Tag Archives: culturally relevant teaching

Culturally relevant Computing: Experiences of primary learners

Post Syndicated from Alex Hadwen-Bennett original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/culturally-relevant-pedagogy-experiences-primary-computing/

Today’s blog is written by Dr Alex Hadwen-Bennett, who we worked with to find out primary school learners’ experiences of engaging with culturally relevant Computing lessons. Alex is a Lecturer in Computing Education at King’s College London, where he undertakes research focusing on inclusive computing education and the pedagogy of making.

Despite many efforts to make a career in Computing more accessible, many groups of people are still underrepresented in the field. For instance, a 2022 report revealed that only 22% of people currently working in the IT industry in the UK are women. Additionally, among learners who study Computing at schools in England, Black Caribbean students are currently one of the most underrepresented groups. One approach that has been suggested to address this underrepresentation at school is culturally relevant pedagogy.

In a computing classroom, a girl laughs at what she sees on the screen.

For this reason, a particular focus of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s academic research programme is to support Computing teachers in the use of culturally relevant pedagogy. This pedagogy involves developing learning experiences that deliberately aim to enable all learners to engage with and succeed in Computing, including by bringing their culture and interests into the classroom.

The Foundation’s work in this area started with the development of guidelines for culturally relevant and responsive teaching together with a group of teachers and external researchers. The Foundation’s researchers then explored how a group of Computing teachers employed the guidelines in their own teaching. In a follow-on study funded by Cognizant, the team worked with 13 primary school teachers in England to adapt Computing lessons to make them culturally relevant for their learners. In this process, the teachers adapted a unit on photo editing for Year 4 (ages 8–9), and a unit about vector graphics for Year 5 (ages 9–10). As part of the project, I worked with the Foundation team to analyse and report on data gathered from focus groups of primary learners who had engaged with the adapted units.

At the beginning of this study, teachers adapted two units of work that cover digital literacy skills

Conducting the focus groups

For the focus groups, the Foundation team asked teachers from three schools to each choose four learners to take part. All children in the three focus groups had taken part in all the lessons involving the culturally adapted resources. The children were both boys and girls, and came from diverse cultural backgrounds where possible.

The questions for the focus groups were prepared in advance and covered:

  • Perceptions of Computing as a subject
  • Reflections of their experiences of the engaging with culturally adapted resources
  • Perceptions of who does Computing

Outcomes from the focus groups

“I feel happy that I see myself represented in some way.”

“It was nice to do something that actually represented you in many different ways, like your culture and your background.”

– Statements of learners who participated in the focus groups

When the learners were asked about what they did in their Computing lessons, most of them made references to working with and manipulating graphics; fewer made references to programming and algorithms. This emphasis on graphics is likely related to this being the most recent topic the learners engaged with. The learners were also asked about their reflections on the culturally adapted graphics unit that they had recently completed. Many of them felt that the unit gave them the freedom to incorporate things that related to their interests or culture. The learners’ responses also suggested that they felt represented in the work they completed during the unit. Most of them indicated that their interests were acknowledged, whereas fewer mentioned that they felt their cultural backgrounds were highlighted.

“Anyone can be good at computing if they have the passion to do it.”

– Statement by a learner who participated in a focus group

When considering who does computing, the learners made multiple references to people who keep trying or do not give up. Whereas only a couple of learners said that computer scientists need to be clever or intelligent to do computing. A couple of learners suggested that they believed that anyone can do computing. It is encouraging that the learners seemed to associate being good at computing with effort rather than with ability. However, it is unclear whether this is associated with the learners engaging with the culturally adapted resources.

Reflections and next steps

While this was a small-scale study, the focus groups findings do suggest that engaging with culturally adapted resources can make primary learners feel more represented in their Computing lessons. In particular, engaging with an adapted unit led learners to feel that their interests were recognised as well as, to a lesser extent, their cultural backgrounds. This suggests that primary-aged learners may identify their practical interests as the most important part of their background, and want to share this in class.

Two children code on laptops while an adult supports them.

Finally, the responses of the learners suggest that they feel that perseverance is a more important quality than intelligence for success in computing and that anyone can do it. While it is not possible to say whether this is directly related to their engagement with a culturally adapted unit, it would be an interesting area for further research.

More information and resources

You can find out more about culturally relevant pedagogy and the Foundation’s research on it, for example by:

The Foundation would like to extend thanks to Cognizant for funding this research, and to the primary computing teachers and learners who participated in the project. 

The post Culturally relevant Computing: Experiences of primary learners appeared first on Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Engaging primary Computing teachers in culturally relevant pedagogy through professional development

Post Syndicated from Claire Johnson original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/culturally-relevant-pedagogy-areas-opportunity-adapting-lessons/

Underrepresentation in computing is a widely known issue, in industry and in education. To cite some statistics from the UK: a Black British Voices report from August 2023 noted that 95% of respondents believe the UK curriculum neglects black lives and experiences; fewer students from working class backgrounds study GCSE Computer Science; when they leave formal education, fewer female, BAME, and white working class people are employed in the field of computer science (Kemp 2021); only 21% of GCSE Computer Science students, 15% at A level, and 22% at undergraduate level are female (JCQ 2020, Ofqual 2020, UCAS 2020); students with additional needs are also underrepresented.

In a computing classroom, two girls concentrate on their programming task.

Such statistics have been the status quo for too long. Many Computing teachers already endeavour to bring about positive change where they can and engage learners by including their interests in the lessons they deliver, so how can we support them to do this more effectively? Extending the reach of computing so that it is accessible to all also means that we need to consider what formal and informal values predominate in the field of computing. What is the ‘hidden’ curriculum in computing that might be excluding some learners? Who is and who isn’t represented?

Katharine Childs.
Katharine Childs (Raspberry Pi Foundation)

In a recent research seminar, Katharine Childs from our team outlined a research project we conducted, which included a professional development workshop to increase primary teachers’ awareness of and confidence in culturally relevant pedagogy. In the workshop, teachers considered how to effectively adapt curriculum materials to make them culturally relevant and engaging for the learners in their classrooms. Katharine described the practical steps teachers took to adapt two graphics-related units, and invited seminar participants to apply their learning to a graphics activity themselves.

What is culturally relevant pedagogy?

Culturally relevant pedagogy is a teaching framework which values students’ identities, backgrounds, knowledge, and ways of learning. By drawing on students’ own interests, experiences and cultural knowledge educators can increase the likelihood that the curriculum they deliver is more relevant, engaging and accessible to all.

The idea of culturally relevant pedagogy was first introduced in the US in the 1990s by African-American academic Gloria Ladson-Billings (Ladson-Billings 1995). Its aim was threefold: to raise students’ academic achievement, to develop students’ cultural competence and to promote students’ critical consciousness. The idea of culturally responsive teaching was later advanced by Geneva Gay (2000) and more recently  brought into focus in US computer science education by Kimberly Scott and colleagues (2015). The approach has been localised for England by Hayley Leonard and Sue Sentance (2021) in work they undertook here at the Foundation.

Ten areas of opportunity

Katharine began her presentation by explaining that the professional development workshop in the Primary culturally adapted resources for computing project built on two of our previous research projects to develop guidelines for culturally relevant and responsive computing and understand how teachers used them in practice. This third project ran as a pilot study funded by Cognizant, starting in Autumn 2022 with a one-day, in-person workshop for 13 primary computing teachers

The research structure was a workshop followed by research adaption, then delivery of resources, and evaluation through a parent survey, teacher interviews, and student focus groups.

Katharine then introduced us to the 10 areas of opportunity (AO) our research at the Raspberry Pi Computing Education Research Centre had identified for culturally relevant pedagogy. These 10 areas were used as practical prompts to frame the workshop discussions:

  1. Find out about learners
  2. Find out about ourselves as teachers
  3. Review the content
  4. Review the context
  5. Make the learning accessible to all
  6. Provide opportunities for open-ended and problem solving activities
  7. Promote collaboration and structured group discussion
  8. Promote student agency through choice
  9. Review the learning environment
  10. Review related policies, processes, and training in your school and department

At first glance it is easy to think that you do most of those things already, or to disregard some items as irrelevant to the computing curriculum. What would your own cultural identity (see AO2) have to do with computing, you might wonder. But taking a less complacent perspective might lead you to consider all the different facets that make up your identity and then to think about the same for the students you teach. You may discover that there are many areas which you have left untapped in your lesson planning.

Two young people learning together at a laptop.

Katharine explained how this is where the professional development workshop showed itself as beneficial for the participants. It gave teachers the opportunity to reflect on how their cultural identity impacted on their teaching practices — as a starting point to learning more about other aspects of the culturally relevant pedagogy approach.

Our researchers were interested in how they could work alongside teachers to adapt two computing units to make them more culturally relevant for teachers’ specific contexts. They used the Computing Curriculum units on Photo Editing (Year 4) and Vector Graphics (Year 5).

A slide about adapting an emoji teaching activity to make it culturally relevant.

Katharine illustrated some of the adaptations teachers and researchers working together had made to the emoji activity above, and which areas of opportunity (AO) had been addressed; this aspect of the research will be reported in later publications.

