Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Equity and Access to CS

As a CS educator, the issues related to equity in and access to CS are very real to me. As a middle school teacher, I had classes of 37 students with only 3 girls. Within a year after intentional support from administration and starting a Girls Who Code club, the numbers of girls enrolling in my classes were up and so was my hope that we really could get to the 50/50 mark. 

With this experience in mind, I submitted a proposal to put together and moderate a panel for the annual convening of Arizona's superintendents, district, and school leaders - Equity and Access to K-12 Computer Science Education. For this panel, I invited Kevin Wang, founder of Microsoft TEALS, a K-12 district representative, regional partner representative, and a higher education representative from the CS department at University of Arizona. Together, the panel addressed questions related to equity and access to CS education.
To start everyone off with an overall understanding of the issue, I showed this video about equity in CS education.

Inequity in Computer Science Education from Bryan Twarek on Vimeo.

Following this, two questions were posed to the panel and each panelist responded from their various perspectives - industry, higher ed, K-12, and PD provider supporting teachers. 
1) Why is equity and access to CS education K-12 so critical?

2) What are some of the challenges you see to 'CS for all'? What are some ways that these challenges can be overcome?

The last 15 minutes of the panel was then dedicated to the audience to ask any questions that they had. There were some tough, but though-provoking questions posed that led to some great discussion. From a district leader's perspective, there are so many things to consider when starting out with CS - teacher training, resources, time, scheduling, stakeholder support, just to list a few. Perhaps most importantly, this panel was about opening up the way to share strategies, approaches, and concerns, all while supporting one another by brainstorming resources and ways to overcome challenges.

Among the challenges, particularly unique ones face rural schools. It was inspiring to see and hear about how Microsoft TEALS is impacting this area. 

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