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Computer science teacher Shanua Newton-Rodriguez wants to lead by example.
A woman of color who grew up in the Bronx, she wants to see more students like her learning Java, Python, web design, or other coding skills.
But for many students in the nation’s largest school system, especially girls, blacks, and Latinos, it’s too late to enter high school. Many people faint before reaching the high-level courses taught by Newton-Rodriguez at the Bronx Software Engineering Academy (BASE).
In the various computer science classes she teaches this year, there are just one to four girls. (Nearly 90 percent of students in technology-focused career technical education schools are boys, she said, Newton-Rodriguez.)
“Some students don’t see themselves as programmers. They won’t take the first step,” said Newton Rodriguez. “Computer science validation still takes time, even for adults. It’s still considered an elective.”
Despite New York City’s 10-year plan to bring “computer science to every student” by 2025, equitable Gender is still a big issue.
Under an initiative called CS4All, only 17% of schools met their equitable goal of reaching female, Latino and black students. According to the report, schools that have made great strides in building computer science courses have lower average enrollment rates for black and Latino students, and there is a “persistent lack of access to computer science within and across schools.” equality was found. (Computer science offerings have fallen back a bit in some schools, perhaps because the pandemic has thinned schools, but across the city there has been improvement towards equity goals, the report notes.) .)
“It’s not just about getting more seats in more classrooms. It’s also about representation,” said Cheri Fancsali, author of the report and deputy director of NYU’s Research Alliance.
To change the culture of computer science classrooms, Fancsali said, educators should not only emphasize the value of the subject, but also see computer science as “a tool for solving problems and problems in one’s community and for social justice.” ‘, said it needs to show that it can be. That will also require educators to think more ‘holistically’ about her science of computers and incorporate it into different disciplines, she said.
Teacher training remains an obstacle. The CS4All initiative aims to reach he 5,000 teachers through two-week summer professional development sessions, but more substantial courses are sparse.
New York City is addressing this problem through a program called “Computer Integrated Teacher Education,” which has trained more than 1,000 New York City teachers to integrate computing across subjects. The $14 million initiative, announced Monday, is funded through public-private partnerships with the education sector, CUNY, Google, Robin Hood and Gotham Gives, and is believed to be the largest initiative of its kind in the country. city officials said. The funds will cover scholarships for at least her 800 teachers enrolled in the program and will allow CUNY to design new courses.
“We are focused on the ambitious goal of providing students with a clear path and preparation for a rewarding career and long-term financial security,” said President David Banks in a statement.
Teaching culturally relevant computer science
Newton-Rodriguez, who received the prestigious Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics from the New York City Foundation last year, is doing what he can to attract more students from underrepresented groups involved in computer science. I am doing my best.
She also talks about possible career paths and ways to make extra money, and students in her user experience/user interface design classes create posters for local pizzerias and religious groups, with service fees ranging from $500 to $1,000. can be claimed. She incorporates culturally sensitive lessons into her classes and talks about “what if they weren’t there” contributing to top companies. For example, in Tesla’s early days, the camera technology used in self-driving cars didn’t recognize dark-skinned pedestrians, she said.
Newton-Rodriguez, who worked as a graphic designer before becoming a public school teacher 17 years ago, said:
For example, in Harriet Tubman’s social studies class, you can discuss what information technology could have done for the Underground Railroad and what problems the technology has caused. But when she suggested that she offer her computer science-related professional development to her colleagues, they objected, saying there were other topics to cover in those sessions, she said. I was. Also, because it is not a core subject, it is difficult to find co-teachers to assist students with disabilities, making it difficult to differentiate and assist students who need help with their math skills.
She and other educators say computer science training needs to start when children are young to give students a stronger foundation. Research has found that exposing young children to computer thinking is critical to building future success in technology and shaping early attitudes toward tech careers, but the 2020 The Center for Urban Future study examines non-profit organizations that run after-school and in-school programs. However, relatively few were found focusing on grade K-5.
Computer science teachers need peer support
Newton-Rodriguez has helped her school build computer science programs, including an Advanced Placement course in the subject she teaches, and a supportive community of computer science educators through Math For America. I found math and science teacher. Joel Bianchi, his computer science teacher at Energy Tech High School in Queens, said meeting his colleagues through Math for America was “life-giving.”
Bianchi said New York State only created a license for computer science education a few years ago, but there were few ways to get one. He’s on his one of them, and about 60 other educators. His three-year free program offered by CUNY’s Hunter College for other licensed middle and high school teachers to earn a certificate in this subject.
Bianchi — another winner of last year’s Sloan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics — created and taught the new AP Computer Science A course when he moved to Energy Tech in 2019. (AP Computer Science A focuses on Java and coding, while AP Computer Science Principles focuses on broader computing concepts.) In his first year teaching the course, Bianchi had With 10 girls and 10 boys, the school won the College Board AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award.
But demographics have changed since the pandemic. This year, his course initially enrolled six girls. Three people have dropped it since. (More than 80% of his school is male.)
“Almost every year, I’ve had the problem of really good girls being overwhelmed, and in the exact same moment, some of the boys with the worst grades feel completely confident,” she said. Bianchi said. “I struggle with it…what are the things I can control as a teacher?”
He worries that female students are hearing messages that they “unconsciously perpetuate stereotypes” that courses are too difficult and technical, and that those messages start at a young age. I’m worried that
He noticed that boys tended to talk about girls in mixed-gender groups, so he grouped the girls together. But the girls continued to struggle with feeling they belonged, and when one left this year, it was a domino effect. When his students struggled, he had them go back and correct their tests, giving them a chance to learn from their mistakes and improve their grades. We shared an article in class about why boys are better.)
“This particular class has a difficult, unfamiliar feeling to it,” said Bianchi. “You’re going to hit a wall. You’re going to fail. And that’s okay.”
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