Results after the workshop

Although the numbers of participants in this pilot study was small, the findings show that the professional development workshop significantly increased teachers’ awareness of culturally relevant pedagogy and their confidence in adapting resources to take account of local contexts:

  • After the workshop, 10/13 teachers felt more confident to adapt resources to be culturally relevant for their own contexts, and 8/13 felt more confident in adapting resources for others.
  • Before the workshop, 5/13 teachers strongly agreed that it was an important part of being a computing teacher to examine one’s own attitudes and beliefs about race, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation. After the workshop, the number in agreement rose to 12/13.
  • After the workshop, 13/13 strongly agreed that part of a computing teacher’s responsibility is to challenge teaching practices which maintain social inequities (compared to 7/13 previously).
  • Before the workshop, 4/13 teachers strongly agreed that it is important to allow student choice when designing computing activities; this increased to 9/13 after the workshop.

These quantitative shifts in perspective indicate a positive effect of the professional development pilot. 

Katharine described that in our qualitative interviews with the participating teachers, they expressed feeling that their understanding of culturally relevant pedagogy had increased and they recognized the many benefits to learners of the approach. They valued the opportunity to discuss their contexts and to adapt materials they currently used with other teachers, because it made it a more ‘authentic’ and practical professional development experience.

The seminar ended with breakout sessions inviting viewers to consider possible adaptations that could be made to the graphics activities which had been the focus of the workshop.

In the breakout sessions, attendees also discussed specific examples of culturally relevant teaching practices that had been successful in their own classrooms, and they considered how schools and computing educational initiatives could support teachers in their efforts to integrate culturally relevant pedagogy into their practice. Some attendees observed that it was not always possible to change schemes of work without a ‘whole-school’ approach, senior leadership team support, and commitment to a research-based professional development programme.

Where do you see opportunities for your teaching?

The seminar reminds us that the education system is not culture neutral and that teachers generally transmit the dominant culture (which may be very different from their students’) in their settings (Vrieler et al, 2022). Culturally relevant pedagogy is an attempt to address the inequities and biases that exist, which result in many students feeling marginalised, disenfranchised, or underachieving. It urges us to incorporate learners’ cultures and experiences in our endeavours  to create a more inclusive computing curriculum; to adopt an intersectional lens so that all can thrive.

Secondary school age learners in a computing classroom.

As a pilot study, the workshop was offered to a small cohort of 13, yet the findings show that the intervention significantly increased participants’ awareness of culturally relevant pedagogy and their confidence in adapting resources to take account of local contexts.

Of course there are many ways in which teachers already adapt resources to make them interesting and accessible to their pupils. Further examples of the sort of adaptations you might make using these areas of opportunity include:

  • AO1: You could find out to what extent learners feel like they ‘belong’ or are included in a particular computing-related career. This is sure to yield valuable insights into learners’ knowledge and/or preconceptions of computing-related careers. 
  • AO3: You could introduce topics such as the ethics of AI, data bias, investigations of accessibility and user interface design. 
  • AO4: You might change the context of a unit of work on the use of conditional statements in programming, from creating a quiz about ‘Vikings’ to focus on, for example, aspects of youth culture which are more engaging to some learners such as football or computer games, or to focus on religious celebrations, which may be more meaningful to others.
  • AO5: You could experiment with a particular pedagogical approach to maximise the accessibility of a unit of work. For example, you could structure a programming unit by using the PRIMM model, or follow the Universal Design for Learning framework to differentiate for diversity.
  • AO6/7: You could offer more open-ended and collaborative activities once in a while, to promote engagement and to allow learners to express themselves autonomously.
  • AO8: By allowing learners to choose topics which are relevant or familiar to their individual contexts and identities, you can increase their feeling of agency. 
  • AO9: You could review both your learning materials and your classroom to ensure that all your students are fully represented.
  • AO10: You can bring colleagues on board too; the whole enterprise of embedding culturally relevant pedagogy will be more successful when school- as well as department-level policies are reviewed and prioritised.

Can you see an opportunity for integrating culturally relevant pedagogy in your classroom? We would love to hear about examples of culturally relevant teaching practices that you have found successful. Let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

You can watch Katharine’s seminar here:

You can download her presentation slides on our ‘previous seminars’ page, and you can read her research paper.

To get a practical overview of culturally relevant pedagogy, read our 2-page Quick Read on the topic and download the guidelines we created with a group of teachers and academic specialists.

Tomorrow we’ll be sharing a blog about how the learners who engaged with the culturally adapted units found the experience, and how it affected their views of computing. Follow us on social media to not miss it!

Join our upcoming seminars live

On 12 December we’ll host the last seminar session in our series on primary (K-5) computing. Anaclara Gerosa will share her work on how to design and structure early computing activities that promote and scaffold students’ conceptual understanding. As always, the seminar is free and takes place online at 17:00–18:30 GMT / 12:00–13:30 ET / 9:00–10:30 PT / 18:00–19:30 CET. Sign up and we’ll send you the link to join on the day.

In 2024, our new seminar series will be about teaching and learning programming, with and without AI tools. If you’re signed up to our seminars, you’ll receive the link to join every monthly seminar.

The post Engaging primary Computing teachers in culturally relevant pedagogy through professional development appeared first on Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Running a workshop with teachers to create culturally relevant Computing lessons

Post Syndicated from Katharine Childs original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/research-teacher-workshop-culturally-relevant-computing-lessons/

Who chooses to study Computing? In England, data from GCSE and A level Computer Science entries in 2019 shows that the answer is complex. Black Caribbean students were one of the most underrepresented groups in the subject, while pupils from other ethnic backgrounds, such as White British, Chinese, and Asian Indian, were well-represented. This picture is reflected in the STEM workforce in England, where Black people are also underrepresented.

Two young girls, one of them with a hijab, do a Scratch coding activity together at a desktop computer.

That’s why one of our areas of academic research aims to support Computing teachers to use culturally relevant pedagogy to design and deliver equitable learning experiences that enable all learners to enjoy and succeed in Computing and Computer Science at school. Our previous research projects within this area have involved developing guidelines for culturally relevant and responsive teaching, and exploring how a small group of primary and secondary Computing teachers used these guidelines in their teaching.

A tree symbolising culturally relevant pedagogy,with the roots labeled 'curriculum, the trunk labeled 'teaching approaches', and the crown labeled 'learning materials'.
Learning materials, teaching approaches, and the curriculum as a whole are three areas where culturally relevance is important.

In our latest research study, funded by Cognizant, we worked with 13 primary school teachers in England on adapting computing lessons to incorporate culturally relevant and responsive principles and practices. Here’s an insight into the workshop we ran with them, and what the teachers and we have taken away from it.

Adapting lesson materials based on culturally relevant pedagogy

In the group of 13 England-based primary school Computing teachers we worked with for this study:

  • One third were specialist primary Computing teachers, and the other two thirds were class teachers who taught a range of subjects
  • Some acted as Computing subject lead or coordinator at their school
  • Most had taught Computing for between three and five years 
  • The majority worked in urban areas of England, at schools with culturally diverse catchment areas 

In November 2022, we held a one-day workshop with the teachers to introduce culturally relevant pedagogy and explore how to adapt two six-week units of computing resources.

An example of a collaborative activity from a teacher-focused workshop around culturally relevant pedagogy.
An example of a collaborative activity from the workshop

The first part of the workshop was a collaborative, discussion-based professional development session exploring what culturally relevant pedagogy is. This type of pedagogy uses equitable teaching practices to:

  • Draw on the breadth of learners’ experiences and cultural knowledge
  • Facilitate projects that have personal meaning for learners
  • Develop learners’ critical consciousness

The rest of the workshop day was spent putting this learning into practice while planning how to adapt two units of computing lessons to make them culturally relevant for the teachers’ particular settings. We used a design-based approach for this part of the workshop, meaning researchers and teachers worked collaboratively as equal stakeholders to decide on plans for how to alter the units.

We worked in four groups, each with three or four teachers and one or two researchers, focusing on one of two units of work from The Computing Curriculum for teaching digital skills: a unit on photo editing for Year 4 (ages 8–9), and a unit about vector graphics for Year 5 (ages 9–10).

Descriptions of a classroom unit of teaching materials about photo editing for Year 4 (ages 8–9), and a unit about vector graphics for Year 5 (ages 9–10).
We based the workshop around two Computing Curriculum units that cover digital literacy skills.

In order to plan how the resources in these units of work could be made culturally relevant for the participating teachers’ contexts, the groups used a checklist of ten areas of opportunity. This checklist is a result of one of our previous research projects on culturally relevant pedagogy. Each group used the list to identify a variety of ways in which the units’ learning objectives, activities, learning materials, and slides could be adapted. Teachers noted down their ideas and then discussed them with their group to jointly agree a plan for adapting the unit.

By the end of the day, the groups had designed four really creative plans for:

  • A Year 4 unit on photo editing that included creating an animal to represent cultural identity
  • A Year 4 unit on photo editing that included creating a collage all about yourself 
  • A Year 5 unit on vector graphics that guided learners to create their own metaverse and then add it to the class multiverse
  • A Year 5 unit on vector graphics that contextualised the digital skills by using them in online activities and in video games

Outcomes from the workshop

Before and after the workshop, we asked the teachers to fill in a survey about themselves, their experiences of creating computing resources, and their views about culturally relevant resources. We then compared the two sets of data to see whether anything had changed over the course of the workshop.

