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Google flying teachers from all over NZ to UC campus

Google flying teachers from all over NZ to UC campus

December 3, 2012

Many of the people who teach computer science to thousands of New Zealand high school students will attend a Google-funded workshop at the University of Canterbury (UC) campus this week.

Workshop organiser Professor Tim Bell said Google was helping fly 67 teachers from all over New Zealand to the event on December 5 because it was important that NZ’s computing teachers have the professional development to assist them in teaching new topics that have been added to the digital technologies standards in the last two years.

``It’s great to have Google on board. We have multiple connections with them. A number of our graduates work for Google - one of them, Craig Nevill-Manning, is the founder of Google’s first remote engineering centre in New York,’’ Professor Bell said.

``Several of our graduates work at Google Sydney. The Sydney office is very supportive of our outreach to schools, which is very forward thinking considering that it’s many years before they’ll see the benefit of graduates.

``Another connection is through the original computer science for high schools course at Carnegie-Mellon University, where Craig from Google spoke using material from our Computer Science Unplugged group at Canterbury, which led to Google US sponsoring Computer Science Unplugged.’’

Professor Bell led the project of writing the book Computer Science Unplugged and the project of developing the associated website, videos and the translations into 17 languages.

Now Google NZ is sponsoring UC to write an online textbook for high schools, initially for use in NZ but eventually internationally.

The third and final year of new computer science teaching standards will be phased in throughout NZ schools next year. Until now computing in schools has focused more on training students to be users of technology and the change is to open their horizons to the possibility of being developers.

``This will create an income rather than an expense for the country. It also enables students to figure out what they’re good at; previously few had the chance to find out what computer science is while at school.

``We are leading the world in teaching computer science in schools. The UK has started changes this year, the US is struggling to make changes and have had some limited success, and some European countries (especially Denmark, Scotland and Germany) have been trying new ideas recently.

``The new standards in computer science will have no effect if teachers aren’t trained to deliver them. Very few teachers in NZ have computer science qualifications, and therefore would struggle to teach the new material.

``The computer science four high schools (CS4HS) event was run for the first time last year, and the feedback from teachers was overwhelmingly that it took them from not wanting to teach the subject to looking forward to using the ideas in their classroom.”

The teachers come from Ashburton, Auckland, Balclutha, Cambridge, Christchurch, Culverden, Dunedin, Geraldine, Gisborne, Greymouth, Greytown, Hamilton, Hastings, Hawera, Helensville, Howick, Invercargill, Kaiapoi, Masterton, Matamata, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Onewhero, Pahiatua, Palmerston North, Porirua, Putaruru, Queenstown, Rangiora, Reporoa, Richmond, Rotorua, Tapanui, Tauranga, Te Aroha, Te Awamutu, Temuka, Thames, Timaru, Upper Hutt, Waimate, Wanaka, Wellington, Whangarei and Whitianga.

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