How does Engaging Curriculum Attract Students to Computing?

Excerpts from an article from the American National Center for Women & Information Technology shows some interesting statistics. Educational researchers emphasize the importance of linking educational materials and curricular programs to students’ existing knowledge and experiences. When class syllabi list topics and assignments that focus on unfamiliar concepts with limited, if any, relationship to a student’s life experience or interests, she or he is unlikely to take that class. Under the existing educational policy of election, computing is rarely required in secondary school.  This means that students are likely to have a narrow and inaccurate view of what IT study involves, what careers are possible, or what kind of people “do” IT.  Given the very small proportion of females who study computing in high school, this means that females are less likely to choose IT in college. The challenge to educators at all levels is to develop engaging assignments and curriculum that can appeal to a variety of students with different learning styles, interests, socio-cultural backgrounds, and abilities while maintaining the rigor of the discipline.  Putting the concepts of computing in appealing contexts and building on existing competence can reduce the barriers of entry and level the playing field for those with limited experience. Research suggests that women are more interested in using computing as a tool for accomplishing a goal than they are in the workings of the machine. For example, certain IT instructional programs enroll higher proportions of women than do others. Data from a fiveuniversity study showed that women’s average representation was lower in computer science than it was in management information systems, informatics, instructional systems technology, and information science/studies, though it was still below parity in these fields. Similarly, reports suggest that women’s participation in computing might increase when media applications are used for teaching fundamental concepts. Most educational research shows that interventions that are better for women are also better for men.  For example, collaborative learning environments lead to improved learning outcomes for all students, not just women.  And bridge courses make it possible for a much larger and more diverse pool of students to “try out” computing, beyond those who elected to take computer science in high school.

This means that students are likely to have a narrow and inaccurate view of what IT study involves, what careers are possible, or what kind of people “do” IT.  Given the very small proportion of females who study computing in high school, this means that females are less likely to choose IT in college

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