A teacher attending a training workshop laughs as she works through an activity.
The workshop was a positive experience for the teachers.

After teachers had attended the workshop, they reported a statistically significant increase in their confidence levels to adapt resources to be culturally relevant for both themselves and others. 

Teachers explained that the workshop had increased their understanding of culturally relevant pedagogy and of how it could impact on learners. For example, one teacher said:

“The workshop has developed my understanding of how culturally adapted resources can support pupil progress and engagement. It has also highlighted how contextual appropriateness of resources can help children to access resources.” – Participating teacher

Some teachers also highlighted how important it had been to talk to teachers from other schools during the workshop, and how they could put their new knowledge into practice in the classroom:

“The dedicated time and value added from peer discourse helped make this authentic and not just token activities to check a box.” – Participating teacher

“I can’t wait to take some of the work back and apply it to other areas and subjects I teach.” – Participating teacher

What you can expect to see next from this project

After our research team made the adaptations to the units set out in the four plans made during the workshop, the adapted units were delivered by the teachers to more than 500 Year 4 and 5 pupils. We visited some of the teachers’ schools to see the units being taught, and we have interviewed all the teachers about their experience of delivering the adapted materials. This observational and interview data, together with additional survey responses, will be analysed by us, and we’ll share the results over the coming months.

A computing classroom filled with learners
As part of the project, we observed teachers delivering the adapted units to their learners.

In our next blog post about this work, we will delve into the fascinating realm of parental attitudes to culturally relevant computing, and we’ll explore how embracing diversity in the digital landscape is shaping the future for both children and their families. 

We’ve also written about this professional development activity in more detail in a paper to be published at the UKICER conference in September, and we’ll share the paper once it’s available.

Finally, we are grateful to Cognizant for funding this academic research, and to our cohort of primary computing teachers for their enthusiasm, energy, and creativity, and their commitment to this project.

The post Running a workshop with teachers to create culturally relevant Computing lessons appeared first on Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Take part in our research study to develop culturally relevant Computing resources for primary schools

Post Syndicated from Katharine Childs original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/adapting-culturally-relevant-computing-resources-primary-school-research-study/

We are looking for primary schools in England to get involved in our new research study investigating how to adapt Computing resources to make them culturally relevant for pupils. In a project in 2021, we created guidelines that included ideas about how teachers can modify Computing lessons so they are culturally relevant for their learners. In this new project, we will work closely with primary teachers to explore this adaptation process.

In a computing classroom, a boy looks down at a keyboard.
Designing equitable and authentic learning experiences requires a conscious effort to take into account the characteristics of all learners and their social environments.

This project will help increase the education community’s understanding of ways to widen participation in Computing. The need to do this is demonstrated (as only one example among many) by the fact that in England’s 2017 GCSE Computer Science cohort, Black students were the most underrepresented group. We will investigate how resources adapted to be culturally relevant might influence students’ ideas about computing and contribute to their sense of identity as a “computer person”.

In a computing classroom, two girls concentrate on their programming task.
We need to work to enable a more diverse group of learners to feel that they belong in computing, encouraging them to choose to continue with it as a discipline in qualifications and careers.

This study is funded by the Cognizant Foundation and we are grateful for their generous support. Since 2018, the Cognizant Foundation has worked to ensure that all individuals have equitable opportunities to thrive in the jobs driving the future. Their work aligns with our mission to enable young people to realise their full potential through the power of computing and digital technologies.

What will taking part in the project involve? 

This project about culturally adapted resources will take place between October 2022 and July 2023. It draws from ideas on how to bridge the gap between academic research and classroom teaching, and we are looking for 12 primary teachers to work closely with our researchers and content writers in three phases using a tested co-creation model.

Two children code on laptops while an adult supports them.
We will work closely with a group of teacher so we can learn from each other.

By taking part, you will gain an excellent understanding of culturally relevant pedagogy and develop your knowledge and skills in delivering culturally responsive Computing lessons. We will value your expertise and your insights into what works in your classroom, and we will listen to your ideas.

Phase 1 (November 2022) 

We will kick off the project with a day-long workshop on 2 November at our head office in Cambridge, which will bring all the participating teachers together. (Funding is available for participating schools to cover supply costs and teachers’ travel costs.) In the workshop, we will first explore what culturally relevant and responsive computing means. Then we will work together to look at a half-term unit of work of Computing lessons and identify how it could be adapted. After the workshop day, we will produce an adapted version of the unit of work based on the teachers’ input and ideas.

Phase 2 (February to March 2023)

In the Spring Term, teachers will deliver the adapted unit of work to their class in the second half of the term. Through a survey before and after the set of lessons, students will be asked about their views of computing. Throughout this time, the research team will be available for online support. We may also visit your school to carry out an observation of one of the lessons. 

Phase 3 (April to May 2023) 

During this phase, the research team will ask participating teachers about their experiences, and about whether and how they further adapted the lessons. Teachers will likely spend 2 to 3 hours in either April or May sharing their insights and recommendations. After this phase, we will analyse the findings from the study and share the results both with the participating teachers and the wider computing education community.

Who are we looking for to take part in this study?

For this study, we are looking for primary teachers who teach Computing to Year 4 or Year 5 pupils in a school in England

  • You may be a generalist primary class teacher who teaches all subjects to your year group, or you may be a specialist primary Computing teacher 
  • To take part, your pupils will need access to desktop or laptop computers in the Spring Term, but your school will not need any specialist hardware or software
  • You will need to attend the in-person workshop in Cambridge on Wednesday 2 November and commit to the project for the rest of the 2022/2023 academic year; funding is available for participating schools to cover supply costs and teachers’ travel costs
  • Your headteacher will need to support your participation in the study

We will give preference to: 

  • Schools where more than one teacher can take part 
  • Schools with culturally diverse catchment areas 
  • Teachers who are familiar with our free Teach Computing Curriculum resources for Year 4 or Year 5

Apply today to get involved

If you are an interested teacher, please apply to take part in this project by the closing date of Monday 26 September. If you have any questions, email us at [email protected].

The post Take part in our research study to develop culturally relevant Computing resources for primary schools appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Computer science education for what purpose? Some perspectives

Post Syndicated from Janina Ander original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/computer-science-education-equity-change-purpose/

As we’re coming to the end of Black History Month in the USA this year, we’ve been amazed by the variety of work the computing education community is doing to address inequities in their classrooms. For our part, we have learned a huge amount about equitable STEM and computer science (CS) education from the community, and through our own research.

A group of young people in a computer science classroom pose for a group photo.

In this post, we want to highlight two particular pieces of work that have influenced our work over the last year, shared by Dr Tia C. Madkins (University of Texas at Austin), Dr Nicol R. Howard (University of Redlands), and Dr Jakita O. Thomas (Auburn University, blackcomputeHER.org) at our research seminars.

Moving beyond access and achievement, towards equity and justice

Tia C. Madkins and Nicol R. Howard described that educators in schools (and associated professionals) need to build an awareness of how the learning in their classrooms might be affected by:

  • Personal beliefs, ways of knowing or thinking, stereotypes, and the cultural lens of the educator and the learners
  • Power dynamics and intersectional identities

They say: “Instead of viewing learners as deficient individuals who we need to ‘fix’ in our classrooms, we use strengths-based approaches where we as educators learn to recognise, draw on, and build upon learners’ strengths and lived experiences.”

The researchers encourage educators to connect with learners’ cultural practices and lived experiences, and to foster and maintain relationships with learners’ families and communities, in order to work together to facilitate equitable, social justice–oriented CS learning

To hear from Tia, Nicol, and their collaborator Shomari Jones, watch their seminar. You can also read Tia and Nicol’s article in our seminar proceedings, where you’ll find a list of their recommended resources to explore this thinking further.

Valuing existing knowledge and lived experience as expertise

Jakita O. Thomas described findings from her research project based on a free enrichment programme exploring how Black middle-school girls develop computational algorithmic thinking skills in the context of game design.

The programme was intentionally designed to position Black girls as knowledge holders with valuable experiences, and to offer them opportunities to shape their identities as producers, innovators, and people who challenge deficit perspectives. These are perspectives that include implicit assumptions that privilege the values, beliefs, and practices of one group over another, especially where the groups are racially, ethnically, or culturally different.

Jakita emphasised that it’s very important for educators to ask the questions “STEM learning for what?”, “For whom?”, “How?”, and “To what ends?” when they consider how to bring STEM learning experiences to Black girls (or other young people with multiple marginal identities). Educators need an awareness that the economic reasons of STEM learning, which are commonly spotlighted, may not be sufficient to convince young people who are marginalised to engage in these subjects.

To hear more about this from Jakita directly, watch her seminar:

Empowering learners to be agents of change

One thing these researchers’ work makes clear is that the reasons for why learners choose to engage in CS education are many, and that gaining CS skills to prepare for the job market is only one of them.

