Posts tagged ‘BPC’
Nice piece about the Makerspace that Ben Shapiro helped create to draw Haitian girls into STEM. Ben’s quote is great — it’s about changing attitudes and identities, not just teaching tech.
The tools, computers and gadgets in Nedlam’s Workshop might imply that the Makerspace’s main purpose is to teach students technical skills, but that’s just one benefit it provides.
“At the heart of it, it’s not so much about any specific technology as how we can develop kids’ identity as people who can do this kind of stuff,” Shapiro said. “And how we can change the perception of teachers and administrators in the process.”
Demographically, young white males populate most Makerspaces in the United States, but Nedlam’s Workshop is used mostly by Haitian girls–recent U.S. immigrants, many of whom do not speak English fluently, and struggle with traditional classes. Nedlam’s Workshop offers an alternative mode of learning and expression.
Our second RESPECT paper is by Barbara Ericson and Tom McKlin. Barb has been developing this cool intervention based on the Texas-based Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP) from AP Strategies (see paper about that work) and Betsy DiSalvo’s Glitch (see blog post here). Barb is offering financial incentives to African American students to encourage them to take advantage of additional learning opportunities (e.g., attend webinars and face-to-face workshops), and then pass the AP CS exam. NMSI has also offered grants to states to replicate the Texas APIP project (e.g., blog post at NMSI).
Barb has published on Project Rise Up 4 CS at SIGCSE (see my blog post on that paper). This new paper, “Helping African American Students Pass Advanced Placement Computer Science: A Tale of Two States,” describes Barb’s efforts to replicate the project in another state, and Tom’s efforts to measure what happened.
The bottomline is that in both states where she tried this, the participants had significant improvements in attitudes towards computing from pre to post. Probably the most important attitude change is that the participants had a significant increase in their perceived ability to pass the exam, and some of the students said that they couldn’t have passed the AP CS exam without Project Rise Up 4 CS. Both states had their highest-ever African American AP CS pass rates, though it would be hard to ever make a causal argument that this is due to Project Rise Up 4 CS.
The significant contribution of the paper is the deep understanding of what the project meant to the students, based on interviews. Students talked about their classes and teachers, what worked in Project Rise Up 4 CS, and how the project helped their confidence and knowledge. Barb used undergraduate students to host the webinars and workshops, who served as “near-peer” mentors and role models for the students. Those near-peer mentors were a critical piece in making Project Rise Up work.
Barb’s paper is being highlighted as one of four “Exemplary” papers at RESPECT.
On Friday, August 14, the first RESPECT conference will be held in Charlotte, NC — the first international meeting of the IEEE Special Technical Community on Broadening Participation with technical co-sponsorship by the IEEE Computer Society (see conference website here). RESPECT stands for Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology.
We have two papers in RESPECT which I’ll summarize in a couple of blog posts. I’m less familiar with IEEE rules on paper referencing and publishing, so I’ll make a copy available as soon as I get the rules sorted out.
Miranda Parker has just finished her first year as a Human-Centered Computing PhD student at Georgia Tech, working with me. She’s done terrific work in her first year which I hope to be talking more about as she publishes. At RESPECT 2015, she’ll be presenting her first paper as a PhD student, “A critical research synthesis of privilege in computing education.”
Miranda defines privilege as:
Privilege is an unearned, unasked-for advantage gained because of the way society views an aspect of a student’s identity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and language.
Her short paper is a review of the literature on how we measure privilege, where its impact has been measured in other STEM fields, and where there are holes in the computing education literature. She’s using studies of privilege in other STEM fields to help define new research directions in computing education. It’s just the sort of contribution you’d want a first year PhD student to make. She’s surveying literature that we don’t reference much, and using that survey to identify new directions — for her, as well as the field.
Maria Klawe gets a lot of attention for promoting women in CS at Harvey Mudd College, but she’s the College President. Closer to the on-the-ground action is Ran Libeskind-Hadas who is the CS Department Chair there. In the post below, he lays out the argument for everyone taking CS in College.
