Hollis discusses new cyber education center

Staff Writer

The Mississippi State University Research and Curriculum unit is continuing to focus its computer science education efforts with the foundation of the Center for Cyber Education.

The center was announcedThursday in a press conference at C Spire’s headquarters in Ridgeland, with dignitaries including Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and MSU President Mark Keenum present. C Spire, a longtime partner in the RCU’s Computer Science for Mississippi (CS4MS) program, gave an initial $550,000 to help start the center. However, the RCU is still seeking additional support. The center will administrate its CS4MS efforts through the center and continue to ramp up computer science and coding nationwide.

“The center came about because of all the work we’ve been doing with the (Mississippi) Department of Education on K-12 computer science education, and when the university started thinking about it, looking at it, they decided that to help the Department of Education reach its goal of having computer science in all the schools in the state by 2024,” said Shelly Hollis, the center’s assistant director.

Hollis emphasized that the center would be solely devoted to K-12 computer science education, with no curriculum development for the university itself.

“That’ll be an ongoing process, because there will be teacher turnover,” Hollis said. “There will constantly be new technology. It will be an ongoing process in terms of creating curriculum, creating new curriculum as new technologies emerge and keeping the teaching force trained and current.”

Hollis said in practice, the center would not be too different than the RCU's current computer science efforts.

"We'll just take on a new name for the role that we're playing with the CS4MS initiative," Hollis said.

The CS4MS program was launched in 2016, and seeks to provide computer science education in all Mississippi public schools. The program carries the goal of offering computer science education in all Mississippi elementary, middle and high school teachers across all levels have been trained in computer science by the program, and are able to then teach the subjects in their own classrooms.

She said the center had been in place since June, but the decision was made to wait until the first board meeting was held. The meeting was held following the Thursday announcement. A representative from each of MSU's eight colleges sits on the board, as well as industry representatives and K-12 educators.

"We really want this to be a collaborative effort because computer science impacts all occupations and all areas of study each day," Hollis said. "We really want feedback from all the different colleges on campus, and also to work collaboratively with them, because as they write research grants, often they need K-12 outreach pieces, and we can help them make those connections."

She said the importance of the program came in its ability to broaden career horizons, especially given the prevalence of computers in everyday life, which will likely grow in the future. She also emphasized the importance of C Spire's support.

"It really pushes the envelope in terms of timing, making things happen faster, and with much more focused effort," Hollis said.