Mason partnering with Amazon to provide computer science education to teachers


George Mason University is collaborating with Amazon and the Maryland Chamber Foundation to provide local teachers with computer science externships and education in a pilot program to begin this summer. The program will provide current and potential computer science teachers in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with an opportunity to shadow Amazon technology experts and take a companion three-credit graduate-level class at Mason.

Erdogan Kaya, an assistant professor of computer science education at Mason’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), will teach the eight-week, project-based companion class. In addition, participating teachers will also get an opportunity throughout the fall to meet with each other and exchange best practices. Virginia teachers can also participate in a free Praxis workshop in the fall to prepare to take the exam to become licensed to teach computer science.

“We believe that through this opportunity, teachers can develop meaningful learning experiences that will help them in how they teach computer science to children,” said Kaya, a former K-12 computer science teacher. “Computer science is a dynamic field, and we want to engage with teachers to increase their understanding of the workforce skills and knowledge their students will need.”

The program is currently accepting applications. Preference will be given to local middle school and high school teachers who are interested in teaching computer science or who want to integrate computer science into their instruction. Teachers who work in underserved communities will be prioritized.

The Amazon externship will allow teachers to shadow Amazon professionals during the summer, said Shanika Hope, head of Amazon Future Engineer, U.S., giving them exposure to technology professionals in a substantive, practical way. The pilot program will accept 20 participants.

Mason has been partnering with Amazon on other projects since it established a second headquarters in Northern Virginia. Amy Hutchison, associate professor and director of CEHD’s Division of Elementary, Literacy and Secondary Education, said that collaborating with Amazon has been seamless.

“They are very open to our ideas,” said Hutchison. “This has been very exciting for us to bring together industry and education.”

The Maryland Chamber Foundation is in its third year of offering teaching externships to Maryland educators. The foundation works to bridge the gaps between businesses and educators by pairing teachers with top local businesses.

If successful, the pilot program could be offered again and expanded. In addition, CEHD researchers will study the effectiveness of the new program in changing how computer science is taught in the classroom.

Hope said the genesis of the program was a recognition of the gaps between the skills taught in schools and those needed for the job market.

“Teachers inspire, support and expose students to new opportunities, so their proficiencies and expertise have a direct impact on the paths that students pursue,” said Hope. “We want to invest in teachers in a way that will affect students in the long term.”