Building a Creative, Computationally-Competent Future
ty groups far too often receive the subtle (and sometimes not
so subtle) message that computing is not for them. They see it
in news coverage of the appalling lack of diversity in technology companies and the “pale male,” nerdy images of computer
scientists in popular media. They hear it from school officials,
guidance counselors, teachers, peers, and sometimes parents.
This narrative is, of course, changing (Figure 2). Code.org,
and its extraordinarily successful Hour of Code, has shifted
the perception of who is capable of computing. Similarly, there
has been an explosion of programs attempting to reach under-represented groups along the education pipeline. For example,
NCWIT’s Aspire IT program recognizes and supports the IT
accomplishments of girls, TECHNOLOchicas showcases Latinas in technology, and Tapestry supports classroom teachers in
the recruitment and retention of girls. National organizations,
like the Boys and Girls Clubs, 4H, Code Interactive, Code2040,
Black Girls Who Code, and Code Stars have also adopted tech-nology-related activities in the after-school space. Finally, major
foundations and corporations have begun targeted efforts, such
as Google’s pilot programs in underserved areas of Harlem and
Despite the progress, much more needs to be done. If we are
to truly change the narrative for students, we must also change
the reality of CS classrooms.
HOW DO WE ENSURE THAT CS CLASSROOMS
ARE INCLUSIVE AND SUPPORTIVE OF
Inclusion and equity need to pervade CS instruction. Embedding these into the classroom should be intentionally designed
into curricula, pedagogy, classroom environment, and teacher
professional development (PD) from the very beginning.
The Exploring Computer Science (ECS) course and many of
the new AP CSP courses have done just that—and the results
• Of the more than 4,000 students who took ECS as an
elective in Los Angeles last year, 49% were female and 84%
were either Latino or African American [Jane Margolis,
Private communication]; and
• After CSP joined CS-A as an official AP course last year, the
number of women, Latinos, and African Americans taking
AP CS exams more than doubled [ 8].
Of course, these numbers are not where we need them to be;
the success of ECS in LA is not entirely reflected in its success
nationally, and the overall AP numbers are still well below what
we’d expect based on student population demographics.
While we have begun making inroads into creating inclusive CS learning environments, more is needed on both teacher
training and classroom implementation to reproduce the successes of these programs and programs like them, at the national level.
implications of computing, and the basics of cybersecurity.
Moreover, it is essential that we as educators show students the
breadth of computing and its relevance to their lives. By illus-
trating the potential for computing to transform their world
(Figure 1), we will give students the opportunity to experience
the “passion, beauty, joy and awe of computing.” [ 1]
The changes in the field over the past ten years have been swift,
creating notable progress while also simultaneously exposing glar-
ing gaps in access. Here, we briefly cover five open questions cen-
tered around the need to ensure equitable access and participation
in rigorous, engaging, and even inspiring, computing education.
CULTURE CHANGE IS HARD. HOW CAN WE
CHANGE THE STILL PERSISTENT NARRATIVE
ABOUT WHO SHOULD AND WHO SHOULD NOT
STUDY COMPUTER SCIENCE?
Despite all the attention focused on CSforAll, many students
are still constrained by obsolete notions about who does and
does not belong in computing classes. Earlier this summer,
teachers of the new AP Computer Science Principles (CSP)
course in three different states reported (via private communication with author):
• “At the girl’s high school where I teach, only students with a
95% or above in math are allowed to take CS,”
• “A Guidance Counselor walked into my CSP class and com-
mented, ‘These aren’t AP kids. They shouldn’t be in here,’
• “School officials and the parents of a blind child all
argued that she should not be allowed to enroll in my
CS class despite the fact that the student and I were both
enthusiastic about her participation.”
It is time to discard the narrative that CS is only for a select
few. Girls, students with disabilities, and students from minori-
Figure 2: Computer Scientists Marvin Andujar (University of South
Florida) and Chris Crawford (University of Alabama) demonstrate
brain-computer interfaces at the Washington Leadership Academy