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Creighton Professor Invited to Inaugural Computer Science Summit

David ReedDavid Reed, PhD, has spent much of his life trying to crack the code of K-12 computer science education.

Over the past 25 years, Reed — Creighton professor and director of Computer Science and Informatics for the Department of Journalism, Media and Computing — has developed a singular expertise in the area.

He wrote a book, A Balanced Introduction to Computer Science, that’s been widely adopted by colleges and high schools across the country. He’s contributed to the AP Computer Science program for more than two decades. And up until recently, he served as chairman of the Computer Science Teachers Association.

Because of his leadership in the area, Reed has been invited to the first National Computer Science Summit for State Leaders in Little Rock, Arkansas. Hosted by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the event brings together governors, legislators and educators for two days (June 9 and 10) of keynotes and discussions. The summit’s purpose: to find the right path forward for K-12 computer science education in America.

“We’re coming together to speak with all these policymakers about the state of where things are,” Reed says. “What are the best practices? What’s been working? What hasn’t?”

The summit itself is free to attend. But, of course, travel and hotel are not. Fortunately, there’s a fund for that.

The Susan and George Haddix Fund for the College of Arts and Sciences supports a variety of initiatives, including funds for faculty research and travel, as well as renovation, research grants and mentorship programs.

The fund was established in 2017 with a $10 million gift from the Creighton alumnus and his wife. It’s the largest gift to academic programs in the College of Arts and Sciences’ history.

George Haddix, MA’66, PhD, taught math at the University before shifting to a career in business.

It’s opportunities such as Reed’s that the Haddix travel funds were designed for — a way to support and enhance Creighton faculty while extending the University’s reach in the wider world of academics. Such support ensures that faculty and staff have the requisite processing power to keep going out into the world and debugging its problems.

“The Haddix faculty travel funds allow us to support our most distinguished faculty when they have opportunities to represent Creighton at significant national and international events,” says Bridget Keegan, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Dr. Reed is a nationally renowned scholar of computer science education, and his participation in the meeting will allow him to help shape educational policy around STEM, which is critical to the future of our region and our nation.”

Reed says he’s thrilled to go to the summit and grateful that the Haddix fund is giving him the chance, as K-12 computer science education remains an evergreen and essential issue in American schools, and he wants to be a part of the conversation.

Computer science distinguishes itself from other areas in education both in its expense of resources and the rapidly evolving nature of its curriculum.

“The issue offers really interesting challenges,” he says. “For one, it’s very difficult to make policy changes in the K-12 system in the U.S. because things are so decentralized.”

Decisions are made at the state and district levels. You can convince a governor of the need for more robust computer science curriculum, Reed says. But individual school districts will still need to commit the resources and find the qualified computer science teachers to execute that curriculum.

Nationally, the push for K-12 computer science education is gaining traction. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has prioritized computer science and other STEM fields through hundreds of millions of dollars in grant funding. Certain states are doing better than others in computer science education, Reed says.

“Nebraska is on the right path,” he says. “There certainly is still work to be done. But we have people who are working on it and doing the right things.”

Over his 20-plus years teaching computer science, Reed has of course seen his students grow more knowledgeable about the tech they’re working on (and playing with). But if his students know how to use a computer (or an iPhone), that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how it works. Or how it was built or what its larger implications are for society.

One of the biggest bugs in K-12 computer science education is basic inequity.

“We’re generally seeing students who are much more prepared by the time they get to college,” Reed says. “But there’s a divide between the skills of the wealthier suburban students who have had access to a lot of things and the poor, urban and minority students who have not.

“That’s a real problem in K-12 computer science education right now. It’s an uneven playing field.”

Like any other faulty system, it’s going to take a lot of troubleshooting. Reed continues to do his part, bit by bit.


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