Computer Science Gender Gap Prevails in Education, Says Girls Who Code Founder

Reshma Saujani first saw the gender gap in computer science while visiting classrooms on the campaign trail in 2010 as the first female Indian-American candidate for Congress.

“I had seen dozens of boys clamoring to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg and I thought to myself ‘Where are the girls?’ and this question, quite frankly, became quite an obsession because it just didn’t make sense,” Saujani said.

Women make up nearly half of America’s workforce, yet remain underwhelmingly represented in fields such as electrical engineering and computer coding, said Saujani, who spoke Sunday as part of the Purdue University Northwest Sinai Forum series. Unable to unseat an incumbent that year for Congress, Saujani said her life took vastly different turn two years later, in 2012, when she founded Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology fields. To a packed room, Saujani admitted that she, herself, doesn’t know how to code. But she is on this stage because, as a daughter of Ugandan refugee parents who lives were “literally saved by this country,” she is deeply passionate about providing opportunities to young woman, especially those less fortunate. Just 10,000 girls graduated with computer science degrees in 2017, and only a fraction of that consisted of black or Latina women, Saujani said. Saujani said we live in a society where girls are taught from a young age to be perfect, rather than risk-takers willing to fail, and that math and science is not for them.

“For those of you who are coders in the room, you know that coding, it’s an integral process,” she said. “It’s frustrating. It’s imperfect. It is an act of failure and it turns out that when you teach girls to code, you actually them how to be brave.”

Six years in, Girls Who Code has reached nearly 90,000 girls of all backgrounds through after-school programs, summer immersion sessions, school clubs and shorter two-week sessions to expose middle and high school girls to computer coding. Her initiative of achieving gender parity in computer science by 2027 is not without its challenges, she said. Computer science courses are not mandatory in states like Indiana, but should be, Saujani said, while one-third of classrooms across the U.S. still do not have internet access. During a question-and-answer session, Purdue senior Melissa Fitzgerald pointed out the gender discrimination experienced as she seeks internships in computer technology, including at a big tech company in Chicago. The 23-year-old from Chesterton asked Saujani how girls can combat gender discrimination while hunting for jobs. Saujani answered by saying many “Girls Who Code” alumna surveyed about times they were passed over for internships and jobs, in favor of men, have unfortunate similar stories of rejection. “No one gives up power and nobody certainly gives up power easily,” she said, adding that male-led big tech companies have to realize they are part of the problem and that they must change hiring practices. After the Sinai Forum, Fitzgerald said Saujani’s words inspired her. Opportunities like “Girls Who Code” didn’t exist for her when she was in middle and high school, she said. Fitzgerald said she didn’t stay silent about the tech company’s discriminatory practices and emailed them — not to be reconsidered for the internship, but to withdraw her application to make them aware of their discriminatory hiring practices in hopes women of future generations do not have the same experience. “I had to say something because I imagine as they hire on new interns, there will be other girls applying for this same position one day,” she said. Saujani said as natural healers and caregivers, women need to be pioneers in the computer science field, become role models for the generations ahead and inspire politicians and policy. One “Girls Who Code” alumna designed an application called ReThink, to protect children and teens from cyberbullying, she said. Another student said obtained a patent, at age 17, for technology to combat gun violence.

“We need that type of leadership. Especially in a time when our leaders are acting like children and our children are acting like leaders,” she said.

She asked parents and teachers in the room to encourage young women into coding and other tech fields. “The last jobs left will be humans telling computers what to do,” she said. Saujani is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Yale Law School. She is also the author of two books, “Girls Who Code: Learn to Code” and “Change the World,” the first in a 13-book series about girls and coding, and “Women Who Don’t Wait In Line,” in which she advocates for a new model of female leadership focused on embracing risk and failure, promoting mentorship and sponsorship, and boldly charting your own course — personally and professionally, according to Purdue. Upcoming forums: The Sinai forum will welcome Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa on Nov. 11 presentation titled “Inside 2018: Understanding the Midterm Elections.” Costas covers White House, Congress and election campaigns. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and holds a master’s degree in politics from the University of Cambridge, Cost is also a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. For its fifth and final speaker, the Sinai Forum will host Lou Holtz, a former Notre Dame football coach, on Dec. 2. Holtz is one of the most successfully football coaches of all-time and is now considered among the greatest speaking legends in the U.S. today, according to Purdue.

