Barbara Ericson and Georgia Computes

At Grace Hopper, one of my CS education heroes was honored for her work in the field. Barbara Ericson was awarded the 2012 Richard Newton Educator Award, which is given to an educator or team for innovative educational practices that attract more women and girls to math, computing and technology (in K-12 or undergrad levels).

Specifically, Ericson is known for her sustainable, effective outreach models for CS education which she pioneers in Georgia through Georgia Tech University. She has developed a series of summer workshops which specifically target women and other minorities in computing, and has released the curriculum (for the high school and middle school level workshops) to teachers across the US. Currently, 36% of Georgia’s high schools have a teacher who has attended a professional workshop hosted by Ericson, and those 36% of schools produce 56% of all introductory computing students in Georgia. She is making a visible impact in the computing community.

How does she do it? Ericson is educating the educators. Her workshops teach other teachers how to teach computer science and how to make a difference in the way she is. Ericson pioneers her own summer classes for students, and then makes all the curriculum available online for other teachers to implement. She also works on the Advanced Placement Computer Science Development Committee to create curriculum and AP courses that are appropriate replacements for introductory university computing classes. Ericson’s work in AP CS has increased the number of AP CS Level A participating women by 126%. She is defining, shaping, and distributing the curriculum. Further, she is facilitating her workshops by making sure that any interested parties can get the resources and materials they need by using a lending library. The library allows schools to borrow robots and other teaching equipment from Georgia Tech and other schools, so that it is not necessary for all schools to invest in expensive equipment.

For updates, follow the Institute for Computing Education at Georgia Tech on Facebook.

Below I have included Ericson’s acceptance speech at the Grace Hopper Conference, which includes an interesting point about how young men believe computer science to be a good field for them to pursue, but young women do not even know what a computer scientist might do:

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