Nebraska Extension is partnering with the National 4-H Council to pilot an effort to engage youth in computer science.
Supported by a one-year, $299,950 grant from the National Science Foundation, the team will create a toolkit that can be used by educators in before- and after-school programs to help them understand how to get youth excited about computational and algorithmic thinking. Leading the effort is Kathleen Lodl, associate dean with Nebraska Extension and Nebraska 4-H program administrator.
“As technology continues to transform our society, it’s important that we’re able to get youth excited about opportunities in computer science at an early age,” Lodl said. “In order to do that, we need to surround them with people and educators that can actually teach them the necessary skills.”
The National 4-H Council estimates that 65 percent of today’s students entering grade school will be employed in jobs that don’t exist yet. But in many communities across the United States, students don’t have the resources they need to learn computer science skills. Four-H has partnered with Google to teach both technical and interpersonal skills at four land-grant universities across the country, including the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
The toolkit will include real-world, video-based learning modules, and distance-learning experiences to support educators. Once developed, extension will leverage Click2SciencePD to share the professional-development toolkit. Developed by Nebraska Extension, Click2SciencePD provides online science, technology, engineering and mathematics professional-development resources for out-of-school-time trainers and coaches supporting frontline staff or volunteers working directly with youth.
“These real-world resources are critical because once an educator or volunteer can see someone that looks like them successfully connecting with youth in creative ways, they realize that they can do this,” Lodl said.
Using Click2Science as a platform, the toolkit will be shared with 600,000 volunteers and 3,500 educators who currently facilitate 4-H programming within the land-grant university system.
During the next year, Lodl and the Nebraska Extension team will partner with experts in Nebraska’s Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Langston University and Utah State University to develop the toolkit.