I’m encouraged by an increasing number of innovative introductory courses that provide students with these rich experiences. And, I’m very excited to see students voting for these courses with their feet. At my institution, Harvey Mudd College, we developed a set of introductory courses that are not only required for all Harvey Mudd students but are now immensely popular among non-majors at our four sister institutions in the Claremont Colleges consortium. At a college of 800 students, we are teaching introductory computer science to all of our first-year students, regardless of their ultimate major. And, we are attracting hundreds of students each from our sister colleges in Claremont. They are literature, economics, and sociology majors – among many others. And Harvey Mudd does not have a monopoly on innovative introductory courses. A number of other institutions including the University of Washington, Harvard, and others have pioneered their own successful courses in a similar spirit.
I predict that if we did this study with CS teachers, we’d find the same result. The belief that CS is for males and not for females is deeply ingrained in the perceptions of our field. Kahneman would tell us that it’s part of our System 1 thinking (see NYTimes Book Review). What do you think teachers would draw if asked to “draw a computer scientist“? I predict that the gender bias that favors males as computer scientists would be greater for post-secondary teachers than for secondary or elementary teachers. Most secondary school CS teachers that I’ve met are sensitive to issues of gender diversity in computing, and they actively encourage their female students. Most post-secondary CS teachers with whom I’ve worked are not sensitized to issues of women in computing and have not changed how they teach to improve gender diversity (see example here).
In the study, teachers graded the math tests of 11-year-olds and, on average, the scores were lower for girls. But, when different teachers graded the same tests anonymously, the girls performed far better (out-performing the boys in many cases.)
Dr. Edith Sand, one of the researchers, told American Friends of Tel Aviv University, that the issue wasn’t overt and obvious sexism, but “unconscious discouragement.”
The study goes on to say that the gender biases held by elementary school teachers have an “asymmetric effect” on their students — the boys’ performance benefits and girls’ performance suffers based on the teacher’s biases. Boys do well because teachers believe they will, girls don’t because teachers believe they won’t.
I like the recognition of the importance of learning to code in this piece, but not the sense of privilege around it. “Even” people who get into incredibly expensive schools and want to focus on “ideas” should learn to code. It’s not really beneath you to learn to code, the author is telling us. Even the elites should! Computing for all!
It’s tempting but irresponsible to say students should teach themselves about venture capital firms, iOS, UI/UX and product design. When students can’t find the 25th hour in their days to do so, most will choose to focus on their (reinvent-the-wheel) classes. As ex-Snapchat COO Emily White says, “Our education system tends to train kids to be right rather than to learn.” This isn’t okay when we need more engineers in Silicon Valley.
We must not neglect the merits of technical skills in the conception of the “idea person.” What the 60-year old entrepreneur and others of his generation—the people in control of the education we receive—don’t realize is this: For college students dreaming of becoming unicorns in Silicon Valley, being an “idea person” is not liberating at all. Being able to design and develop is liberating because that lets you make stuff.
I agree with the author of this recent NYTimes post. Women do seem to be more attracted to socially meaningful work than males. I don’t think that’s the complete solution, though. We have evidence that women are more likely to pursue studies in computer science if encouraged (see Joanne Cohoon’s work) and if they feel a sense of “belonging” with the department (see our work in Georgia). If we want more women in engineering, we have to think about recruitment (as this article does) and retention (as other work does).
Why are there so few female engineers? Many reasons have been offered: workplace sexism, a lack of female role models, stereotypes regarding women’s innate technical incompetency, the difficulties of combining tech careers with motherhood. Proposed fixes include mentor programs, student support groups and targeted recruitment efforts. Initiatives have begun at universities and corporations, including Intel’s recent $300 million diversity commitment.
But maybe one solution is much simpler, and already obvious. An experience here at the University of California, Berkeley, where I teach, suggests that if the content of the work itself is made more societally meaningful, women will enroll in droves. That applies not only to computer engineering but also to more traditional, equally male-dominated fields like mechanical and chemical engineering.