Friday, May 14, 2021

New Bill Would Add More Computer Science to Mississippi Schools

Story contributed by Griffin Demarrais,

A bill giving elementary, middle and high school students in Mississippi more computer science instruction is on its way to the state senate, and one Ole Miss computer science professor says it’s generally a good thing.

The bill would phase in the curriculum over the next three years to give teachers time for training. Dr. Dawn Wilkins, chair and professor of computer and information science at Ole Miss, says the teacher training may be the toughest part.

“Computer, science is something that is ever-changing so it is going to be something that these teachers are going to have re-learn every couple years,” Wilkins said.

A big push for this new bill came from C Spire, a Mississippi-based wireless company. According to the C Spire site promoting this bill, computing jobs are the leading source of new wages in the U.S. with more than 500,000 unfilled slots nationwide and more than 1,000 in Mississippi alone. Hunter Finney a computer science major, already has a computer career in mind.

“I go into computer science in order to make a difference on other kids,” Finney said. “I was just a kid who liked video games and I never got a chance to take a class like this until college.”

The Mississippi House approved the bill 114-2 on Wednesday, so state senators now get a chance to debate the value of the bill. Wilkins says more early computer science education is needed to keep Mississippi from falling further behind in this area.

“I just hope we have enough teachers and that the training program is a success,” said Wilkins. “I was skeptical of a career in computer science, but I am so happy I am in this line of work and I want other kids to get inspired.”