Posted by Cindy Wong and Todd Lash on February 26, 2020
Posted by Cindy Wong and Todd Lash on Feb 26, 2020
“What is the purpose of education?” “What could it be?”
“What is the purpose of education?”
“What could it be?”
Inspired by a recent blog post by Dr. Ilana Horn and as the first entry in a series of articles for The Voice authored by the inaugural cohort of CSTA Equity Fellows, we open the new year by asking these questions of the computer science education community.
“What is the purpose of education?”
“What could it be?”
As educators and advocates for equitable, inclusive computer science education, how do we answer these questions? Before we can get at these answers, we must address the fact that whole populations of children are “in the margins” and yet, as Dr. Kamau Bobb so eloquently stated at the event, “To Code and Beyond” at Cornell Tech this past January, “They did not choose to sit there.” As we think about the possibilities of expanded computer science education and education in general in this new year, we acknowledge that the marginalization of whole populations of students is not passive. It is active. Someone is doing it. The same goes for the opposite, in that one cannot passively de-marginalize or center students. If one cares about equity then one must come to it actively and purposefully. So, let us ask, “what could be” if we stop admiring the problem (as Dr. Maya Israel would say) and actively work toward centering equity in CS education?
What could be? If we acknowledge that we uphold inequitable systems when we reside in these systems passively?
What could be? If we, in addition to the difficult work of understanding our personal biases and prejudices, work toward understanding and highlighting how institutions serve to uphold the culture and mentality that actively disenfranchises our most vulnerable students?
What could be? If teachers were more intentional with their work in creating equity-based CS education, collaborating with coworkers, making our students co-creators, and seeking necessary resources that are rooted in and address their students’ cultures and interests?
What could be? If teachers built classroom cultures of open dialogue, showing students that making mistakes is part of learning and that appropriately supported productive struggle can lead to success?
What could be? If we challenged the enormous tech companies who help fund much of CS education and who have greater fiscal, political and social capital than many small nations, to really invest in equity and education in general?
What could be? If our wonderful community of masterful sharers focused on sharing practices, resources and strategies to make our computer science classrooms more equitable to ensure that all of our students are successful?
We can and should have hope for the future of equitable CS education. Yet, both individually and collectively, we can do more than just hope.
We can actively work toward providing students with real opportunities. So we ask again, “what could be”? What could be possible if we shared a mission of equity-centered CS education and had tools to help us work toward that vision?
The partnership that we (Cindy and Todd) formed for our work with the CSTA Equity Fellowship stemmed from our passion to encourage more educators to center equity in computer science education efforts. As we build our partnership in this mission, we are engaged in a project to curate and provide for the community, strategies shared by other educators who have developed and used equity-focused CS education practices through trial and error in their own classrooms. We look forward to sharing our work with you at the CSTA Annual Conference this summer and hearing about the work you do to make CS education more equitable. As we move into what promises to be another year of growth for CS education, please remember that we have the power to make change happen. We can empower all of our students. We can provide a better world for their future and the future of generations to come, but first, we have some work to do.
About the Authors
Todd Lash is currently a doctoral student in Special Education (UIUC) and a research associate at the Creative Technology Research Lab (University of Florida). Todd’s research interests include increasing the equity in and access to high-quality computer science education for all students. He studies the integration of computer science into K-5 curricula, instructional strategies that address the challenges faced by struggling learners in CSed and how Universal Design For Learning (UDL) may be used as a way to engage all learners. Previously, Todd worked at CSforALL as a research associate and served as a K-5 educator for 17 years.
Cindy Wong is an elementary technology teacher at P.S.41 The Crocheron School in Bayside, New York. She has taught over twelve years, with the first nine years in third grade. She is a tech enthusiast and loves testing out new tools with her students in her computer lab. She holds Ed Tech certifications in Google Education Level 1 and 2, and is a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator. She is also part of the #NYCSchoolsTech Trainer Team and presented at the past four #NYCSchoolsTech Tech Summit, ISTE 2019, and CS4All TeachersCon. She was also a Community Builder Fellow for CS4All, one of the Chancellor’s Equity and Excellence Initiatives, to spread the culture of computer science to teachers, parents, and students.