Documentary Aims to Make Programming Cool

January 31, 2013 at 1:12 am 2 comments

Code.org is aimed at making programming cool, and they’re going to do it with a documentary:

Code.org’s initial effort will be a short film, currently being edited, that will feature various luminaries from the technology industry talking about how exciting and accessible programming is. Two of the most famous programmers and entrepreneurs in history — Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, and Bill Gates, the chairman and co-founder of Microsoft – were among the people interviewed for the film, according to a person with knowledge of the project who wasn’t authorized to discuss details about it.

Lesley Chilcott, a producer of the documentaries “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and “An Inconvenient Truth,” is making the film.

via A New Group Aims to Make Programming Cool – NYTimes.com.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Don Davis (@gnu_don)  |  January 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    How might one respond to such a film and all it represents?

    On a positive note, it seems that filmmakers and the organization would like to affect change and increase participation in CS. These are certainly laudable goals. A few questions and concerns do readily present themselves however.

    1. There is much celebration that these are the same filmmakers who made “Waiting for Superman.” This is problematic as “Waiting for Superman” was more propaganda than fact. It misrepresented the benefits of charter schools and the problems faced by public education (See Diane Ravitch’s discussion of this at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-charter-schools/)
    2. This film and correlate efforts may be problematically rooted in myopic assumption of middle class values (see Brookfield (2005) for a more general discussion and Varma (2006, 2007, 2010) for more CS specific discussions).
    a. It seems that the assumption is that CS underrepresentation occurs because CS is perceived as not cool – while this may be true for some students (e.g. white women at an elite university), it does a disservice to the minority students underrepresented in CS and the challenges they face (see Margolis, Goode, Holme, & Nao, 2008; Varma, 2007).
    b. Rather than combatting uncoolness myths – it might be more beneficial to make CS personally and culturally relevant (Goode, 2008; Ladson-Billings, 1995) and show what CS is and show how it can help students support their families and communities (Kuperminc, Darnell, & Alvarez-Jimenez, 2008; Suárez-Orozco, Darbes, Dias, & Sutin, 2011).
    c. The film may actually be counterproductive. It seems that the great motivators in the film are affluent white men – Gates and Zuckerberg. This may serve to reify rather than counter any sense of CS alienation students may have (Betz & Sekaquaptewa, 2012; Cheryan, Plaut, Davies, & Steele, 2009).
    3. Though it might be entertaining to have celebrities such as Gates, Zuckerberg, and other CS celebrities at the helm of this venture – might it not be more prudent to have individuals who have actively and meaningfully worked to combat underrepresentation in CS? For example – Mark Guzdial who has extensive classroom and research experience promoting diversity in CS and working with diverse student groups; Roli Varma who has extensively chronicled minority underrepresentation in CS, Joanna Goode who has sought to make relevance understandable to CS educators, Margolis who continually expands and refines research into the causes of CS underrepresentation, Hug, Thiry, Tedford or anyone else from CAHSI, or perhaps someone from Black Girls Code.

    Betz, D. E., & Sekaquaptewa, D. (2012). My Fair Physicist? Feminine Math and Science Role Models Demotivate Young Girls. Social Psychological and Personality Science. doi:10.1177/1948550612440735
    Brookfield, S. D. (2005). The power of critical theory: Liberating adult learning and teaching. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.
    Cheryan, S., Plaut, V. C., Davies, P. G., & Steele, C. M. (2009). Ambient belonging: How stereotypical cues impact gender participation in computer science. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(6), 1045–1060. doi:10.1037/a0016239
    Goode, J. (2008). Increasing diversity in K-12 computer science: Strategies from the field. SIGCSE Bulletin, 40(1), 362–366.
    Kuperminc, G. P., Darnell, A. J., & Alvarez-Jimenez, A. (2008). Parent involvement in the academic adjustment of Latino middle and high school youth: Teacher expectations and school belonging as mediators. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 469–483.
    Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159–165.
    Margolis, J., Goode, J., Holme, J. J., & Nao, K. (2008). Stuck in the shallow end: Education, race, and computing. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
    Suárez-Orozco, M. M., Darbes, T., Dias, S. I., & Sutin, M. (2011). Migrations and Schooling. Annual Review of Anthropology, 40(1), 311–328. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-111009-115928
    Varma, R. (2006). Making computer science minority-friendly. Commun.ACM, 49(2), 129–134. doi:10.1145/1113034.1113041
    Varma, R. (2007). Women in computing: The role of geek culture. Science as Culture, 16(4), 359–376. doi:10.1080/09505430701706707
    Varma, R. (2010). Why so few women enroll in computing? Gender and ethnic differences in students’ perception. Computers Science Education, 20, 301–316.

    Reply
  • 2. Tinker  |  February 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I’m quite excited to see Lesley Chilcott work his magic again. The subject, at least, sound really interesting.

    Reply

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