July 15, 2018

Infosys Pathfinders Conference: Remarks of Laurie Burns McRobbie

IU Auditorium

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Thank you very much, Ravi, and good evening to all of you. I am truly delighted to welcome you, on behalf of Indiana University, to the inaugural Pathfinders Summer Institute. I’m very pleased that my husband, IU President Michael McRobbie, is here tonight, and he joins me in welcoming all of you.

I want to start by extending sincere thanks to Infosys Foundation USA for selecting the IU Bloomington campus for this week of training. The Foundation has quickly become one of the leading supporters of education and training for computer science and related disciplines, especially for underrepresented students. We are all grateful for your efforts and very pleased to be collaborating with you.

It is a real pleasure to welcome those of you who have traveled from across the country to participate in Pathfinders. As Ravi noted, there are over 550 of you, from 45 states and the District of Columbia—and from as far as Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. I hope that those of you visiting Bloomington for the first time will take the opportunity to explore our beautiful campus, particularly as we prepare to celebrate IU’s bicentennial next academic year.

Indiana University has long been recognized as a leader in the applications and uses of information technology, thanks to the work of our outstanding faculty and staff—and we are very pleased that you will have the opportunity to hear from a number of them this week.


The Importance of Computer Science Education

I hardly need to tell any of you that knowledge about computer science is absolutely critical for students of all ages in the 21st century. Computer science is a key driver of innovation across the American economy. Learning even the basics of computer science will help students in virtually any career. It not only teaches students about technology, it teaches them how to think differently about problem solving, and to understand how things work in today’s world. And we know that it can put them on a path toward some of the highest-paying and fastest-growing jobs in the state and across the country.

However, the majority of schools in in the U.S. don’t offer rigorous computer science courses. This lack of access especially hurts those students who have been traditionally underrepresented in computer science and other STEM fields, and those who come from less well-resourced school districts, many of them in rural parts of the country. This lack of access has allowed computer science and the mastery of computing concepts
to be the province of a relatively select few, and that early mastery is reflected in who holds the technology-intensive jobs and who are predominantly driving innovation. So the more we can do to expose all young people to 21st century concepts, the more likely it is that we’ll create inclusive work environments that welcome a diverse workforce, one that reflects the society our technology is meant to serve.

I am proud to note that Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, from whom you will hear in a moment, signed into law a bill that will require all Indiana public schools to include computer science in their K-12 curriculum by 2021 and that will require high schools to offer computer science as an elective course. The state has also committed to provide resources to help teachers and schools implement these courses, for which the governor and our legislators deserve our grateful thanks.


Indiana University: Advancing Computer Science Education

Computer science is a relatively young field. But from its earliest days, Indiana University has been steadfastly committed to strengthening computer science education in our state and nationwide.

The IU School of Education here in Bloomington is one of only two locations in the state where preservice K-12 teachers can earn a Computer Educator License. The program is available to teacher candidates who are in the process of completing an initial license in a recognized Teacher Education Program.

Outstanding IU faculty—a number of whom have joint appointments in Education and our School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering (or SICE)—are engaged in groundbreaking research that explores how we can best prepare teachers to teach computer science effectively, as well as research that addresses the many challenges faced by students and teachers alike.

Many of these researchers study the epistemology of their disciplines, exploring how experts learn, understand, process, and utilize the skills that make them experts. They also study how data collected in STEM classrooms can be used to improve student experiences.

SICE is also investing in improving computer science education, through multiple programs and initiatives. A few examples: every September, the school hosts a K-8 Computer Science Teachers Conference called “Flipping the Switch.” This year’s theme is Integrating Computer Science. The school is also launching “TeacherU,” a free, online, collaborative Computer Science platform for teachers. TeacherU is in beta testing, with more than 100 testers exploring its features. The school will soon be adding teacher cohort groups for curricula in Cybersecurity, Data Science, Software Engineering, the Internet of Things, and many more areas.

The school leads statewide student contests in cybersecurity and programming that are free of charge, and hosts highly successful summer camps each year for students in grades 5-8 and 9-12 in computing and engineering.

IU, of course, doesn’t stop with its efforts to boost K-12 computer science education,
with multiple technology-intensive degree programs beyond those in SICE,
which are themselves nationally ranked. Across all of IU’s campuses, undergraduate and graduate students are deepening their knowledge and skills in tech, skills that will serve them well no matter what career path they choose. And Bloomington is also home to the nation’s first, and we believe only, campus-wide center dedicated to supporting and celebrating women in technology, regardless of discipline or career path, the Center of Excellence for Women in Technology. You’ll hear from CEWiT’s director Maureen Biggers a little later this evening.

Again, of behalf of all of us at Indiana University, I extend a warm welcome to Bloomington.

We are delighted that you are here and we hope you have a productive and enjoyable week.

Thank you.