In both seminars, the speakers emphasised how important it is for educators to contribute to their learners’ self-view as agents of change, not only by demonstrating how CS can be used to solve problems, but also by being open and direct about existing technological inequities. This teaches learners to use CS as a tool, and to also examine the social context in which CS is being applied, and the positive and negative consequences of these applications. Learning CS can empower young people to address challenges their communities face, and educators, learners, and families can work together through CS on social justice issues.

Putting the power of computing into the hands of young people is the core of our mission, and we have a research project underway right now that looks at equitable computing education in UK schools. Find out more about it here, and download our practical guide for teachers.

The post Computer science education for what purpose? Some perspectives appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Celebrate Black history this month with code!

Post Syndicated from Kevin Johnson original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/black-history-month-2022-free-coding-resources/

For those of us living in the USA, February is Black History Month, our month-long celebration of Black history. This is an occasion to highlight the amazing accomplishments of Black Americans through time. Simply put, the possibilities are endless! Black history touches every area of our lives, and it is so important that we seize the opportunity to honor Black freedom fighters who fought for the equality and freedom of ALL people.

That’s why we encourage you to join us in celebrating Black History Month with the help of free, specially chosen coding and computing education resources. We’ve got something for everyone: whether you’re a learner, an educator, a volunteer, or any lover of tech, everyone can participate.

For learners: Celebrate Black History Month with free coding resources

This month, we want to empower young people to think about how they can use code as a tool to celebrate Black history with innovation and creativity. We’ve designed a project card listing the perfect projects to jumpstart young learners’ imagination: 

There are projects for beginner coders, as well as intermediate and advanced coders, in Scratch, Python, HTML/CSS, and Ruby plus Raspberry Pi.

Three young tech creators show off their tech project at Coolest Projects.

For educators: Support Black learners and their communities

We’re working on research to better understand how to support the Black community and other underrepresented communities to engage with computer science.

At Coolest Projects, a group of people explore a coding project.

Take some time this month to explore the following resources to make sure we’re growing into a more diverse and inclusive community: 

  • Culturally relevant pedagogy guide: We’ve worked with a group of teachers and researchers to co-create a guide sharing the key elements of a culturally relevant and responsive teaching approach to curriculum design and teaching in the classroom. Download the guide to see how to teach computing and computer science in a way that values all your learners’ knowledge, ways of learning, and heritage.
A female computing educator with three female students at laptops in a classroom.

For everyone: Listen to Black voices

Uplifting Black voices is one of the best things we can all do this February in observance of Black History Month. We’ve had the privilege of hearing from members in our community about their experiences in tech, and their stories are incredibly insightful and inspiring. 

  • Community stories: Yolanda Payne
    • Meet Yolanda Payne, a highly regarded community member from Atlanta, Georgia who is passionate about connecting young people in her community to opportunities to create with technology.
  • Community stories: Avye 
    • Meet Avye, an accomplished 13-year old girl who is taking the world of robotics by storm and works to help other girls get involved too.

Happy Black History Month! Share with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram how you’re celebrating in your community.

The post Celebrate Black history this month with code! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

The Roots project: Implementing culturally responsive computing teaching in schools in England

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/culturally-responsive-computing-teaching-schools-england-roots-research-project/

Since last year, we have been investigating culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching in computing education. This is an important part of our research to understand how to make computing accessible to all young people. We are now continuing our work in this area with a new project called Roots, bridging our research team here at the Foundation and the team at the Raspberry Pi Computing Education Research Centre, which we jointly created with the University of Cambridge in its Department of Computer Science and Technology.

Across both organisations, we’ve got great ambitions for the Centre, and I’m delighted to have been appointed as its Director. It’s a great privilege to lead this work. 

What do we mean by culturally relevant pedagogy?

Culturally relevant pedagogy is a framework for teaching that emphasises the importance of incorporating and valuing all learners’ knowledge, ways of learning, and heritage. It promotes the development of learners’ critical consciousness of the world and encourages them to ask questions about ethics, power, privilege, and social justice. Culturally relevant pedagogy emphasises opportunities to address issues that are important to learners and their communities.

Culturally responsive teaching builds on the framework above to identify a range of teaching practices that can be implemented in the classroom. These include:

  • Drawing on learners’ cultural knowledge and experiences to inform the curriculum
  • Providing opportunities for learners to choose personally meaningful projects and express their own cultural identities
  • Exploring issues of social justice and bias

The story so far

The overall objective of our work in this area is to further our understanding of ways to engage underrepresented groups in computing. In 2021, funded by a Special Projects Grant from ACM’s Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education (SIGCSE), we established a working group of teachers and academics who met up over the course of three months to explore and discuss culturally relevant pedagogy. The result was a collaboratively written set of practical guidelines about culturally relevant and responsive teaching for classroom educators.

The video below is an introduction for teachers who may not be familiar with the topic, showing the perspectives of three members of the working group and their students. You can also find other resources that resulted from this first phase of the work, and read our Special Projects Report.

We’re really excited that, having developed the guidelines, we can now focus on how culturally responsive computing teaching can be implemented in English schools through the Roots project, a new, related project supported by funding from Google. This funding continues Google’s commitment to grow the impact of computer science education in schools, which included a £1 million donation to support us and other organisations to develop online courses for teachers.

The next phase of work: Roots

In our new Roots project, we want to learn from practitioners how culturally responsive computing teaching can be implemented in classrooms in England, by supporting teachers to plan activities, and listening carefully to their experiences in school. Our approach is similar to the Research-Practice-Partnership (RPP) approach used extensively in the USA to develop research in computing education; this approach hasn’t yet been used in the UK. In this way, we hope to further develop and improve the guidelines with exemplars and case studies, and to increase our understanding of teachers’ motivations and beliefs with respect to culturally responsive computing teaching.

The pilot phase of the Roots project starts this month and will run until December 2022. During this phase, we will work with a small group of schools around London, Essex, and Cambridgeshire. Longer-term, we aim to scale up this work across the UK.

The project will be centred around two workshops held in participating teachers’ schools during the first half of the year. In the first workshop, teachers will work together with facilitators from the Foundation and the Raspberry Pi Computing Education Research Centre to discuss culturally responsive computing teaching and how to make use of the guidelines in adapting existing lessons and programmes of study. The second workshop will take place after the teachers have implemented the guidelines in their classroom, and it will be structured around a discussion of the teachers’ experiences and suggestions for iteration of the guidelines. We will also be using a visual research methodology to create a number of videos representing the new knowledge gleaned from all participants’ experiences of the project. We’re looking forward to sharing the results of the project later on in the year. 

We’re delighted that Dr Polly Card will be leading the work on this project at the Raspberry Pi Computing Education Research Centre, University of Cambridge, together with Saman Rizvi in the Foundation’s research team and Katie Vanderpere-Brown, Assistant Headteacher, Saffron Walden County High School, Essex and Computing Lead of the NCCE London, Hertfordshire and Essex Computing Hub.

More about equity, diversity, and inclusion in computing education

We hold monthly research seminars here at the Foundation, and in the first half of 2021, we invited speakers who focus on a range of topics relating to equity, diversity, and inclusion in computing education.

As well as holding seminars and building a community of interested people around them, we share the insights from speakers and attendees through video recordings of the sessions, blog posts, and the speakers’ presentation slides. We also publish a series of seminar proceedings with referenced chapters written by the speakers.

You can download your copy of the proceedings of the equity, diversity, and inclusion series now.  

The post The Roots project: Implementing culturally responsive computing teaching in schools in England appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Engaging Black students in computing at UK schools — interview with Joe Arday

Post Syndicated from Janina Ander original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/engaging-black-students-in-computing-uk-schools-joe-arday/

Joe Arday.

On the occasion of Black History Month UK, we speak to Joe Arday, Computer Science teacher at Woodbridge High School in Essex, UK, about his experiences in computing education, his thoughts about underrepresentation of Black students in the subject, and his ideas about what needs to be done to engage more Black students.

To start us off, can you share some of your thoughts about Black History Month as an occasion?

For me personally it’s an opportunity to celebrate our culture, but my view is it shouldn’t be a month — it should be celebrated every day. I am of Ghanaian descent, so Black History Month is an opportunity to share my culture in my school and my community. Black History Month is also an opportunity to educate yourself about what happened to the generations before you. For example, my parents lived through the Brixton riots. I was born in 1984, and I got to secondary school before I heard about the Brixton riots from a teacher. But my mother made sure that, during Black History Month, we went to a lot of extracurricular activities to learn about our culture.

For me it’s about embracing the culture I come from, being proud to be Black, and sharing that culture with the next generation, including my two kids, who are of mixed heritage. They need to know where they come from, and know their two cultures.

Tell us a bit about your own history: how did you come to computing education?

So I was a tech professional in the finance sector, and I was made redundant when the 2008 recession hit. I did a couple of consulting jobs, but I thought to myself, “I love tech, but in five years from now, do I really want to be going from job to job? There must be something else I can do.”

At that time there was a huge drive to recruit more teachers to teach what was called ICT back then and is now Computing. As a result, I started my career as a teacher in 2010. As a former software consultant, I had useful skills for teaching ICT. When Computing was introduced instead, I was fortunate to be at a school that could bring in external CPD (continued professional development) providers to teach us about programming and build our understanding and skills to deliver the new curriculum. I also did a lot of self-study and spoke to lots of teachers at other schools about how to teach the subject.