Read the original article here

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My school added a K-12 Computer Science Curriculum; your school should too.

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Another teachers perspective…

Subjects and classes in school have been relatively static for quite a few years. Every student equates school with Science, History, English, Math and often a Foreign Language. It is time we add another increasingly relevant subject to the typical repertoire of school… Computer Science.

While some people consider Computer Science (CS) as a sub-topic of other subjects, this idea only serves to decrease the required emphasis and attention that CS needs for students in a dynamic world.

 

As the world becomes increasingly more digital, a strong understanding of computation, networking, and systems interactions (hardware and software) becomes that much more important to students in future opportunities.

This post will cover topics that emphasize the importance of your school having a dedicated Computer Science curriculum, essential elements of the experience, and resources that have helped my school deploy a K-12 curriculum that supports all students on their CS journey.

Why does your school need Computer Science?

Answering this question will help you focus the implementation of your program. While the direct benefits in my environment will be different than yours, there is still value to be derived. With the digital world increasing its reach, the potential for students is much more vast each day. Becoming a digital native will open opportunities for students as soon as they start learning information. When considering the logistics associated with your future CS program, it is necessary to consider the end goals.

  • What do we want our students to be able to do?
  • What skills do we want our students to have?
  • How do these skills align with our school’s mission/vision?

By answering the questions above, you will begin to see the required elements of your curriculum, ultimately shaping the instructional method and eventually the required resources.

Some sample answers to these questions could be…

We want our students to be able to create a personal website using HTML and CSS to showcase their best work as a digital portfolio.

We want our students to be able to create programs that help analyze data for their science research projects and share their results online.

We want our students to be able to produce creative content that can be displayed alongside traditional art.

Our school goal was to foster the development of computation and sequencing skills for the creation of products to address problems.

Photo by True Agency on Unsplash

What do you need to achieve your goals?

Once you have your goals identified, you can now pursue the process by which you will achieve those goals. Just as with the implementation of any other area of content, the questions are essentially the same. This means that you will need to consider the logistics of WHEN instruction will occur, to WHOM instruction will be provided, WHAT topics and resources will be taught, and HOW lessons and information will be provided.

To Whom is Computer Science Taught?

The answer is short and simple… Everyone! While there are certain topics that are appropriate for certain ages, computational thinking is applicable for students of all ages and abilities. We have taken much time to consider the breadth and depth of information that is appropriate for each grade level. We will talk more about that in the “What” section of this post.

When is Computer Science Taught?

Being a K-12 institution, my school had to handle the WHEN question depending on the division, with the questions of WHAT, and HOW being consistent threads throughout the entire experience. Students in lower grades (K-5) have a devoted class once per week. This allows for a clear separation of information, just like transitioning between Math and English. Creating the understanding that Computer Science is a REAL subject, helps students understand its importance. With a sound foundation in sequencing and computational thinking, middle school students invest 20% of their science instructional time to complete instruction based in gaining proficiency in computer programming. While it is not ideal to take away from another subject, the ability to create a new course that requires new teachers was not feasible. At the high school, courses were added to embrace the skills learned in lower courses and extend the opportunities to apply them to created content. We have added two courses; Introduction to Computer Science and AP Computer Science Principles. Each of these courses allows students to engage in the variety of ways learned skills can be used to solve complex, real-world problems.

How is Computer Science Taught?

With a focus on experiential education, my school seeks to create opportunities for students to see knowledge in action. Information is best seen in its “natural habitat,” creating an understanding of the authenticity of the application. With this in mind, we wanted Computer Science to be presented in a similar manner. With a focus on product creation for solving real problems, students are able to construct their understanding from evaluating models (products and applications) and identifying the major elements of applicable solutions. By showcasing what a program actually looks like or what it can actually do, students start to see what elements of computer programming allow certain things to happen. Whether this is instilling the importance of sequential operations in the K-2 curriculum, the link between programs and action in the 3–5 curriculum, creation of automated systems in the 6–8 curriculum, or the understanding of complex systems in the 9–12 curriculum; emphasis is placed on student experience with, and evaluation of, authentic products in an effort to learn.

