Initial Research

 

More and more our worlds are mediated by digital technologies and infrastructures on a daily basis. From the latest smartphone to Twitter to Internet of Things (IoT) applications, our lives are shaped by technological phenomena. A study from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) found that, “as technology plays a larger role in our world, growth in IT jobs has outstripped overall job growth,” to the point of there not being enough IT professionals for these rapidly expanding demands [1]. By 2020, it is projected that the U.S. economy will added 1.4 million computing jobs, but will only educate 400,000 students in computer science [2]. Unfortunately, the number of high school students taking courses in computer science has actually decreased from 25% in 1990 to 19% in 2009 [3]. This shrinking percentage has most dramatically impacted low-income students, women, and people of color. The ITIF study shows that, “only 3.8% of AP computer science students are black and only 9.2 percent are Hispanic [4].” The question becomes then: how do we help prepare the up-and-coming workforce and balance out the disparity of representation in terms of race, gender, and socio-economic status?

Online courses have been seen as a promising yet problematic means for access to education [5]. A chapter published in 2016, Can Technology Help Promote Equality of Educational Opportunities?” examined the use of virtual instruction and the use of intelligent tutoring systems (ITS)[6]. They found, “that high-achieving students and higher-income students took a higher share of their courses virtually compared to their lower-achieving and less affluent peers,” and that Black and Latinx students were significantly less likely than average to take virtual courses [7]. Overall, their study on the the benefits of virtual instruction had mixed results, but notably acknowledged the importance of physical, interpersonal interaction with an instructor showing that, “learning is an inherently social activity [8].”

In order to meaningfully incorporate computer science education, we need a new woodshop class where students can practice their skills in a hands-on, experiential way. The pedagogical secret of woodshop was that it required students to understand the complex concepts like trigonometry as expressed through making physical objects. Experiential Learning is not a new concept, but its transition into 21st century modalities has been complicated and murky with the rise of online-only education. Though companies like Code Academy have tried to integrate real-world concepts into their courses, like making a tip calculator, these courses fall short because visual and graphic arts play such an important role in the educational experience. Education curricula today should not only require computer science as fundamental, but integrate object-oriented programming for the visual arts. The question becomes, where can one look to find a template for how to build impactful curricula about the integration of computer science concepts and artistic expression?

  1. Nagar, Adams, and Robert D. Atkinson. “The Case for Improving U.S. Computer Science Education.” Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, www2.itif.org/2016-computer-science-education.pdf.
  2. “Solving the Diversity Dilemma: Changing the Face of the STEM Workforce.” Vital Signs: Reports on the condition of STEM learning in the U.S., Feb. 2015, changetheequation.org/sites/default/files/2015%20Solving%20the%20Diversity%20Dilemma%20FINAL%206.2015.pdf.
  3. Jacob, Brian, et al. “Can Technology Help Promote Equality of Educational Opportunities?” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, vol. 2, no. 5, 2016, pp. 242–271., doi:10.7758/rsf.2016.2.5.12.
  4. Nagar, Adams, and Robert D. Atkinson. “The Case for Improving U.S. Computer Science Education.” Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, www2.itif.org/2016-computer-science-education.pdf.
  5. Bettinger, Eric, and Susanna Loeb. The Promises and Pitfalls of Online Education. Brookings, 2017, The Promises and Pitfalls of Online Education, www.brookings.edu/research/promises-and-pitfalls-of-online-education/.
  6. Nagar, Adams, and Robert D. Atkinson. “The Case for Improving U.S. Computer Science Education.” Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, www2.itif.org/2016-computer-science-education.pdf.
  7. Ibid. 253
  8. Ibid. 264