Hello World

What does equity have to do with computing?

September 13, 2021 Hello World Season 2 Episode 4
Hello World
What does equity have to do with computing?
Show Notes Transcript

Recent events, particularly COVID-19, have emphasised the lack of equity in computing, especially when it comes to equipment and connectivity. It’s also no secret that the field of computer science is lacking in diversity. So today, we’re asking the question: "What does equity, access, diversity, and inclusion have to do with computing?". James and Carrie Anne are joined by two guests to explore how important it is for educators to reflect on their practice and ensure their teaching is accessible, inclusive, and engaging to all learners.

Full show notes:
https://helloworld.raspberrypi.org/articles/what_does_equity_have_to_do_with_computing

Carrie Anne Philbin:

What do equity, access, do with Computing

Beverly Clarke:

To know your learners and don't

Yolanda Payne:

To have a heart for your good at and giving them an opportunity to be good at.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Welcome to Hello World, a in computing and digital making. I'm Carrie Anne Philbin, a computing content creator for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, currently leading the development of the teach computing curriculum, and I am a passionate advocate for computing for all,

James Robinson:

And I'm James Robinson, a working on projects that promote effective pedagogy within our subject. I too want to see all learners have the access and meaningful opportunities to experience our amazing subject. If you want to support our show, then subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and leave us a five star review.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Today we're asking What do inclusion have to do with computing? It's no secret that the field of computer science is lacking in diversity. When we look at the number of diverse people entering the STEM workforce and contrast them to the number of students in school education who lack access or opportunity to take a computer science course, the pipeline problem is clear. So what can educators do to change the status quo?

James Robinson:

Well, I think Carrie Anne educators can do, and I think the first and most important step is recognising and understanding the barriers that many young people and learners face when trying to engage with computing in a meaningful and interesting and engaging kind of way. I think that's that's first and foremost, that's a really important thing. And I think in reflecting upon that, we can think about how we might address our biases that we might have consciously or unconsciously and address whether those biases whether they're present, perhaps in our content or the examples that we give in our lessons or the role models that we present to our learners. And then I think there's also something about inclusive practises making sure that the way we deliver is as inclusive to all learners as possible. When we think about the universal design for learning, which is a principle which suggests that we design our learning to cater for all learners needs, but there's also something there I think about cultural relevance and responsive pedagogy building content that actually sort of reflects the diverse range of cultural experiences that our students have. When reflecting on this, educators might feel that a lot of these are really big, systemic changes that need to happen. But actually just pausing and reflecting on the things that we can achieve as individuals is a really important step that we can all take. Finally, you mentioned access at the beginning there, and I think one really kind of interesting thing that's happened over the last few years is that the context of COVID and the sort of the focus on the BLM movement over the last couple of years has really raised awareness of a lot of these issues for different groups of students. But it's also we've seen lots of initiatives from governments and organisations who have acted to support schools and learners in very practical ways, such as the government's laptop schools here in the U.K. and a Raspberry Pi programme that we ran last year, which was called Learn at Home, where we distributed kit to lots of learners out there to support home learning.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Yeah, I mean, you talked about Lives Matter movement sort of raising awareness. I think they've done more than that. I think they've really pushed us all to reflect on what is happening around us. You know, really open way in a way we've had to really challenge ourselves. And I think that it can only be good for society. And I think access for me is about all of the things that you've talked about. But it's also more than just access to technology, as in does a young person have access to a computer that they can both use for their learning, but also create technology with, tinker with perhaps break? That's kind of one idea of access. But do they also have access to expertise and role models, either through their teachers or their parents or their community? Or do they also have access to opportunities? So is there curriculum time devoted to it wherever they are or if it's not part of their curriculum? Are there other opportunities like after school clubs or hackathons? Or are there other opportunities to have access to computer science? Does that sound kind of. That's kind of my reflection on the access part of equity.

James Robinson:

I think it's really important to I think, you know, I think technology in itself is a is a is a big enough challenge, but actually it's not sufficient. You know, it's not all about just giving our learners access to technology it's about a wider kind of holistic offer. I think that's a really important point.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Giving students an opportunity is a personal mission for our special guest. Yolanda Payne, a research associate at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a fellow at the Constellations Centre for Equity in Computing. She facilitates a Code Club and Girls who code chapter while still finding time to tinker at home with her two sons. Why is access to computer science for all so important?

Yolanda Payne:

So for me, because I always grew parents saw the importance of computers in our home. I didn't realise that other students didn't have that opportunity until I go to school and I can do these technical things that usually boys were doing because my stepfather, he was always like, You're going to do this and you're going to learn how to do this. And so I didn't realise how many students didn't have that opportunity. And now, as an adult, I realise what a sacrifice it was for my parents to even give me those opportunities. And working in schools where poverty is, I'm often working in Title one schools here in the states. And so that meant a majority of our students were in situations of poverty. And I realise that my parents had given me a gift that. It was a sacrifice of their money at the time that many parents, hardworking parents just can't afford to do for their kids. And when you look at the way technology is impacting our society today, if students aren't a part of this age and actively producing in this, then they're missing out on opportunities. And so for me, that's that's where my passion lies. That's that's where it's come from, just giving giving students an opportunity to see if they like this, if they're good at it and even being exposed to it, it gives them it gives them more of a foothold into today's society, economy and just all aspects of our culture.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Also joining us today is former computing Beverly Clarke, who now works for BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT. She is the National Community Manager for Computing at School a Networking Community for computing teachers and educators in the UK. Why is access to computer science for so important?