What barriers or support did you encounter in your teaching career? Did you have role models when you went into teaching?

Not really — I had to seek them out. In my environment, there are very few Black teachers, and I was often the only Black Computer Science teacher. A parent once said to me, “I hope you’re not planning to leave, because my son needs a role model in Computer Science.” And I understood exactly what she meant by that, but I’m not even a role model, I’m just someone who’s contributing to society the best way I can. I just want to pave the way for the next generation, including my children.

My current school is supporting me to lead all the STEM engagement for students, and in that role, some of the things I do are running a STEM club that focuses a lot on computing, and running new programmes to encourage girls into tech roles. I’ve also become a CAS Master Teacher and been part of a careers panel at Queen Mary University London about the tech sector, for hundreds of school students from across London. And I was selected by the National Centre for Computing Education as one of their facilitators in the Computer Science Accelerator CPD programme.

But there’s been a lack of leadership opportunities for me in schools. I’ve applied for middle-leadership roles and have been told my face doesn’t fit in an interview in a previous school. And I’m just as skilled and experienced as other candidates: I’ve been acting Head of Department, acting Head of Year — what more do I need to do? But I’ve not had access to middle-leadership roles. I’ve been told I’m an average teacher, but then I’ve been put onto dealing with “difficult” students if they’re Black, because a few of my previous schools have told me that I was “good at dealing with behaviour”. So that tells you about the role I was pigeonholed into.

It is very important for Black students to have role models, and to have a curriculum that reflects them.

Joe Arday

I’ve never worked for a Black Headteacher, and the proportion of Black teachers in senior leadership positions is very low, only 1%. So I am considering moving into a different area of computing education, such as edtech or academia, because in schools I don’t have the opportunities to progress because of my ethnicity.

Do you think this lack of leadership opportunities is an experience other Black teachers share?

I think it is, that’s why the number of Black teachers is so low. And as a Black student of Computer Science considering a teaching role, I would look around my school and think, if I go into teaching, where are the opportunities going to come from?

Black students are underrepresented in computing. Could you share your thoughts about why that’s the case?

There’s a lack of role models across the board: in schools, but also in tech leadership roles, CEOs and company directors. And the interest of Black students isn’t fostered early on, in Year 8, Year 9 (ages 12–14). If they don’t have a teacher who is able to take them to career fairs or to tech companies, they’re not going to get exposure, they’re not going to think, “Oh, I can see myself doing that.” So unless they have a lot of interest already, they’re not going to pick Computer Science when it comes to choosing their GCSEs, because it doesn’t look like it’s for them.

But we need diverse people in computing and STEM, especially girls. As the father of a boy and a girl of mixed heritage, that’s very important to me. Some schools I’ve worked in, they pushed computer science into the background, and it’s such a shame. They don’t have the money or the time for their teachers to do the CPD to teach it properly. And if attitudes at the top are negative, that’s going to filter down. But even if students don’t go into the tech industry, they still need digital skills to go into any number of sectors. Every young person needs them.

It is very important for Black students to have role models, and to have a curriculum that reflects them. Students need to see themselves in their lessons and not feel ignored by what is being taught. I was very fortunate to be selected for the working group for the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s culturally relevant teaching guidelines, and I’m currently running some CPD for teachers around this. I bet in the future Ofsted will look at how diverse the curriculum of schools is.

What do you think tech organisations can do in order to engage more Black students in computing?

I think tech organisations need to work with schools and offer work experience placements. When I was a student, 20 years ago, I went on a placement, and that set me on the right path. Nowadays, many students don’t do work experience, they are school leavers before they do an internship. So why do so many schools and organisations not help 14- or 15-year-olds spend a week or two doing a placement and learning some real-life skills?

A mentor explains Scratch code using a projector in a coding club session.

And I think it’s very important for teachers to be able to keep up to date with the latest technologies so they can support their students with what they need to know when they start their own careers, and can be convincing doing it. I encourage my GCSE Computer Science students to learn about things like cloud computing and cybersecurity, about the newest types of technologies that are being used in the tech sector now. That way they’re preparing themselves. And if I was a Headteacher, I would help my students gain professional certifications that they can use when they apply for jobs.

What is a key thing that people in computing education can do to engage more Black students?

Teachers could run a STEM or computing club with a Black History Month theme to get Black students interested — and it doesn’t have to stop at Black History Month. And you can make computing cross-curricular, so there could be a project with all teachers, where each one runs a lesson that involves a bit of coding, so that all students can see that computing really is for everyone.

What would you say to teachers to encourage them to take up Computer Science as a subject?

Because of my role working for the NCCE, I always encourage teachers to join the NCCE’s Computer Science Accelerator programme and to retrain to teach Computer Science. It’s a beautiful subject, all you need to do is give it a chance.

Thank you, Joe, for sharing your thoughts with us!

Joe was part of the group of teachers we worked with to create our practical guide on culturally relevant teaching in the computing classroom. You can download it as a free PDF now to help you think about how to reflect all your students in your lessons.

The post Engaging Black students in computing at UK schools — interview with Joe Arday appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Engaging Black students in computing at school — interview with Lynda Chinaka

Post Syndicated from Janina Ander original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/engaging-black-students-in-computing-school-lynda-chinaka/

Lynda Chinaka.

On the occasion of Black History Month UK, we speak to Lynda Chinaka, Senior Lecturer in Computing in Education at the University of Roehampton, about her experiences in computing education, her thoughts about underrepresentation of Black students in the subject, and her ideas about what needs to be done to engage more Black students.

Lynda, to start us off, can you share your thoughts about Black History Month?

Black history is a really important topic, obviously, and I think that, when Black History Month was first introduced, it was very powerful — and it continues to be in certain places. But I think that, for where we are as a society, it’s time to move past talking about Black history for only one month of the year, albeit an important, focused celebration. And certainly that would include integrating Black history and Black figures across subjects in school. That would be a very useful way to celebrate the contributions that Black people have made, and continue to make, to society. Children need to be taught a history in which they are included and valued. Good history is always a matter of different perspectives. Too often in schools, children experience a single perspective.  

Please tell me a bit about your own history: how did you come to computing education as a field? What were the support or barriers you encountered?

In terms of my journey, I’ve always been passionate about Computing — formerly ICT. I’ve been a Computing subject lead in schools, moving on into senior management. Beyond my career in schools, I have worked as an ICT consultant and as a Teacher Leader for a London authority. During that time, my interest in Computing/ICT led me to undertake an MA in Computing in Education at King’s College London. This led me to become a teacher trainer in my current role. In some sense, I’m carrying on the work I did with the local authorities, but in a university setting. At the University of Roehampton, I teach computing to BA Primary Education and PGCE students. Training teachers is something that I’m very much interested in. It’s about engaging student teachers, supporting them in developing their understanding of Computing in the primary phases. Students learn about the principles of computing, related learning theories, and how children think and learn. Perhaps more importantly, I am keen to instil a love of the subject and broaden their notions about computing.

A teacher attending Picademy laughs as she works through an activity

In terms of the support I’ve received, I’ve worked in certain schools where Computing was really valued by the Headteacher, which enabled me to promote my vision for the subject. Supportive colleagues made a difference in their willingness take on new initiatives that I presented. I have been fortunate to work in local authorities that have been forward-thinking; one school became a test bed for Computing. So in that sense, schools have supported me. But as a Black person, a Black woman in particular, I would say that I faced barriers throughout my career. And those barriers have been there since childhood. In the Black community, people experience all sorts of things, and prejudice and barriers have been at play in my career.

Prejudice sometimes is very overt. An example I think I can share because it prevented me from getting a job: I went for an interview in a school. It was a very good interview, the Headteacher told me, “It was fantastic, you’re amazing, you’re excellent,” the problem was that there weren’t “enough Black pupils”, so she “didn’t see the need…”. And this is a discussion that was shared with me. Now in 2021 a Headteacher wouldn’t say that, but let’s just wind the clock back 15 years. These are the kinds of experiences that you go through as a Black teacher.

So what happens is, you tend to build up a certain resilience. People’s perceptions and low expectations of me have been a hindrance. This can be debilitating. You get tired of having to go through the same thing, of having to overcome negativity. Yes, I would say this has limited my progress. Obviously, I am speaking about my particular experiences as a Black woman, but I would say that these experiences are shared by many people like me.

An educator teaches students to create with technology.

But it’s my determination and the investment I’ve made that has resulted in me staying in the field. And a source of support for me is always Black colleagues, they understand the issues that are inherent within the profession. 

Black students are underrepresented in Computing as a subject. Drawing on your own work and experiences, could you share your thoughts about why that’s the case?

There need to be more Black teachers, because children need to see themselves represented in schools. As a Black teacher, I know that I have made a difference to Black children in my class who had a Black role model in front of them. When we talk about the poor performance of Black pupils, we need to be careful not to blame them for the failures of the education system. Policy makers, Headteachers, teachers, and practitioners need to be a lot more self-aware and examine the impact of racism in education. People need to examine their own policies and practice, especially people in positions of power.

