Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article in its Nov. 2 “Diversity in Academe” issue about recruiting women to Computer Science. A few schools are commended for having made their curricula more accessible, by downplaying code and emphasizing “‘computational interactions’ with images, sounds, or biological data.” Rane Johnson-Stempson from Microsoft says that the problems is “everybody is doing their own thing, and no one is connecting”. The article says Microsoft is giving out grants ($10k to $35K) to make connections.
I hope my friends at the Microsoft Campus in Fargo read this because Sugar Labs @NDSU (that’s us) are trying to “Build a smarter computing culture” and we are trying to do it through our after school program, which we want to connect to the 4H Tech Wizards and Bison Best Robotics and the NSF “Broadening Participation” grants, and really, anybody else who will connect with us. We have swallowed the pill of “computational thinking” or what is called “proceduracy” in English studies (not necessarily the same thing), but we see that standard K-12 schools don’t have much room for re-imagining their curriculum, and that underrepresented minorities (largely from refugee families in Fargo) and girls are not tapping into the unofficial curriculum (Scratch, Alice, app development) available through online sites and tutorials.
Bottom line: this article tells us that the demographics of CS isn’t changing very fast, but a few key changes are showing positive results in a few places. Developing curricula that engage girls and women is clearly THE first and most important step.