Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cultural and Gendered Values

I can't remember when I first heard about the work at Georgia Tech on African Americans and gaming. Maybe it was in a post of Mark Guzdial's? Anyway, I thought this post by Latoya Peterson was very interesting. My favorite quote applies to far more than just African American males:
Hacker culture is privileged in the CS learning environment, meaning that many students are drawn to the program because of their existing skills. This marginalizes many students who decide to enter at the college level, and do not have years of experience experimenting with programs on their own. CS programs also tend to trend toward the strongest programmers in the class, encouraging a DIY approach to learning, and leaving behind students who are new to the discipline.
On the one hand, we want to value diverse cultures, and I know that many people who succeed in this culture feel marginalized in the broader culture. And isn't it true that in many programs, particular skill-sets are valued? On the other hand, it certainly gives me pause that it's so difficult to enter the discipline as early as college, especially given that many students have no access to computer science before they get to college. Look at how many other (related, even) disciplines are welcoming to students who have no prior experience, even at the graduate level - information science, education, and business being obvious examples.

We keep talking about how to increase the pipeline and have more graduates. I think a major part of the problem is the culture. Computer science is not a welcoming culture. Wouldn't it be great if instead of being denigrated, newcomers were encouraged and supported?

I see that Mark has a new post up pointing out especially the comments relating to the class aspects brought up in the comments, along with a link to another post about this topic.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Public Service Announcement: CS & IT Symposium

For years, I have maintained that the very best day of professional development in my year is the day of the CSTA CS&IT Symposium. And since I've always wondered if it was just me, I have been gratified both to see references to other people posting this thought on the web, and one notable year when in the symposium feedback I found out that someone wrote, "Wicked Teacher of the West said this was the best PD day of the year and she was right!" So you can take it from many anonymous strangers on the web that it's great!

For K-12 computer science teachers, this is a full day of PD just for you, with options whether you teach IT applications, AP CS, or anything in between - and not just high school either, there are sessions applicable to lower grades too.

The symposium gets better and better every year. The keynotes are thought-provoking, and the breakout sessions are full of ideas to take right back to the classroom. In fact, my biggest complaint about the day is that there are always multiple sessions I want to attend at the same time! And finally, the lunch is excellent - it's worth the price of admission for the great food and chance to spend time with other teachers!

Registration for the symposium is now open. It will be held on July 13 at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The registration is limited to 200 people and last year they did 'sell out' so I'd encourage you not to procrastinate. Registration information and more details are at the symposium website. (www.csitsymposium.org)

If you want to make it into a vacation, not only are there mountains, sun, the Pacific Ocean a short drive away, but Mountain View is a mecca for geeks, particularly the Computer History Museum, the Tech Museum in San Jose, and the Exploratorium in San Francisco.