TEALS: A Novel Way To Bring Digital Literacy To The Classroom

TEALS Ben

Microsoft Software Engineer and TEALS teacher Ben grades students’ programming projects.

There’s a wealth of tech-savvy professionals out in the world right now. The future is being developed by people who are passionate about technology, computer science, and digital literacy. A grassroots program is working to bring those passionate people into high school classrooms in order to improve digital literacy and tech skills.

Technology Education And Literacy in Schools (TEALS) is a program that recruits, mentors, and places technology professionals into high school classes as part-time teachers. The goal of TEALS is pretty simple: to bring digital literacy to schools. As the folks at TEALS say, they’re working to offer programming and lessons that would normally be too costly to pursue or enact.

By bringing in professionals from outside and having a team teaching model, TEALS is building a novel model that would work in even more than just computer science classes. For example, I could see the TEALS model being rolled out across all the social sciences by bringing in experts in various fields to do some tandem teaching in order to bring even more real-world experience into the classroom.

How TEALS Works

teals brett veneta

Software Engineer Brett and Software Test Engineer Veneta sharing stories after class.

It’s pretty simple. A TEALS teacher could be someone like a software engineer or web designer who wakes up a little earlier than usual, stops by his or her local school to impart some knowledge, and then continues on to work. TEALS has a pair of programs at present: Intro to Computer Science (based on the Berkeley curriculum) and an AP Computer Science course (based on the University of Washington curriculum). Training for TEALS teachers is done over the summer and teachers can opt to choose one or both courses.

TEALS always team teaches which allows the school teacher to completely take over the lesson(s) once finished. In other words, it’s a great way for both students and teachers to learn high-tech skills at the same time. Once this transfer of knowledge happens, a computer science and digital literacy curriculum has a solid chance of blossoming. Very cool.

Founded by Microsoft employee Kevin Wang and now boasting more than 120 volunteer computer science teachers in 37 schools (as of last summer), TEALS is growing and there’s no surprise why: they’re bringing important skills into the classroom. As of a July 2012 GeekWire article, TEALS is in Washington, Kentucky, California, Virginia, Utah, Washington, D.C., Minnesota, North Dakota, and there are now plans to bring the program to New York City.

The TEALS Goals

According to Wang, there are a couple important long-term goals of TEALS:

  • Making sure every high school student in America has the opportunity to take intro and AP CS class in school.
  • Match the percentage of AP students of the other 3 big sciences: Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Get Involved

Want to join TEALS and bring some tech-savvy skills into your local school? Want to bring TEALS to your classroom?