Encouraging an inclusive computer science environment

By Beverly Clarke. Posted

Equality, diversity, and inclusion are big objectives that are highly focused on everyone’s agenda.

In this article, Beverly Clarke presents information and an opportunity to reflect on how we work with and within each of these areas, ensuring there is promotion of equal opportunity for all

Recently I attended the Microsoft Philanthropies Summit and participated in a workshop on Equitable Computer Science presented by CSforALL. This thought-provoking session made me reflect upon my own teaching and resource writing experiences, and whether I was meeting the needs of all pupils within the classroom.

Additionally, it encouraged me to think wider and consider society as a whole, and the experiences that individuals have with technology and the impact upon their lives.

With this in mind, the first activity was to identify what equitable CS education meant to me as an individual. Think about the items in Figure 1 that resonate with you.

Figure 1 - Credit: Taken from CSforAll (Microsoft Philanthropies Summit, 2019)

Then consider:

  • Why do certain areas get more attention?

  • Why are some not getting attention?

  • Which of the items guide your work?

  • Are there areas that can be developed at teacher, department, or senior leadership/whole school levels?

  • The list above mentions a lot about youth - why is this so? This is so that we are ensuring a skilled workforce for the future; however, what about other sections of the population - such as those of pensionable age, etc.? The discussion can be extended into how they are included in a digital society

Building upon this, we then looked at the words we use to talk about equitable computer science, such as access, diversity, equity, culturally responsive teaching, inclusion, intersectionality, and universal design to ensure we were looking at the topic from a shared understanding.

The inclusive classroom guide developed by Microsoft and partners, helps as a strong basis to understand these terms.

Figure 2 - Credit: Microsoft Guide to Inclusive computer Science Education

Figure 2 seeks to sum up equitable participation in computing education.

With these areas in mind, I then reflected on whether I would know and recognise equitable computer science in action in different settings - what would it look like? A few of my ideas are offered in the box.

Figure 3 - Credit: Taken from CSforAll Microsoft Philanthropies Summit, 2019

In the workshop we were introduced to, and considered, different teaching and learning approaches around Computer Science Education oriented towards a variety of equity-related goals, as shown above.

Do any resonate with you? Are your students getting experiences through the curriculum or enrichment experiences? What about you as a person – is there any impact upon your own life?

Social mobility

I conclude that promotion of equitable computer science is important in this age of greater data sharing, artificial intelligence and its use of algorithms which may or may not have bias. In addition, by ensuring all have a clear grounding and understanding of computer science, it means that we are all able to fully participate within society and that no one is left behind. Equitable computer science is also a great lever in improving social mobility. This can be explored further in the BCS Report on social mobility.

We are still relatively early in discussions, thoughts, and examples around equitable CS. As a call to action, I would encourage you to answer the questions that have been posed in this article, to share and discuss this through teacher networks and at CAS Community meetings – perhaps to continue this discussion, consider sharing examples of your experiences of equitable CS on the CAS discussion forums, so that we gather evidence of this occurring in our classrooms and communities.

Equitable Computer Science

  • More students taking up Computer Science at GCSE and A level

  • An increase in girls taking the subject

  • More students from different backgrounds taking up the subject]

  • A greater number of girls, SEN students, and students from different backgrounds entering competitions

  • Computer science contextualised to the needs of the environment

  • Supporting students for whom English is an additional/second language

  • Using voting systems in the classroom so that everyone has a voice

Are there other items that can be added to the list?


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