The convergence of technology, education, and diversity is the topic of a new book written by Jane Margolis of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Her book is based on research at three Los Angeles "digital high schools" — a predominately Latino school, a predominately African-American middle- and working-class school, and a school in an affluent white neighborhood where one third of the students were local and two thirds were non-local minorities.
Margolis, an academic at UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access, says the schools with highest concentrations of minority students featured only the most elementary of computer science instruction. She identifies a lack of curricula, sequence of courses, computer science teaching methods courses, professional development opportunities, and a learning community as the most significant challenges that teachers are facing. Margolis says a lack of qualified educators is a far more critical shortage than an absence of new technology in schools.
An earlier book by Margolis focused on the college-level challenges that computer science students must contend with, and she notes that female students' impetus for studying the field was often connected to other disciplines, such as robotics or space or environmental science. "We described this as computing for a purpose, as opposed to just hacking for hacking's sake," Margolis says. "Unfortunately, too many students experienced the first years of the curriculum and culture as more narrow and programming-centric; too many of the female students then felt they didn't belong in computer science and felt a gap between their motivation and the computer science culture and curriculum." Margolis says the situation has changed, and more people are now realizing that computer science must be introduced and contextualized in college in a meaningful, exciting, and interesting manner.
Margolis will be a keynote speaker at the Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium on June 27 in Washington, D.C., which is sponsored by the ACM-launched Computer Science Teachers Association.
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