CoC project reboots IT professionals

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Operation Reboot, a project in the College of Computing, will pair laid-off IT professionals with high school teachers to give them a leg up in their career options starting in the spring of 2010. The project is headed by Barbara Ericson, the computing outreach director at the CoC’s Institute for Computing Education (ICE).

The goal of Operation Reboot is to pair a high school computer science teacher with an unemployed IT worker for two classes over a year. The teacher would then learn more about computer science from a professional, and the IT professional would learn how to teach the craft.

Su Craddock – the business and computer science director
 for Walton Career Academy, a school participating in Operation Reboot – will teach Computing in the Modern World alongside an IT pro. Craddock took three summer workshops at Tech to qualify for the project.

“I do believe that the students would be more encouraged to go into a computer science field with a former IT employee in the classroom,” Craddock said, “The IT professional can answer questions that I cannot and will therefore provide a new point of view from which the students can base career decisions.”

With the multi-billion dollar IT industry feeling the economic hurt, major corporations like IBM and Hewlett-Packard have laid off thousands of employees just in the last year.

Though national stimulus money may not get their original jobs back, funding programs like Operation Reboot would allow experience and knowledge of the IT industry to be an investment in education instead.

“I see the greatest benefit to be the IT professional’s varied knowledge, abilities and skills from the corporate world to integrate real-world applications into the curriculum,” Craddock said.

Craddock has worked with corporations and Fortune 500 companies before teaching at Walton Career Academy, though her experience is limited only to certain industries. She looks forward to a fresh perspective in her classroom.

“Personally, I want to pair with an IT professional to fill in the gaps in my own knowledge,” Craddock said. “Also, working with an IT professional in class will reinforce the concepts with real-world knowledge.”

Ramona Calvey, an IT professional who will join the program, has over 25 years of experience working as the senior programmer at Coca-Cola Company and instructional technology specialist at Clark Atlanta University, among many other top positions.

“I think that the greatest benefit of co-teaching is the teaching experience that can be gained from working with and being mentored by an experienced teacher,” Calvey said, “I would like to provide the students with current IT industry standard knowledge, examples, and projects to solve. I would also like to assist with expanding the existing computing classes that are being taught and to help to increase the number of computing courses being offered.”

The IT professionals will earn a stipend of $3,410 per month for 11 months and ultimately earn an initial teaching certificate with a computer science endorsement.

“There are some computer science teachers who were IT workers who either retired or decided they didn’t want to do IT anymore and they were interested in teaching, so I knew that there was this path that people had been taking,” Ericson said.

Ericson applied this idea when she met a National Science Foundation (NSF) program director who offered a funding opportunity for computer science educators. The NSF’s Broadening Participation in Computing program, which has funded past CoC projects under its mission to improve computing education, then decided to fund Operation Reboot with funds recently acquired after February’s national stimulus package.

Since funding is already set by the allotted stimulus money, Ericson does not expect the state or Tech to fund Operation Reboot for an expansion or continue it past its three-year period. She does expect, however, that other states will realize the potential for this program and possibly start other similar ones.

Operation Reboot has garnered national attention, including a feature article in Computer World.

So far 15 schools in northern and central Georgia have applied for the program; the classes include AP Computer Science, Intermediate Programming, Computing in the Modern World and Introduction to Programming.