Originally from Vietnam, Nancy (Nga) Hoang pursued a Master’s of Education degree in order to bring about change to the education system in her country.
Hoang graduated from FTP University in Vietnam with a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering. In Vietnam, she was the first person to create computer science curricula and teach programming for children. She ran Kiddicode for two years and wanted to expand the model, but she had limited understanding of the teaching and learning methodology. Hoang decided to pursue a Master's in STEM Education in the CU Boulder School of Education because of the program's renown reputation and to "gain more knowledge in the education field and be ready to bring more impact to Vietnam's education as well as STEM global fields."
Education is not a trending major when students study aboard. However, there is no doubt about the huge impact of education on a country. I was a pioneer in Computer Science education in Vietnam. Now, I have more knowledge of the educational research-based. It will strengthen my work, and I can bring more impact to STEM education in Vietnam as well as in STEM global fields."
Hoang is a creative, enthusiastic, and passionate learner who strives for excellence in all that she does. Now, she’s been named 2022 Outstanding STEM Education Master’s Graduate. She views education as an important social lever for development and equity, which she argues is important in Vietnam to further their independence from a history of colonization. She is particularly interested in access to computational thinking.
In her role as a research assistant, Hoang generously adds her computer science, curriculum design, and technical expertise to inquiryHub, a research-practice partnership based at CU Boulder that’s engaged in research and development of materials, tools, and processes to promote equitable student learning of STEM.
As part of this research-practice partnership with Denver Public Schools, she supports the field testing of science materials. Hoang conducted multiple classroom observations and gathered video that is being used to support the design of professional development resources to support inquiryHub materials. These videos show teachers how to implement classroom routines and orchestrate discussions that are currently rare in science classrooms today, are difficult for teachers to learn, and are important for improving student outcomes in science.
Her deep passion for education theory and practice was reflected in her academic work and in her interactions with colleagues and instructors.
In her own words
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I'm from Vietnam. My background is in Computer Science (CS). However, since I was a university student, I realized the importance of CS education in developing students' thinking and a serious lack of quality computer science education for K-12, especially in Vietnam. I spent two years as a software developer to gain more experience as an actual software engineer, but I maintained my interest in computer science education. In 2015, I started teaching programming to kids. I was the first person in Vietnam to create CS curricula and teaching programming for children in Vietnam. My first coding classes for children in Vietnam received much support from parents and students. Thus, I decided to open my academy to expand CS education in Vietnam. That is why Kiddicode - Tech Academy For Young Learners was founded. I ran this academy for two years, from January 2017 to December 2018, under CEO and Education & Training Manager roles. This academy is the first to introduce CS education to thousands of students in Vietnam. It revolutionized STEM education in Vietnam, especially in rural areas. It helped educate parents and educators about the importance of CS education in developing computational thinking for children. It also helped Vietnam, from a non-CS education country to the top nation in CS in Asia. After two years of running Kiddicode, I want to expand this model, but I have a limited understanding of the teaching and learning methodology from research-based perspectives. Thus, I decided to stop my work in Vietnam and pursue a Master's program to gain more knowledge in the education field and be ready to bring more impact to Vietnam's education as well as STEM global fields. I chose CU Boulder because it is the No. 1 university in Colorado. School of Education also has a lot of interesting projects that advocate for modern STEM education.”
What is one of the lessons from your time at CU Boulder that you’ll carry with you into the next chapter?
Before taking part in the Master's program at CU Boulder, my goals were to learn more about learning science and learning theory to lead my research in developing CS curricula. And now, I think that I have achieved that goal and even more than that. I build my research skill a lot through doing my Master's degree at CU Boulder. I understand more about modern education frameworks and good teaching practices from research perspectives and have also seen them in real classrooms. I plan to apply for a Ph.D. program, so the experiences I gained at CU Boulder are a strong foundation for me to continue the next chapter of my life.”
What does graduating from CU Boulder represent for you and/or your community?
It means a lot to my community. Education is not a trending major when students study aboard. However, there is no doubt about the huge impact of education on a country. I was a pioneer in Computer Science education in Vietnam. Now, I have more knowledge of the educational research-based. It will strengthen my work, and I can bring more impact to STEM education in Vietnam as well as in STEM global fields.”
What is your best piece of advice for incoming students?
Most of the time during my Master's program is during in COVID time. I did not have much time to enjoy the campus and connect with many friends and faculty. So, now that COVID time is gone, I hope incoming students will have more time to enjoy the campus, be active, make more connections, and get the best out of their time at CU Boulder.”
What continues to drive your passion for your work after graduation?
My capstone project is about the gap between Computational Thinking (CT) and Computer Science (CS) education. I am passionate about this topic. My capstone project also opens more questions for me about this topic. For example, I want to know how to connect CT in CS classes to other disciplines or daily lives; how to assess CT skills effectively. Thus, I think I will continue to pursue an academic career to continue to investigate these questions and contribute more to CS education.”