A lot of collective work needs to be done.

Lynda Chinaka

Some local authorities do better than others, and some Headteachers I’ve worked with have been keen to build a diverse staff team. Black people are not well-represented at all in education. Headteachers need to be more proactive about their staff teams and recruitment. And they need to encourage Black teachers to go for jobs in senior management.

An educator helps a young person with a computing problem.

In all settings I taught in, no matter how many students of colour there were, these students would experience something in my classroom that their white counterparts had experienced all their lives: they would leave their home and come to school and be taught by someone who looks like them and perhaps speaks the same language as them. It’s enormously affirming for children to have that experience. And it’s important for all children actually, white children as well. Seeing a Black person teaching in the classroom, in a position of power or influence — it changes their mindset, and that ultimately changes perspectives.

So in terms of that route into Computing, Black students need to see themselves represented.

Why do you think it’s important to teach young people about Computing?

It’s absolutely vital to teach children about Computing. As adults, they are going to participate in a future that we know very little about, so I think it’s important that they’re taught computer science approaches, problem solving and computational thinking. So children need to be taught to be creators and not simply passive users of technology.

A Coolest Projects participant

One of the things some of my university students say is, “Oh my goodness, I can’t teach Computing, all the children know much more than me.”, but actually, that’s a little bit of a myth, I think. Children are better at using technologies than solving computing problems. They need to learn a range of computational approaches for solving problems. Computing is a life skill; it is the future. We saw during the pandemic the effects of digital inequity on pupils.

What do you think needs to change in computing education, the tech sector, or elsewhere in order to engage more Black students in Computing?

In education, we need to look at the curriculum and how to decolonise it to really engage young people. This also includes looking out for bias and prejudice in the things that are taught. Even when you’re thinking about specific computer science topics. So for example, the traditional example for algorithm design is making a cup of tea. But tea is a universal drink, it originates in China, and as a result of colonialism made its way to India and Kenya. So we drink tea universally, but the method (algorithm) for making tea doesn’t necessarily always include a china tea pot or a tea bag. There are lots of ways to introduce it, thinking about how it’s prepared in different cultures, say Kenya or the Punjab, and using that as a basis for developing children’s algorithmic thinking. This is culturally relevant. It’s about bringing the interests and experiences children have into the classroom.

Young women in a computing lesson.

For children to be engaged in Computing, there needs to be a payoff for them. For example, I’ve seen young people developing their own African emojis. They need to see a point to it! They don’t necessarily have to become computer scientists or software engineers, but Computing should be an avenue that opens for them because they can see it as something to further their own aims, their own causes. Young people are very socially and politically aware. For example, Black communities are very aware of the way that climate change affects the Global South and could use data science to highlight this. Many will have extended family living in these regions that are affected now.

So you don’t compromise on the quality of your teaching, and it require teachers to be more reflective. There is no quick fix. For example, you can’t just insert African masks into a lesson without exploring their meaning in real depth within the culture they originate from.

So in your Computing or Computer Science lessons, you need to include topics young people are interested in: climate change, discrimination, algorithms and algorithmic bias in software, surveillance and facial recognition. Social justice topics are close to their hearts. You can get them interested in AI and data science by talking about the off-the-shelf datasets that Big Tech uses, and about what impact these have in terms of surveillance and on minority communities specifically. 

Can you talk a bit about the different terms used to describe this kind of approach to education, ‘culturally relevant teaching’ and ‘decolonising the curriculum’?

‘Culturally relevant’ is easier to sit with. ‘Decolonising the curriculum’ provokes a reaction, but it’s really about teaching children about histories and perspectives on curricula that affect us all. We need to move towards a curriculum that is fit for purpose where children are taught different perspectives and truth that they recognise. Even if you’re in a school without any Black children at all, the curriculum still needs to be decolonised so that children can actually understand and benefit from the many ways that topics, events, subjects may be taught.

A woman teacher helps a young person with a coding project.

When we think about learning in terms of being culturally relevant and responsive, this is about harnessing children’s heritage, experiences, and viewpoints to engage learners such that the curriculum is meaningful and includes them. The goal here is to promote long-term and consistent engagement with Computing.

What is being missed by current initiatives to increase diversity and Black students’ engagement?

Diversity initiatives are a good step, but we need to give it time. 

The selection process for subjects at GCSE can sometimes affect the uptake of computing. Then there are individual attitudes and experiences of pupils. It has been documented that Black and Asian students have often been in the minority and experience marginalisation, particularly noted in the case of female students in GCSE Computer Science.

ITE (Initial Teacher Education) providers need to consider their partnerships with schools and support schools to be more inclusive. We need more Black teachers, as I said. We also need to democratise pathways for young people getting into computing and STEM careers. Applying to university is one way — there should be others.

Schools could also develop partnerships with organisations that have their roots in the Black community. Research has also highlighted discriminatory practices in careers advice, and in the application and interview processes of Russell Group universities. These need to be addressed.

A students in a computer science lecture.

There are too few Black academics at universities. This can have an impact on student choice and decisions about whether to attend an institution or not. Institutions may seem unwelcoming or unsympathetic. Higher education institutions need to eliminate bias through feedback and measuring course take-up. 

Outside the field of education, tech companies could offer summer schemes, short programmes to stimulate interest amongst young Black people. Really, the people in leadership positions, all the people with the power, need to be proactive.

A lot of collective work needs to be done. It’s a whole pipeline, and everybody needs to play a part.

What in your mind is a key thing right now that people in computing education who want to engage more Black students should do?

You can present children with Black pioneers in computing and tech. They can show Black children how to achieve their goals in life through computing. For example, create podcasts or make lists with various organisations that use data science to further specific causes.

It’s not a one-off, one teacher thing, it’s a project for the whole school.

Lynda Chinaka

Also, it’s not a one-off, one teacher thing, it’s project for the whole school. You need to build it into a whole curriculum map, do all the things you do to build a new curriculum map: get every teacher to contribute, so they take it on, own it, research it, make those links to the national curriculum so it’s relevant. Looking at it in isolation it’s a problem, but it’s a whole school approach that starts as a working group. And it’s senior management that sets the tone, and they really need to be proactive, but you can start by starting a working group. It won’t be implemented overnight. A bit like introducing a school uniform. Do it slowly, have a pilot year group. Get parents in, have a coffee evening, get school governors on board. It’s a whole staff team effort.

People need to recognise the size of the problem and not be discouraged by the fact that things haven’t happened overnight. But people who are in a position of influence need to start by having those conversations, because that’s the only way that change can happen, quite frankly.

Lynda, thank you for sharing your insights with us!

Lynda was one of the advisors in the group we worked with to create our recently published, practical guide on culturally relevant teaching. You can download it as a free PDF now. We hope it will help you kickstart conversations in your setting.

The post Engaging Black students in computing at school — interview with Lynda Chinaka appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Delivering a culturally relevant computing curriculum: new guide for teachers

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/culturally-relevant-computing-curriculum-guidelines-for-teachers/

In computing education, designing equitable and authentic learning experiences requires a conscious effort to take into account the characteristics of all learners and their social environments. Doing this allows teachers to address topics that are relevant to a diverse range of learners. To support computing and computer science teachers with this work, we’re now sharing a practical guide document for culturally responsive teaching in schools.

Why we need to make computing culturally relevant

Making computing culturally relevant means that learners with a range of cultural identities will be able to identify with the examples chosen to illustrate computing concepts, to engage effectively with the teaching methods, and to feel empowered to use computing to address problems that are meaningful to them and their communities. This will enable a more diverse group of learners to feel that they belong in computing and encourage them to choose to continue with it as a discipline in qualifications and careers.

Such an approach can empower all our students and support their skills and understanding of the integral role that computing can play in promoting social justice.

Yota Dimitriadi, Associate Professor at the University of Reading, member of the project working group

We introduced our work on this new document to you previously here on the blog. Check out the prblog post to find out more about the project’s funding and background, and the external working group of teachers and academics we convened to develop the guide.

Some shared definitions

To get the project off to the best start possible once we had assembled the working group, we first spent time drawing on research from the USA and discussing within the working group to come to a shared understanding of key terms:

  • Culture: A person’s knowledge, beliefs, and understanding of the world, which are affected by multiple personal characteristics, as well as social and economic factors.
  • Culturally relevant pedagogy: A framework for teaching that emphasises the importance of incorporating and valuing all learners’ knowledge, ways of learning, and heritage, and that promotes critical consciousness in teachers and learners.
  • Culturally responsive teaching: A range of teaching practices that draw on learners’ personal experiences and cultural identities to make learning more relevant to them, and that support the development of critical consciousness.
  • Social justice: The extent to which all members of society have a fair and equal chance to participate in all aspects of social life, develop to their full potential, contribute to society, and be treated as equals.
  • Equity: The extent to which different groups in society have access to particular activities or resources. To ensure that opportunities for access and participation are equal across different groups.

To bring in the voices of young people into the project, we asked teachers in the working group to consult with their learners to understand their perspectives on computing and how schools can engage more diverse groups of learners in elective computer science courses. The main reason that learners reported for being put off computing: complex or boring lessons of coding activities with a focus on theory rather than on practical outcomes. Many said that they were inspired by tasks such as producing their own games and suggested that early experiences in primary school and KS3 had been very important for their engagement in computing.

