Image linked from the New York Times

It was fun to open the New York Times this morning and read about an innovative project started by Microsoft engineer Kevin Wang to increase access to computer science courses in schools — and realize that he was on our very campus just yesterday.

Kevin was at Marshall in his role as the director of the not-for-profit Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program. He was here to meet with the Marshall students who are taking Advanced Placement computer science from another engineer at Microsoft this school year.

According to the Times article, there will be more than 150,000 computer science jobs opening up each year through the year 2020 — a demand that is far greater than 40,000 students who earned a computer science BA in 2010.

If finding qualified computer scientists is hard, imagine the challenge finding good computer science teachers. Enter Microsoft — and at Marshall, enter Chris Jones.

Dr. Jones is an electrical engineer who has been working at Microsoft since 2009. He has always had an interest in teaching, so last year he began the rigorous training program to join TEALS. He volunteers with Marshall students before his work day starts, joining the class virtually — projecting himself via video in the classroom and using a digital platform to communicate live with students. Video cameras on all the computers in the lab allow students to communicate with Dr. Jones directly as well. Supporting the work of Dr. Jones is Marshall technology integration specialist Adam Brisk and parent volunteer Sherri Ohnsted, who act as co-teachers in the classroom. This team approach allows for a blending of the hi-tech skills of Dr. Jones and the high-touch skills of Mr. Brisk and Ms. Ohnsted.

Students in the class report that the technology runs smoothly and that they appreciate “having an expert in all things computer science” leading their exploration of the material.

Marshall is only one of a handful of schools in the program outside of the Seattle area. This initiative was made possible through the connections of former Marshall student Scott Carrasca, who now works for Microsoft remotely from his home base here in Duluth.

Technology Rich Programming
The TEALS program is just one way that Marshall is experimenting with new ways to offer relevant and rigorous programming to our students.

Last year we began a partnership with the Virtual High School Collaborative that has continued to grow. This year there are 39 Marshall students taking at least one of their courses online. These electives allow students to explore content area not available at the school. This year, our students are taking subjects that include:

  • Perspectives in Health
  • Psychology
  • Engineering Principles
  • Forensic Science
  • Personal Finance
  • International Business
  • Latin 1
  • AP Economics
  • AP Statistics

While exposure to this content is exciting, students are also picking up new skills in communication, collaboration, and time management that will serve them well in college and beyond.