The Solution to Better Living in the Digital World
Author: Marshall King
Early Bridges to Data Science program
Fred Nwanganga doesn’t just want kids to appreciate data, he wants them to learn how to wrangle it, understand it and solve problems with it.
The Associate Teaching Professor in the IT, Analytics, and Operations Department within the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame saw that most of the emphasis in STEM education around computer science was limited to coding. According to Nwanganga, “We’re not doing a whole lot in middle school and high school to prepare students to become informed consumers of data”. He started the Early Bridges to Data Science program in response. He’s taking a “train the trainer” approach with the program by supporting middle school teachers to develop and deliver more data-science related content in their classrooms.
The Launch of Early Bridges to Data Science
He started planning for the program several years ago and was able to launch it with the first cohort in August 2022. Eighteen teachers from the three schools in the cohort – Discovery Middle School, LaSalle Academy and Career Academy – came to Notre Dame for a three-day data science immersion. Mendoza professors taught them about statistics, storytelling with data, data management and an introduction to data science. At the end of the three days, the teachers completed a capstone project bringing together what they learned and began wireframing a unit plan for lessons they intend to deliver to their students.
Curriculum coaches will help guide the teachers and be liaisons with Notre Dame faculty as they prepare five lesson plans for their students. The teachers are starting to teach their students what they learned at Mendoza in the summer. For their efforts, they get Personal Growth Plan Points needed for license renewal, credits for classroom supplies, and a stipend. “They work so hard and are not compensated that much. We thought we just wanted to offer a little bit more in incentives along the way,” Nwanganga said.
What’s Next for Early Bridges?
Fredrick Nwanganga looks forward to another cohort in late summer 2023 involving teachers from additional schools. Each cohort’s teachers can become mentors for future ones. He hopes the program will expand in northern Indiana to additional school systems in the coming years, and that collected lesson plans become content for teachers elsewhere. Moreover, he hopes the program perhaps has a national impact on students learning about data science before entering college.
Nwanganga hopes the program also grows diversity in technology fields. He worked in industry as a computer scientist and came to Notre Dame to get a doctoral degree in computer science and engineering. While doing that, he worked in Information Technology at the university. Then he was hired as a professor at Mendoza.
In all of those settings, he was often one of very few (or the sole) black man in the organization. He understands that there is a clear pipeline problem in technology-related fields. As a hiring manager, he often struggled to find qualified underrepresented minority candidates to hire. He observed the same problem in the classroom.
“I thought to myself, rather than perpetually complain about the lack of diversity, let me do what I can within my own little sphere of influence,” he said.
He’s now putting teachers and students on the path to learning how to better live and work in the digital world through the Early Bridges to Data Science program.
LinkedIn ITAO Group
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Topics: Data Science Education, Featured