What is Taught in Computer Science?

As mentioned above, much consideration was taken to create a curriculum that combines authentic experience with skill development toward the ability to solve complex problems with computer science. Grades K-2 focus on sequencing and computational thinking with unplugged challenges, while students in Grades 3–4 apply those previously learned skills by programming Lego Mindstorm Robots to complete skills and challenges. In an effort to aid the transition to the Middle School programming curriculum, Grade 5 students work with Arduino Uno kits to manipulate and create lines of code to change the action of the Arduino boards. To further the depth of knowledge with programming languages, students in Grades 6–8 work within different themes such as; data, security, gaming, and creativity to create products using the programming language Python 3. This language was selected for its simple readability and syntax, making it a perfect beginner language that actually has broad and powerful applications beyond the classroom. To cap the K-12 experience for students, we offer two high school courses, each with a different focus. While partially aligned, students taking one or both courses will derive value in the demystification of how computers work. The Introduction to Computer Science course focuses on the basic structures that allow technology to function and thrive, whereas the AP Computer Science course takes a deeper look at HOW each of those structures operates and asks students to create products that optimize and/or utilize their knowledge of the system to solve a problem.

What Resources Should Be Used?

This is the trickiest of the implementation questions due to the fact that schools are very different when it comes to demographics, access, and available expenses. The most important idea to consider is access to devices for student creation, whether that is for research or programming. This will influence which curriculum is right for your environment.

When considering the type of curriculum that was to be used, I first encountered the challenge that there were no K-12 computer science standards (this was 3 years ago). This presented the challenge of having to create the instructional and curricular goals for each grade level. I was able to start to investigate which resources would be required to facilitate growth toward those goals.

As far as the landscape of computer resources available to students, my school has three computer labs that can be used for K-8 students and a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program at the high school. This meant that I needed to consider how to balance computer access with unplugged instruction, both of which are valuable elements of a well rounded CS program.

In order to provide sound instruction for all students, taking into account the limited access to computers for all students, we opted to create a curriculum of our own and find resources (mostly free) that helped deliver the experience. For example, we use the Lego Mindstorm robot kits as a means for learning about programmed movement, but also utilize these kits in a way not intended by the manufacturer, but allows for creativity. The middle school python curriculum uses the web-based IDE called repl.it and lessons created from Python For Everyone. All of these resources are free or open source, making them ideal for scaling when the program grows.

By: CodeforChildren

The high school courses utilize Code.org curricula Computer Science Discoveries and Computer Science Principles. Due to the fact that each student has a device at the high school, we can use the simulations within the curriculum without having to schedule a computer lab. As with other grade levels, the Code.org curriculum is free and quite robust given its ease of access. The instructional approach encourages students to engage in activities where they can identify rules and concepts that lead them to conclusions about the lesson’s subject.

How is the new subject being received?

This is where I am glad to report that we have received resounding support for the addition of the classes across the curriculum. By articulating the value of each topic at the grade level and its alignment with future courses we have been able to show the value of these ideas immediately and their benefits in preparing students for a dynamic world. My name is Andrew Julian and I am a teacher of science, computer science, and technology. I have a passion for considering how technology can positively impact a classroom and the education of all students.

 

Read the original article here.

Hawaii to bring Computer Science to every high school

This week, the Hawaii legislature passed a bill that would expand access to computer science across the state. The legislation would require the Hawaii Department of Education to develop and implement a statewide computer science curriculum plan for K-12 public school students, ensure that each public high school offers at least one computer science course, and provides $500,000 to begin to develop and implement computer science teacher development programs with the Department of Education. And just yesterday, the Hawaii State Board of Education adopted new statewide standards for computer science education. Governor David Ige joined the Governors’ Partnership for K-12 Computer Science, stating his support in bringing computer science opportunities to students across Hawaii. In joining the partnership, governors pledge to prioritize computer science education in their states and through introducing computer science education in schools, state leaders are making an investment in their students’ futures. This legislation heads to the Governor’s desk this week where he is expected to sign it. Read the original article here