“As an educator, equity in computer science and technology has been one of my core values. In my pedagogical practice, I define equity as meeting the needs of marginalized students in ways that raise them up, build their confidence, and lead them towards their personal achievement.“
“As an educator, equity in computer science and technology has been one of my core values. In my pedagogical practice, I define equity as meeting the needs of marginalized students in ways that raise them up, build their confidence, and lead them towards their personal achievement,” shared CSTA Equity Fellow Megan Bowen, a Technology Coordinator and Integration Specialist at Salem Academy Charter School in Salem, Massachusetts.
To make equitable opportunities, Bowen adapts course material, individual assignments, and classes so her students can engage with her as an educator and as their own independent learners. “I value the importance of developing and bolstering student confidence so that they are able to access a variety of learning opportunities,” said Bowen. “Equity must always incorporate advocating for my students’ needs and creating materials that represent who they are in the world.”
Bowen shared an example of working with an 8th-grade female student of color on an IEP. This student struggles with anxiety, and Bowen worked with this student to develop an alternative plan to complete assignments in Film and Video class.
“Developing innovative ways for her to participate without necessarily being on film, created equitable learning and engagement opportunities for her,” said Bowen. “Through this, the student was not only able to successfully complete all requirements for the class but found enjoyment in the material and even overcame some of her anxiety by casting herself as the lead role for one of her very own short films. To me, as an educator, equity ultimately means that we must find ways to allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and to create understanding in ways that make the most sense to them while building their self-esteem as lifelong learners.”
In addition to her teaching, she runs two after-school computer science competition teams for young women. Her high school team participates in an app-building competition called Technovation, and she also runs an all-girls robotics team for middle schoolers.
“Providing young women with after-school opportunities to explore computer science increases the likelihood that they will take a computer science course in high school and creates a measurable benchmark for success,” shares Bowen. “For example, one young woman that participated in these afterschool programs continued on to take all of the computer science courses I offered, complete an APCSP independent study, and assisted with the robotics club and makerspace. She was the first student in our school to take the APCSP test, passing with a 4, and starts college in the fall majoring in computer science.”
Bowen finds that engagement and achievement often go hand in hand, and has been the case for many of her students of color with disabilities.
“I developed a 3D Design curriculum that engages students in real-world uses of 3D printing. Living in Salem, MA we are surrounded by water, yet most of my students of color that are on IEPs have never been fishing,” said Bowen.”In the course students research, design, prototype, and 3D print fishing lures. Student engagement increased by providing these students with access to computer science tools and fishing equipment, incentivizing them with real-world experiences to test designs on a fishing trip, and creating a classroom culture where failure was acceptable. This directly translated to increased achievement and success.”
“Creating opportunities for marginalized students to access and engage with computer science is at the core of how I develop curriculum,” she continued. “By utilizing content that is representative of my students, integrating experiential learning experiences, and providing extracurricular opportunities for my students I strive to disrupt the existing inequalities within computer science and increase access, engagement, achievement, and success.”
Creating partnerships with communities and organizations has always come naturally to Bowen. From collaborating with technology professionals at the White House to working with state departments to help students learn new skills, these partnerships have been a key part of how she tackles inequalities in computer science education.
“In 2015 I was accepted into the White House LGBTQ Tech and Innovation Summit. I collaborated with professionals to identify needs in technology and computer science as they relate to the LGBTQ community,” shared Bowen. “My team began developing a computer science mentoring network for folks who identify as transgender. I was the team leader for Education and Training. The ideas, planning, and collaboration from this project eventually turned into what is now Angelica Ross’ “Trans Tech Social Enterprises”.”
Bowen is the only technology and computer science educator in her school district. She applied to become a CSTA Equity Fellow to connect with those dedicated to creating equity in computer science to collaborate with and bounce ideas off of.
“I am incredibly interested to learn what other folks are doing to increase equity and access within their schools or communities,” shared Bowen. “Because I am relatively new to teaching computer science as a course, I have many questions regarding best practices and pedagogy. I especially want to develop into a more effective and equitable distance/hybrid learning computer science teacher. Throughout the Fellowship, I hope to learn how other fellows and mentors alike are integrating computer science seamlessly into all courses and how they are making computer science more experiential.”
Bowen also hopes to expand her knowledge of the issues other students across the country are facing and how those barriers compare with those faced by her students.
“I hope to gain a better understanding of the myriad barriers that are impacting students. With such opportunities, I also hope to learn what these students would like to see in a computer science course so that I can begin to implement necessary changes in my classes and pedagogical strategies while continuing to engage marginalized students. Furthermore, I also hope to learn a variety of strategies and approaches for not only recruiting different marginalized groups of students to take computer science courses but to also prevent their attrition from the field. I wholeheartedly believe that learning from other people’s experiences truly helps to inform my teaching practices, and would be a wonderful asset offered throughout the fellowship.”
You can learn more about Bowen, this year’s cohort, and the CSTA Equity Fellowship program here.