Curriculum, teaching approaches, and learning materials

The guide shows you that a culturally relevant pedagogy applies in three aspects of education, which we liken to a tree to indicate how these aspects connect to each other: the tree’s root system, the basis of culturally relevant pedagogy, is the focus of the curriculum; the tree’s trunk and branches are the teaching approaches taken to deliver the curriculum; the learning materials, represented by the tree’s crown of leaves, are the most widely visible aspect of computing lessons.

A tree with the roots labeled 'curriculum, the trunk labeled 'teaching approaches', and the crown labeled 'learning materials'.

Each aspect plays an important role in culturally relevant pedagogy:

  • Within the curriculum, it is important to think about the contexts in which computing concepts are taught, and about you make connections with issues that are meaningful to your learners
  • Equitable teaching approaches, such as open-ended, inquiry-led activities and discussion-based collaborative tasks, are key if you want to provide opportunities for all your learners to express their ideas and their identities through computing
  • Finally, inclusive representations of a range of cultures, and making learning materials accessible, are both of great importance to ensure that all your learners feel that computing is relevant to them

You can download the guide on culturally relevant pedagogy for computing teachers now to explore the resources provided:

  • You’ll find a lot more information, practical tips, and links to resources to support you to implement culturally relevant pedagogy in all these aspects of your teaching
  • The document links to different available curricula, and we have highlighted materials we’ve created for the Teach Computing Curriculum that promote key aspects of the approach
  • We’ve also included links to academic papers and books if you want to learn more, as well as to videos and courses that you can use for professional development

What was being part of the working group like?

One of the teachers who was part of the working group is Joe Arday from Woodbridge High School in Essex, UK. Joe originally worked in the technology sector and has been teaching computing for ten years. We asked him about his experience of being part of the project and how he plans to use the guide in his own classroom practice:

“It has been an absolute privilege to play a part in working towards producing the guide that my own children will be beneficiaries of when they are studying the computing curriculum throughout their education. I have been able to reflect on how to further improve my teaching practice and pedagogy to ensure that the curriculum taught is culturally diverse and caters for all learners that I teach. (Also, having the opportunity to work with academics from both the UK and US has made me think about becoming an academic in the field of computing at some point in the future!)”

Computer science teacher Joe Arday.

Joe also says: “I plan to review the computing curriculum taught in my computing department and sit down with my colleagues to work on how we can implement the guide in our units of work for Key Stages 3 to 5. The guide will also help my department to work towards one of my school’s aims to encourage an anti-racism community and curriculum in my school.“

Continuing the work

We hope you find this resource useful for your own practice, and for conversations within your school and network of fellow educators! Please spread the word about the guide to anyone in your circles who you think might benefit.

We plan to keep working with learners on their perspectives on culturally relevant teaching, and to develop professional development opportunities for teachers, initially in conjunction with a small number of schools. As always with our research projects, we will investigate what works well and share all our findings widely and promptly.

Many thanks to the teachers and academics in the working group for being wonderful collaborators, to the learners who contributed their time and ideas, and to Hayley Leonard and Diana Kirby from our team for all the time and energy they devoted to this project!

Working group

Joseph Arday, FCCT, Woodbridge High School, Essex, UK

Lynda Chinaka, University of Roehampton, UK

Mike Deutsch, Kids Code Jeunesse, Canada

Dr Yota Dimitriadi, University of Reading, UK

Amir Fakhoury, St Anne’s Catholic School and Sixth Form College, Hampshire, UK

Dr Samuel George, Ark St Alban’s Academy, West Midlands, UK

Professor Joanna Goode, University of Oregon, USA

Alain Ndabala, St George Catholic College, Hampshire, UK

Vanessa Olsen-Dry, North Cambridge Academy, Cambridgeshire, UK

Rohini Shah, Queens Park Community School, London, UK

Neelu Vasishth, Hampton Court House, Surrey, UK

The post Delivering a culturally relevant computing curriculum: new guide for teachers appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Exploring how culture and computing intersect

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/culture-computing-stem-education-diversity-research-seminar/

It can be easy to think of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) as fields that develop in a linear way, always progressing towards ever better solutions and approaches. Of course, alternative solutions are posed to all sorts of problems, but in western culture, those solutions that did not take hold are sometimes seen as the approaches that were ‘wrong’ or mistaken, and that eventually gave way to the ‘right’ approaches. A culture that includes the belief that there is only one ‘right’ way can be alienating to anyone who sees the world in a different way.

Ron Eglash.
Dr Ron Eglash, University of Michigan

Dr Ron Eglash from the University of Michigan explored the intersections of diverse cultural ideas and computing in his talk at the final research seminar in our series about diversity and inclusion (see below for the recorded video). His work and insights show us how we might think about diversity in computing as being dependent on the diversity of cultural concepts and beliefs that can underpin the subject. Ron also shared free resources for educators who want to help their students learn about STEM while exploring cultural ideas.

Where do our ideas about computing and STEM come from?

Ron’s talk explored the overlaps of technology, culture, and society. In his research work, Ron has facilitated collaborations across the world between STEM students and people from indigenous cultures, opening up computing to people who have different backgrounds and different ways of seeing the world and, in the process, revealing many complex assumptions that different cultures have about computing and technology.

Ron’s work challenges some of the assumptions in western culture about technological knowledge. He started his talk by showing the evolution of knowledge as a branching set of possibilities and ideas that societies choose to move forward with or leave behind. To illustrate, he gave examples of different concepts of mathematics that western society has taken on board, refined, or discarded throughout its history, demonstrating that there are different versions of mathematics we could have had but chose not to.

A branching diagram showing a very simplified historical relationship of the knowledge systems of Native American, Asian, African, and European people. Created by Ron Eglash.
A simplified view of the relationships of knowledge systems across the world, as shown by Ron in his talk.

These different choices in adoption and exploration of ideas, Ron continued, are more evident when one looks at the knowledge systems of different cultures side by side: different knowledge systems represent different paths that groups of people have chosen — not in totality but as the result of smaller decisions that select which ideas will be influential and which will be eliminated.

What ideas pattern our cultures?

One idea that western society has chosen, and that Ron highlighted for us, is the extraction of value. This is something we can see across this society, and it’s a powerful idea that fundamentally shapes how many of us think about the world. We extract value from the natural world in the way we exploit raw materials. We extract value from labour through the organisation of working arrangements that we have made the norm. And we extract value from social relationships through the online social media platforms, online games, and other digital tools that have so quickly become a central part of billions of people’s lives.

Traditional African art: by using patterns of recursive and non-linear scaling, artists intentionally symbolised the bottom-up and circular ideas permeating their culture.
Examples of indigenous visual art patterned by circular and bottom-up principles, as shown by Ron in his talk.

But western culture, with its particular knowledge system and core tenet of value extraction, represents just one possible way of social and technical development. In nature, systems do not extract value, they circulate it: value moves in a recursive loop as organisms grow, die, and are subsumed back into the ecosystem. Many indigenous cultures have developed within this framework of circulating value. The possible benefits of a circular economy are becoming a topic of discussion in western society, and we would do well to remember that this concept is not western in origin: other cultures have been practicing it for a long time, a point Ron made clear in his talk. And as Ron showed us through his research, the framework of circulating value permeates various indigenous cultures in ways that go beyond approaches such as sustainable agriculture, and thereby creates repeating, fractal patterns in cultural artefacts at different scales, from artworks, to the way settlements are organised, to philosophical ideas.

Close-up photo of an Angelica flowerhead.
Many natural phenomena show fractal patterns, for example this Angelica flowerhead, a sphere of spheres. (Photo by Chiswick Chap – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In nature, there are many examples of fractal geometry because of biological and chemical phenomena of bottom-up growth and replication. Ron shared images gathered during his research that highlight that fractal patterns are also clearly visible in, for example, traditional African art: by using visual patterns of recursive and non-linear scaling, artists intentionally symbolised the bottom-up and circular ideas permeating their culture. African cultural concepts of recursion and non-linearity, which were also brought to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade, can be seen today in, for example, cornrow hair braiding, quilting, growing traditions, and spiritual practices.

Examples of hair braiding patterns  informed by African cultural traditions.
Examples of hair braiding patterns informed by African cultural traditions, as shown by Ron in his talk.

Computing activities based on circulation of value

The links between indigenous cultural concepts and computing algorithms are many. To explore these in the context of education, Ron and his team have worked in collaboration with members of indigenous communities to develop Culturally Situated Design Tools (CSDT), a suite of computing and STEM activities and learning resources that allow young people of a range of ages to discover the relationship between computing and programming concepts and cultural ideas that trace back to indigenous cultures. The CSDT development process Ron described involved genuine collaboration: seeking ‘cultural permission’ from communities; deeply understanding the cultural concepts behind the artefacts that were being developed; and creating tools that not only allow students to explore traditional designs and artefacts but also give them the scope to design their own original artefacts and to actively contribute to communities’ cultural practices.

