With a little help from TEALS, a tech director brings AP computer science back to school

Head shot of author Eden Konja smiling at the camera

In 2015, I became the first Information and Academic Technology Director at Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy in Pontiac Michigan. Within my first two years, I joined the Computer Club as an advisor and began developing a student led helpdesk program as well as mentoring students in the CyberPatroit and Girls Who Code programs. Working directly with our amazing students in these programs, I realized that the school needed to offer an advance computer science program.

I learned that we once offered AP Computer Science, but enrollment dwindled, and the course was removed. According to code.org, in Michigan only 85 schools (13% of MI schools with AP programs) offered an AP Computer Science course in 2016-2017. I believed we had a demand and needed to offer our student body this program again. In addition, 90% of parents want their children to learn computer science (Code.org), it is only logical to add Advanced Placement Computer Science into our curriculum.

Working with Zachary Muma our Business and Education Sales Specialist, I met Andrew Spiece, the Michigan Regional Manager with the Microsoft Philanthropies Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS). The organization helps schools build and grow sustainable computer science programs. After working with administration and getting approved by TEALS for the 2018-19 school year. We were able to offer Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles as a course selection.

With Mr. Spiece’s help, we were able to train our teachers through a code.org curriculum. The program also helped bring real-world volunteers from the industry into the classroom to co-teach the material. The program launched this school year with fanfare as it had a waitlist between two offered sections. The students are currently preparing for the exam and seem to have enjoyed the course. The teacher and volunteers have been able to work together collaboratively to deliver the course content to the students.

Students sitting in a classroom facing a whiteboard

I am very proud that, with the help of Microsoft Philanthropies TEALS, we brought AP Computer Science back to Notre Dame Preparatory School after a seven-year hiatus. Adding to the progress, a third of both sections were filled with female students. We are again offering two sections of the course as we have been approved for the 2019-20 school year. Looking toward 2020-21, we plan to add AP Computer Science A to our course offerings, which will introduce an entire course dedicated to programming.

These classes will help our students to better understand technology and programming. Learning is the goal and with the designation as a Microsoft Showcase School, we have proven that we allow for innovation. We are heading into a world where code will learn through AI—Internet-connected things will change how we live our lives in even more dramatic ways.

Being a Microsoft Showcase School is an amazing honor and recognition of the passion our teachers and staff have for creating the best learning environments possible. Students have exhibited information literacy and an ability to collaborate using various technology tools. They become more engaged in their learning and will graduate better prepared, with the technology skills needed for success in a digital world.

Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school. The school has a Microsoft Surface 1:1 device program and has been recognized as a Microsoft Showcase School, thanks to its successes in integrating educational technology in the classroom to the benefit of both students and teachers.

Ready to bring computer science to your school? Connect with the TEALS program today!

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