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hurd on the hill

by Nick Winchester | April 6th, 2017 under Big Bend Blog » Big Bend Blog Highlight

Trans-Pecos educators take part in coding event

By U.S. Rep. WILL HURD

Coding is the language of the 21st Century economy, and if our kids can’t speak it, they’re going to be left behind.

I am not just referring to jobs at tech companies. Employers from HEB to Toyota are actively hiring tech professionals, at salaries significantly higher than the statewide average, to deal with everything from inventory and logistics to anti-hacking and privacy protection. I just heard about a cattle rancher from the San Antonio area who has created an online marketplace, proving that even agriculture is following the digital trend.

As our traditional industries become more digitized, one common problem has become clear: we are not producing enough computer scientists to meet demand. This comes up over and over when I meet with employers across the 23rd Congressional District of Texas.

In 2015, an estimated 42,000 computing jobs went unfilled in Texas, yet only 2,100 computer scientists graduated from our universities. As a computer science graduate myself, I know there is much more we can do to increase our homegrown talent-pipeline for these types of jobs. This is why I worked with public and private sector members of our community to teach math teachers how to incorporate computer science lessons into their state-approved curriculum.

Thanks to the University of Texas Center for STEM Education and a non-profit teacher training organization called Bootstrap, last weekend, 40 middle and high school teachers from 16 school districts between San Antonio and Socorro, including Presidio, Fort Davis, and Terlingua educators, attended the inaugural teacher training at Bexar BiblioTech in San Antonio, which will expose over 1,000 students to computer science this coming year alone.

Six Northside ISD of San Antonio teachers who attended the training will reach over 500 students themselves, and the effort multiplies with each additional school year. Tech companies including Dell, Intel, Facebook, and Brocade sponsored the cost of travel and tuition.

Coding lessons will be administered through a video game platform, which will allow students to interact with technology in a relatable way while learning critical mathematics concepts. “This curriculum will get students much more engaged because they can use a lot more visuals than they normally can. Now that everything is more technology-oriented, I believe these types of lessons will help motivate my students to continue to study computer science,” said Hector Diego, one of the participants in the training who teaches in Eagle Pass.

We need to add new computer science courses to the state-approved curriculum but this process could take years to be funded and approved. By integrating lessons into existing math courses, schools will be able to introduce students to computer science immediately.

“We’ve all been math teachers for years, and I think this training has opened our eyes to the need for combining the language, structure and discipline of computer science with subjects we’re already teaching in the classroom,” illustrated Ryan Trujillo of Socorro ISD.  “It’s just a little adjustment we need in order to really prepare these students to use coding to tackle real problems. I think this is absolutely necessary for students today.”

Mr. Trujillo is right – and we can prepare students to solve these real-world problems by designing the pipeline that educates future computer science and STEM professionals to start at the middle school level.  Earlier exposure to computer science education may inspire students to choose a STEM pathway in high school, and increase the quantity of locally-grown computer scientists we ultimately let loose into the workforce.

The intersection of mathematics and technology will continue to produce life changing advancements, and it is our responsibility to continue this trend. I am grateful for the teachers who participated in the training, and for the school districts that support them. It is my hope that together we will educate the next generation of world-renown computer scientists right here in TX-23.

If you are an educator and would like more information, please contact my San Antonio Northside office at 210-921-3130.

 

A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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