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Communications of the ACM

Education

Computing and Community in Formal Education


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image from Cornrow Curves visual programming application

Credit: Culturally Situated Design Tools

It was a cold morning in late February when Angela (pseudonym), an African American cosmetologist, arrived with a hair mannequin at a middle school in the city where her salon is located. Angela went to the main office and signed the guestbook before making her way to Brenda's classroom. Brenda (pseudonym) is a White technology teacher who has been an educator in the city for more than a decade. She has a strong passion for exposing students to educational technologies, especially those that support engineering and computer science (CS) lessons. This particular morning, she was prepared to implement a two-day programming lesson she developed with Angela and two university researchers.

The lesson used a visual programming application called Cornrow Curves (see Figure 1) that had been created by the Culturally Situated Design Tools research team (see https://csdt.org). Cornrow Curves helps teach block-based programming and transformational geometry by having young people explore an original body of African mathematical knowledge through the history and design of cornrow braids.1 This grounds it in culturally responsive computing, an area of research and practice that, in part, is intended to confront racial and ethnic underrepresentation in CS. Culturally responsive computing challenges the idea that students' families, interests, heritages, and community contexts are barriers to learning. Alternatively, students' identities are foundational for a quality education.


 

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