagement in CS. "Everyone experiences mobile apps from the consumer standpoint – but with these workshops, apps suddenly become a way for teachers and students to become expressive," Abelson says.
“With generous support from Google through the CS4HS program, we have been able to upskill in excess of 300 primary school teachers and pre-service teachers and 50 secondary teachers from across the south-east Queensland region. The change in the confidence and preparedness to rollout the new Digital Technologies curriculum has been dramatic.”
“After the [CS4HS workshop] I'm becoming a 'Computer Science teacher' and I will grow every year. So, more of this CS4HS please.”
“Google's involvement in CS4HS in NZ has been a massive benefit to the country, and every teacher I have spoken too has been extremely grateful for the professional development made possible by Google's funding, due to the lack of other resources in the country.”
“The [CS4HS workshop] provides a platform for the teachers to share and learn from each other. Ultimately, motivate interest in Computer Science in K-12 Environment, to make the students comprehend the principles of computers and sophisticated thinking of solve problems, fostering students computational thinking, to develop their problem-solving methods and self-access to knowledge.”
“The [CS4HS workshop] won huge popularity with the participants as it could better meet the needs of their day-to-day teaching practice in terms of content and form. The goal is to achieve the idea of "Computer Science For All", which requires the teachers to spread the knowledge and skills they acquired in the program to their students as a whole.”
“This [CS4HS workshop] has greatly promoted the popularization of computer education, has pushed the development of the Educational Technology Education forward, and has helped to foster a great amount of IT talents in China.”
“Our initial CS4HS grants were instrumental in gathering critical mass to form an operational CSTA chapter in Wisconsin. Furthermore, it laid the groundwork for a network of CS teachers around the state to begin sharing resources, advocating for state-level change in the capitol, and advising us at the university level.”
“Over the last four years, we have seen tremendous progress in computer science education and advocacy in New Jersey. I don't think we would have come nearly as far if it weren't for Google's support of CS4HS and the relationships and discussions initiated at the workshops. Thank you.”
“The response to CS professional development opportunities from Texas teachers has been outstanding. If you provide teachers with useful, high quality training and support teachers financially to attend, they will gladly step up to the plate to learn these new skills. Thanks to Google for helping The University of Texas at Austin to create this support network and build capacity to provide CS education to every Texas student.”