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Teaching program promotes technology literacy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Computer science should be as important as reading or writing in schools, argued a University of New Mexico professor at a Wednesday morning forum of Albuquerque’s business leaders.

Technology literacy is the goal of the New Mexico Computer Science for All teaching program. Melanie Moses, an associate professor of computer sciences at the University of New Mexico, leads that program and gave a short update on its progress at the Economic Forum, a twice monthly meeting of Albuquerque’s business and community leaders.

“Billions of people are using computers,” Moses said. “This is transforming us in ways we can’t quite grasp. We’re all adjusting to this new reality that computers really do run our world.”

New Mexico Computer Science for All, Moses said, is a program that preps educators in middle and high schools throughout the state to teach computer sciences. As part of the program, UNM also offers a dual credit for students who complete a course in computer sciences. The high school course, Moses said, teaches students how to code in a language called NetLogo.

So far 50 teachers have taken the prep course, and the dual credit program is offered in 40 schools across the state in major metro areas such as Albuquerque and Las Cruces, but also in smaller communities such as Gallup or Farmington. About 1,000 students have taken the course, and Moses said the goal is get to 2,000 by 2020.

“We actually need to transform our educational system as rapidly as our technological world is transforming around us,” Moses said.

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The program was started thanks to a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation in 2012. Moses said they recently received a $200,000 extension to keep the program running. And while federal funds started the course, Moses said local investments will be necessary to keep the program going in the future.

Moses also said she would like to see more schools accept computer science courses to satisfy existing course requirements.

Teachers interested in the program should visit the program’s website at cs4all.org.

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