- Women and people of color continue to be underrepresented in the computer science field, but virtual learning is building momentum for the subject area within those groups, said Steve Kong, coordinator for Digital Learning Initiatives at Riverside Unified School District in California, during an ISTE 2020 panel.
- Kwaku Aning, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking at San Diego Jewish Academy, said during the session that group work can also help facilitate student involvement in CS, and districts can attract younger girls to the field by connecting them with older female students involved in STEM.
- Providing virtual social-emotional support, 24/7 tutor support, and family outreach and education for marginalized communities also can build CS success for girls. "We have to let them know how CS is a pathway to college," said Roxana Hadad, associate director for the Computer Science Equity Project at UCLA Center X.
According to a 2015 Gallup poll, nine out of 10 parents said offering computer science opportunities was a good use of school resources, and parents across racial backgrounds, especially Black parents, strongly supported their children learning the subject in a survey conducted this year.
However, the latter report found a disconnect between how important superintendents say CS is in their districts and how many teachers and principals think the subject is prioritized.
The report said high school principals cite a lack of qualified teachers, lack of student demand, and too many classes related to testing requirements as barriers to CS education.
Aning admitted CS professional development is hard to come by. "Read more than education books," Aning said, adding educators must find ways to connect CS to other subjects. "There aren't really great examples of professional development that exists that helps us all think in these terms."
"Once they receive the training, what supports are in place?" Kong said, adding teacher groups and leaders could sustain the programs once they are in place.
Integrating CS in common curriculum subjects, like civics or math, could be another way to make the education accessible and sustainable. Incorporating it in project-based learning could also be an impactful approach, according to panelists, and one that could connect more with girls and learners of color.
On slim budgets, districts also can leverage community partnerships and strong industry partners to find additional resources for students. "All those little supports eventually do add up into being able to purchase certain resources or provide certain opportunities for a student," said Kong.
But through it all, empowering families to be a part of decision making and recruitment, Hadad said, is important.