Screenshot from the Culturally Situated Design Tools website showing Cornrow Curves Tutorials.
Screenshot from the Culturally Situated Design Tools website showing Cornrow Curves Tutorials.

Ron underlined in his talk how important it is not to see activities like CSDT as a lure to ‘trick’ young people into engaging with STEM classes; the intention is not using them as a veneer to interest more young people in industries underpinned by an extractive world view. Instead, circular and bottom-up concepts are an alternative way of seeing how technology can be used to influence and construct the world.

Returning creative contributions

As such, an important aspect of the pedagogy of Culturally Situated Design Tools is returning creative contributions to the community whose concepts or artefacts are being explored in each activity. The aim is to create a generative cycle of STEM engagement, and Ron demonstrated how this can work by sharing more about a project he conducted with STEM students in Albany, NY. Students began the project by exploring cornrow design simulations. They brought these out of the computer, out of their schools, and into local braiding shops by producing 3D-printed mannequins featuring their cornrow designs. Through engaging with the braiding shop owners, the students learned that the owners had challenges to do with the pH level of hair products, and this led to the students producing pH testing kits for them. The practical applications benefitted the communities connected to the braiding shops and inspired more student interest in the project — thus, a circular, mutually beneficial process of engagement emerged.

A generative cycle of STEM education, in which students learn with activities based on cultural artefacts and then use their learning to give back to the community the artefacts came from.
A generative cycle of STEM education, in which students learn with activities based on cultural artefacts and then use their learning to give back to the community the artefacts came from. As shown by Ron in his talk.

Importantly, the STEM activities that Ron and his collaborators have developed cannot be separated from their cultural context. This way of teaching STEM is not about recruiting young people to become software developers or other tech professionals, but instead about giving them the skills to be creative contributors and problem solvers within communities so that they can help promote the circulation of value.

Rethinking diversity

I have long been enthusiastic about the potential of computing and digital making as a tool for many disciplines, and Ron’s talk made me consider what this might mean at a much deeper level than providing different routes into computing. There is a lot of discussion about how we need to increase diversity in the STEM field to make the field more equitable and able to positively contribute to society, but Ron’s presentation challenged me to think about the cultural assumptions that shape the nature of STEM, and how these influence who engages with the field. Increasing diversity and inclusion in computing and STEM is not just a case of making opportunities open to everyone, but about actually re-shaping the nature of the field so it can be equitable in its interactions with ecological systems, cultures, and human experiences.

Do watch the video of Ron’s presentation and the following Q&A for more on these concepts, examples of the computing activities and how to use them, and discussion of these fundamental ideas. You’ll find his presentation slides on our ‘previous seminars’ page.

You can find the resources Ron shared at csdt.org and generativejustice.org/projects.

Join us at our next online seminar

We are taking a break from our monthly research seminars in August! In the meantime, you can revisit our previous seminars about diversity and inclusion. On 7 September, we’ll be back to start our new seminar series focusing on AI, machine learning, and data science education, in partnership with The Alan Turing Institute. At these seminars, you’ll hear from a range of international speakers about current best practices in teaching young people the technical concepts and ethical considerations involved in these technologies. Do sign up and put the dates in your calendar!

The post Exploring how culture and computing intersect appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

What does equity-focused teaching mean in computer science education?

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/equity-focused-teaching-in-computer-science-education/

Today, I discuss the second research seminar in our series of six free online research seminars focused on diversity and inclusion in computing education, where we host researchers from the UK and USA together with the Royal Academy of Engineering. By diversity, we mean any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. This might be, for example, age, gender, socio-economic status, disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or sexuality. The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of difference. 

In this seminar, we were delighted to hear from Prof Tia Madkins (University of Texas at Austin), Dr Nicol R. Howard (University of Redlands), and Shomari Jones (Bellevue School District) (find their bios here), who talked to us about culturally responsive pedagogy and equity-focused teaching in K-12 Computer Science.

Equity-focused computer science teaching

Tia began the seminar with an audience-engaging task: she asked all participants to share their own definition of equity in the seminar chat. Amongst their many suggestions were “giving everybody the same opportunity”, “equal opportunity to access high-quality education”, and “everyone has access to the same resources”. I found Shomari’s own definition of equity very powerful: 

“Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement of all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as the distribution of resources. Tackling equity requires an understanding of the root cause of outcome disparity within our society.”

Shomari Jones

This definition is drawn directly from the young people Shomari works with, and it goes beyond access and opportunity to the notion of increasing justice and fairness and addressing the causes of outcome disparity. Justice was a theme throughout the seminar, with all speakers referring to the way that their work looks at equity in computer science education through a justice-oriented lens.

Removing deficit thinking

Using a justice-oriented approach means that learners should be encouraged to use their computer science knowledge to make a difference in areas that are important to them. It means that just having access to a computer science education is not sufficient for equity.

Tia Madkins presents a slide: "A justice-oriented approach to computer science teaching empowers students to use CS knowledge for transformation, moves beyond access and achievement frames, and is an asset- or strengths-based approach centering students and families"

Tia spoke about the need to reject “deficit thinking” (i.e. focusing on what learners lack) and instead focus on learners’ strengths or assets and how they bring these to the school classroom. For researchers and teachers to do this, we need to be aware of our own mindset and perspective, to think about what we value about ethnic and racial identities, and to be willing to reflect and take feedback.

Activities to support computer science teaching

Nicol talked about some of the ways of designing computing lessons to be equity-focused. She highlighted the benefits of pair programming and other peer pedagogies, where students teach and learn from each other through feedback and sharing ideas/completed work. She suggested using a variety of different programs and environments, to ensure a range of different pathways to understanding. Teachers and schools can aim to base teaching around tools that are open and accessible and, where possible, available in many languages. If the software environment and tasks are accessible, they open the doors of opportunity to enable students to move on to more advanced materials. To demonstrate to learners that computer science is applicable across domains, the topic can also be introduced in the context of mathematics and other subjects.

Nicol Howard presents a slide: "Considerations for equity-focused computer science teaching include your beliefs (and your students' beliefs) and how they impact CS classrooms; tiered activities and pair programming; self-expressions versus CS preparation; equity-focused lens"

Learners can benefit from learning computer science regardless of whether they want to become a computer scientist. Computing offers them skills that they can use for self-expression or to be creative in other areas of their life. They can use their knowledge for a specific purpose and to become more autonomous, particularly if their teacher does not have any deficit thinking. In addition, culturally relevant teaching in the classroom demonstrates a teacher’s deliberate and explicit acknowledgment that they value all students in their classroom and expect students to excel.

Engaging family and community

Shomari talked about the importance of working with parents and families of ethnically diverse students in order to hear their voices and learn from their experiences.

Shomari Jones presents a slide: “Parents without backgrounds and insights into the changing landscape of technology struggle to negotiate what roles they can play, such as how to work together in computing activities or how to find learning opportunities for their children.”

He described how the absence of a background in technology of parents and carers can drastically impact the experiences of young people.

“Parents without backgrounds and insights into the changing landscape of technology struggle to negotiate what roles they can play, such as how to work together in computing activities or how to find learning opportunities for their children.”

Betsy DiSalvo, Cecili Reid, and Parisa Khanipour Roshan. 2014

Shomari drew on an example from the Pacific Northwest in the US, a region with many successful technology companies. In this location, young people from wealthy white and Asian communities can engage fully in informal learning of computer science and can have aspirations to enter technology-related fields, whereas amongst the Black and Latino communities, there are significant barriers to any form of engagement with technology. This already existent inequity has been enhanced by the coronavirus pandemic: once so much of education moved online, it became widely apparent that many families had never owned, or even used, a computer. Shomari highlighted the importance of working with pre-service teachers to support them in understanding the necessity of family and community engagement.

Building classroom communities

Building a classroom community starts by fostering and maintaining relationships with students, families, and their communities. Our speakers emphasised how important it is to understand the lives of learners and their situations. Through this understanding, learning experiences can be designed that connect with the learners’ lived experiences and cultural practices. In addition, by tapping into what matters most to learners, teachers can inspire them to be change agents in their communities. Tia gave the example of learning to code or learning to build an app, which provides learners with practical tools they can use for projects they care about, and with skills to create artefacts that challenge and document injustices they see happening in their communities.

Find out more

If you want to learn more about this topic, a great place to start is the recent paper Tia and Nicol have co-authored that lays out more detail on the work described in the seminar: Engaging Equity Pedagogies in Computer Science Learning Environments, by Tia C. Madkins, Nicol R. Howard and Natalie Freed, 2020.

You can access the presentation slides via our seminars page.

Join our next free seminar

In our next seminar on Tuesday 2 March at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PDT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, we’ll welcome Jakita O. Thomas (Auburn University), who is going to talk to us about Designing STEM Learning Environments to Support Computational Algorithmic Thinking and Black Girls: A Possibility Model for Changing Hegemonic Narratives and Disrupting STEM Neoliberal Projects. To join this free online seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address.

Once you’ve signed up, we’ll email you the seminar meeting link and instructions for joining. If you attended Peter’s and Billy’s seminar, the link remains the same.

The post What does equity-focused teaching mean in computer science education? appeared first on Raspberry Pi.