Sunday, October 03, 2010

computer science meets social justice

At the beginning of the school year, I set up a shelf with resources about my two passions:  technology and social justice. I didn't really know how the two were related, but I knew I wanted to bring them together.  I learned how they were related at the K12 Computing Teachers Workshop that was part of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.  What I learned is that there is a crisis in computer science education both in quality and access.  The result of this crisis is that women and minorities are missing opportunities to advance academically and economically in a field whose employment potential far exceeds the number of students preparing for it.  Also, if we don't get more diverse participation in technology, then we miss out on innovations that are relevant and usable by a wider range of people and end up instead with technological machismo (and more first-person shooter games).

Things really haven't changed much since I first started in the CS field

  • Girls and minorities are not represented in the CS field.  This still baffles me, but it was reiterated again and again by industry (google, yahoo, microsoft) and academia (stanford, duke, mit)
  • Many kids are not being exposed to programming until college.
  • AP CS is not a required course in high school and sometimes AP CS courses are not accepted by colleges.
  • School administrations don't understand what CS really means, often equate to applications (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, keyboarding)
  • There are way more CS jobs available than students studying CS.
  • There is a bill in Congress (Computer Science Education Act of 2010) geared to addressing this crisis.
Girls wait later to make a decision about their major, 
but decide earlier what they don't want to do
  • By age 13 girls determine a positive or negative attitude towards subjects like technology (I did this by deciding I certainly didn't want to be a teacher when I was a teenager and changing my major from math to CS once I was exposed to programming).
  • Girls often associate technology with white, nerdy, boring men.
  • The impostor syndrome is a real problem for women at every age and occupation, but especially for women who find themselves in male-dominated fields.
Relationships are still key
  • I met amazing people and learned about resources that have helped re-ignite my passions for technology and social justice.  
  • Technology teachers like myself who are just trying to reach and teach students as much as we can about technology with little direction and funds.  
  • CS professors from major universities who are so passionate about their field, willing to listen to the struggles of K12 teachers and provide their support.
  • People from industry who seem to be willing to fund almost any worthwhile project, if only we could get hooked up.
Online Resources:
Other Resources:
  • A Clean Slate Approach to High School CS by Jan Cuny
  • ACM K-12 CS Model Curriculum, 2nd Edition
  • Computer Science Education Act of 2010
  • Exploring Computer Science Curriculum 3.0 (really interesting CS curriculum based on social relevancy)
  • Let's Fight It Together (movie about cyberbullying)
  • Impostor Syndrome Panel Presentation by Katie Siek
  • Odd Girl Out (movie about bullying)
  • Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited
  • Running on Empty (a paper coming soon about the state of CS by state)
  • Stuck in the Shallow End
  • The Power of Abstraction by Barbara Liskov