Through my work with some of California’s leading computer science advocacy and research organizations, such as Kapor Center, CSforCA, and CSforAll, I saw a clear connection to the fact that multiple stakeholders are needed to have successful outcomes in equitable computer science education. Through further research, I came across Jean Ryoo’s work. Ryoo is the Director of Research of the Computer Science Equity Project at UCLA Center X. In one of her journal publications, Ryoo (2015) affirms that “It takes a village supporting inquiry- and equity-oriented computer science pedagogy through a professional learning community.” (p. 8). This was the initial reason I started a countywide Computer Science Equity Network to learn from a powerful group of diverse educational stakeholders to address the computer science barriers present at the school districts.
It is this that led to my belief that computer science equity can be achieved by one powerful action – to involve multiple stakeholders, whether at the county level, district level, or school level, in creating access and opportunities in computer science for all students, especially students who have traditionally been underserved.
So, where can each educational stakeholder begin? Here are some pointers from four key educational stakeholders, including administrators, counselors, educators, and families.
Administrators should first be thinking about their computer science equity vision which highlights the collective district or school values. The CS for All Visions toolkit is an excellent beginning to this journey. In addition, the CSforAll Script training is being facilitated nationwide. It is a great way to participate in a collaborative visioning activity to help with creating a computer science implementation plan. Following this, meaningful computer science goals can be created. Goals or actions might include carefully evaluating current computer science programs and courses, thinking about ways to enhance computer science professional development for educators, and involving a stakeholder team in decisions around achieving computer science equity. At San Bernardino County, we hold a quarterly network meeting that allows for stakeholders to come together to support each other in achieving their district goals. Meeting participants have thoughtful discussions around the CSforCA Administrators Guide. These types of network meetings or community of practice groups can easily be replicated within districts and county offices and are impactful in guiding the work around achieving computer science equity.
“The computer science equity guide has been instrumental in giving our tech coaches a firm foundation in where to start in integrating computer science. It allows everybody to speak the same language which allows us to share one common message amongst our community.” – Nyree Clark, District Administer, Computer Science Equity Network participant, Colton, CA
Computer Science Equity Network Meeting, August 2021
Counselors are vital for recruiting students to consider and/or take computer science classes. Strong efforts should be made to recruit students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the field, such as females, African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, women, English learners, LGBTQIA students, and students with disabilities. NCWIT Counselors for Computing offers some great tips on recruitment efforts. Check out the 10 ways to Engage School Counselors as Allies in the Effort to Increase Student Success in Computer Science Education and Careers.
“Successful matriculation through K-12 to post-secondary education is multi-faceted. If we can pique their interests early we can set students on a path, perhaps, that they never considered. One class can lead to a pathway which may lead to a major or possible career. As a counselor, it is not only my responsibility but my privilege to support my students along this journey.” – Noaveyar, District Lead Counselor, Rialto
Educators are at the heart of computer science success. Students from the early years should have opportunities to engage in computer science activities as simple as beginning coding or computational thinking activities. Organizations such as CSTA, code.org, microbit.org, and CS Unplugged offer some simple resources to begin the journey in this area. Having a network of educators to collaborate with through CSTA Chapter meetings or other computer science teacher groups can be a helpful kind of support.
“Participating in the micro:bit pathfinders event and the Computer Science Equity Network has empowered me with the knowledge and tools to be able to create a CS unit of study that leverages students’ sociocultural identities, provides a positive CS learning experience and encourages a sense of belonging in the field of CS.” – Zahra Razi, Math/Computer Science/STEAM Educator, Wayne Ruble Middle School, CA
Attending conferences and professional development to enhance inclusive and culturally responsive computer science pedagogy was essential to positive student CS experiences. One example of this is the Exploring Computer Science curriculum professional development. I personally experienced this high-quality culturally responsive CS training and am convinced of the impact this curriculum and training will have on student access and engagement, particularly with its focus on valuing diversity and inclusion within CS.
One final thought for educators is integrating CS into the existing curriculum. CSTA will soon be hosting a CS Across the Curriculum event, which will explore this in greater detail. At San Bernardino County, we also held a bi-weekly “CS Snacks” webinar series led by California-based computer science administrators Dr. Emily Thomforde and Dr. Sharisa Chan. We invited educators to participate in CS activities tied to content areas. See CS Snacks Website for some concrete examples.
Virtual Summer Microbit Infosystems Pathfinders Event, Summer 2020, San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools
Bresnihan et al. (2021) recently published an article stating that parental involvement is key to getting students interested in computer science activities, particularly informal activities offered during out-of-school hours (see full journal article). An example of a successful family engagement event is the recent virtual Cyber IE Kids camp led by San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools and Riverside County Office of Education, CA. The event included over a hundred families engaging in virtual digital escape room activities to raise cyber security awareness. School districts can easily replicate events like this, transpiring to a heightened awareness of CS experiences, pathways, and careers – see Cyber IE 2021 Digital Escape Room Experience Website (Created by Dr. Emily Thomforde, Computer Science Coordinator, California Department of Education)
Final Thoughts and Hopes for the Future of Computer Science
It is important to note that Coordinators, Directors, Library Media Specialists, board members, community members, and many more individuals involved in education also play a large part in creating an equitable and inclusive computer science implementation plan. As you continue being that computer science change agent, one that is open to working as a team, I leave you with my favorite quote: “Be the Change you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi). It certainly takes an army, but it also takes you to keep that ball rolling.
About the Author
Sonal Patel is the Digital Learning Innovation Coordinator at San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. She supports educators, coaches, and administrators in active professional learning, grounded in solid pedagogy and centered around digital accessibility and inclusion. Sonal has been leading county and state-wide efforts in broadening K-12 access and participation in Computer Science. As a recently appointed member of SCALE-CA (Supporting Computing Access, Leadership, and Equity in California), Sonal aims to build leadership capacity in computer science. Sonal is also the co-founder of the Inland Empire Computer Science Equity Task Force, a collaboration of multiple education stakeholders who are committed to the vision of providing a rigorous and inclusive CS Education.