Federal Grant Will Expand Computer Science Education In Wyoming

Oct 28, 2019

Wyoming hopes to make computer science education available across the state by 2022, and a new federal grant of about a half million dollars is slated to help.

The state’s Department of Education is using the grant from its federal counterpart to craft micro-credentials, a kind of certification in specific areas related to computer science or computational thinking.

These micro-credentials are useful in both industry and education, and will be available to both students and teachers.

Laurel Ballard oversees computer science education in Wyoming for the Department of Education. She said Wyoming schools pushing for more computer science run up against a significant hurdle: most Wyoming teachers don’t have the skills or endorsements to confidently teach it.

“It really is the first time in a very long time that they’ve had to do a kind of ground-up content area implementation,” Ballard said. “So, it’s not just changes to a content area; it’s starting from scratch.”

Ballard said these micro-credentials will be developed with input from stakeholders in public education and from industry.

“It’s a little bit of the Wild West when you think about it nationally,” she said. “We really need to define what it means to be a high quality micro-credential that shows that we have highly valued skills and that when somebody has earned a micro-credential, it really means something, that they really do know and understand how to teach computer science.

Ballard added the grant will especially help rural areas, with pilot projects in Fremont, Carbon, and Uinta Counties. The grant will be paid out over three years.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Jeff Victor, at jvictor@uwyo.edu.