Building capacity in the growing IT sector: The BCIT connection to TEALS

The information tech sector continues to do well, even in a post-COVID-19 economy. Computing is playing a larger role in our daily lives as we increasingly play and socialize online, work from home, or even see a doctor via laptop.

Yet even before 2020, industry demand for tech grads outstripped supply. According to Microsoft, 58% of new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-related jobs are in computing, but only 10% of STEM graduates are in computer science (CS).

Microsoft set out to change those statistics with the launch of their Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program. TEALS partners with high schools to build teacher capacity and student interest in computer science.

As a partner of TEALS, BCIT has been instrumental in redesigning the TEALS curriculum to better align with Canadian educational standards and local industry. Specifically, BCIT Computing instructor Carly Orr was tapped to help develop the TEALS resources for the Canadian audience. With past careers both in software development and teaching high school, Carly was well positioned for the role.

BCIT instructor leads the development of Canadian TEALS materials

TEALS, a volunteer-run program, offers a set of teaching resources for computational thinking, problem solving, programming, and computer science concepts that are applicable across sectors. Launched in BC in 2018, there are now 14 connected high schools.

As TEALS materials are ever-evolving and need to relate to the learning outcomes and core competencies established locally by the provincial government, Carly helps ensure they are tailored to regional needs. She creates individual lessons and works within the broader TEALS community to constantly update and improve the materials.

“The BC materials offer problem solving experiences connected with local and Indigenous communities, and other cultures,” explains Carly. BC’s Mathematics Computing Science resources also use computing to build financial literacy skills.

Motivating students through relevance

“I love the fact that TEALS is a program that supports K-12 CS learning by directly supporting teachers, and by partnering with industry volunteers who in turn support both teachers and motivate students with their industry-relevant experience,” explains Carly.

“To me, this is a model of great teamwork that addresses some long-standing challenges in K-12 education: shortage of training for busy teachers who are open and eager to teach computing; lack of an easy path for IT professionals to teach the next generation of students; and lack of teaching material aligned with both BC’s current curriculum as well as trends and tools in industry.”

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