Reality bytes for high school teachers

16 April 2012

A 'train the trainers' approach aims to improve the teaching of computer science.
A 'train the trainers' approach aims to improve the teaching of computer science.

An educational initiative designed by Google has the potential to produce brighter, smarter computer students at tertiary level, according to the University of Sydney's information technology experts.

Google has commenced partnerships with a handful of universities in Australia including the University of Sydney to conduct a Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) program.

The CS4HS workshop which took place last week aimed to increase high school teachers' knowledge and ability to promote and teach computer science and computational thinking in classrooms. The program took a "train the trainer" approach. The two to three-day workshops for teachers provided training, tips and actual classroom materials to help them teach programming and computing in schools and turn students into computational thinkers and creators.

Dr Bernhard Scholz from the University's School of Information Technologies said the initiative was supported by the school's academics because it was beneficial for both high schools and universities.

"If we can help high school teachers fully engage their students in computer science and computational thinking, ultimately we have students with higher skills levels enrolling at the University."

Science teacher at St George Girls High School and workshop participant Jenny Zhang admits: "Technology is changing so rapidly and students know about the technology, the latest, the greatest, but don't know how to really use it or how it was developed. They really need help with it.

"Unfortunately, some of us are not as up to date or as computer savvy as our students and are working with knowledge from 20 years ago. This workshop is a perfect opportunity to build our knowledge with the assistance of Google and University of Sydney experts."

The initiative not only has the support of 40 high school teachers who are giving up their holidays to take part but also support of pupils.

Richa Mudaliar, a student at St George Girls High School, said that there aren't many opportunities to learn computer science at school and the workshop would help the teachers bring the latest thinking on the subject to students.

Fellow student Dharani Nadarajah said she was excited that teachers were getting involved in programming and would now have the potential to integrate their knowledge in the classroom.

Dharani believes that the program would encourage students to become more involved in programming and develop a greater understanding of what it involves.

"Programming is extremely relevant and can be very useful for heightening our understanding of topics in maths and science," says Dharani.

Google spokesperson Sally-Ann Williams said the CS4HS program had been successfully launched in the USA and parts of Europe.

"We are delighted to have been able to make this program available in Australia and New Zealand. We look forward to partnering with more universities in 2012 to equip and inspire more students across both countries," she said.

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Victoria Hollick, 02 9351 2579, 0401 711 361,