Beverly Clarke:

First of all, Carrie-Anne and introduction and thank you for inviting me to join you on this podcast. I'd say that my motivation for all of this comes from a very personal space and a lived experience. So I think back to 12 year old me, that age when you're starting secondary school and I didn't have access to a computer. And so it's quite a way back. But there were no computers where I grew up. I grew up in a different country. Up until the age of 15, and there just weren't computers. So when I speak to my colleagues and people of my age group who've grown up with computers, there's a very different experience, Ok. But that personal experience, it's helped me to understand when you've got access to technology, the difference it can make you as a person, a community and ultimately the country. So there's that whole economic issue that comes alongside the access for everyone. And so since the age of 12, I've been into computers and I've really got to grips with them and it's always stayed with me. The difference that understanding what tech can do for me and others is all about, and I've also observed the digital divide, and it's something we're really, really big about. So, you know, we're aware of the digital divide and we talk about devices and connectivity and things like that. And I've also got an interest in artificial intelligence, and I've started to notice the data divide emerging. So people who have access to the data, the ones that are more powerful. If we put that in quotations now because they are actually able to manipulate that data for, you know, for different purposes. So I'm really more interested now in the different communities, actually harnessing technology and actually understanding how it works for them because this is a really, really big issue. And I've also noticed that through my role here at Computing at School, that one of the issues that the pandemic brought about was that we found here in England that some learners did have access to devices, be that a phone, a computer or tablet. However, there was that issue with no broadband access. So there's so many different issues that start coming up. So you know teachers were running around trying to find dongles and connectivity for students. So you may get a class of 30 and they may all have devices, but then there's just two without that connectivity. So that's, you know, the barrier there. There are many challenges being faced here in the UK and in England, particularly as I've noticed and also I think about my own lived experience.

James Robinson:

I think it's really interesting, identify a number of other. Barriers, but also that really interesting kind of issue of of power in inverted commas. You know, because we see technology as an enabler of young people in terms of their sort of prospects and opportunities for the future that this access disenfranchises and kind of it takes away the ability to kind of interact with society from certain individuals. And I think that point around data, you know, hardware, connectivity, these are all different types of barriers that sort of take that power away and that ability to contribute. And I think that there are probably a myriad of other kind of challenges that we probably haven't identified here that exist, that are similarly barriers for our young learners . In the UK, What are we doing to kind of tackle that? What what's the work of Computing at School and what are what are we doing to kind of address some of these challenges?

Beverly Clarke:

So we're doing quite a lot to we'll have that impact upon our students. So I'll start off with what we're doing to support our teachers Computing at School is effectively, communities of practise to people who are interested in computing education, who have literally just held their hands up and said, You know what, I'd like to network with others locally and to improve computing education within my setting, within my community. And then, you know that just mushrooms out and that's, you know, a whole country when you get to it. So there are these communities of practise across the country, across the United Kingdom and within CAS we've also got working groups. So that's even further special interest. And we've got a group called CAS include. So the CAS include working group looks at diversity and inclusion. So you know, this is about cultural diversity, ethnic diversity, SEN, neurodiversity, all types of different diversity that we do need to acknowledge and understand that each and every single one of us is different. But together we bring so much. And when we recognise, understand, respect, our differences, that really makes for a very rich environment, rich conversations. We also dock into a massive organisation or virtual entity called the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), it's government funded with a four year plan to improve and upskill teachers. There's training available free of charge in many instances for teachers from primaries, from the primary stages all the way through to secondary stages. And of course, we've got the CAS community supporting there and helping teachers to network and take that knowledge that they've gained from those NCCE courses and to actually put it into practise.

James Robinson:

And you recently ran, I think, series of events that you ran recently? And what are the topics that I happen to to be around for was one around kind of how do we get more representation from girls and young women in computing? And what's the what's the sort of the idea behind CAS Inspire and how do you see that potentially supporting the equity agenda?

Beverly Clarke:

So they were sessions about for example, and we do feature that quite a lot. Looking at different settings, perhaps in which girls excel, projects that girls may excel with more than boys so real world settings and applying their skills and thought to projects. And so, you know, we get different experts in the field to come and impart the knowledge and what what's new and current so that teachers can improve their practise and their knowledge there. Something else that we do to support educators is we've got this concept of a CAS in a box. So we've got a variety of those, those people I mentioned who hold their hands up locally and say, I'm going to run a CAS community. Those are effectively our CAS community leaders, our volunteer community, and we wouldn't be anywhere as CAS without a volunteer community. I was a volunteer when I was teaching because I could really live and breathe and understand why it's so important to network with others so. The CAS in a box resources are there to support community leaders with talking about these really, really important issues with their local communities. So, for example, we've got a box on gender, which looks at things like self self-belief, the setting in which you're in, role models. There's information presented. And then there's also discussion to facilitate discussions with the group of teachers and to share their experience. The SEN boxes give educators and guidance on things such as establishing routines with some of your learners, depending upon what need those learners have reducing the cognitive load that learners may experience with some topics, around ethnicity. I actually took the lead in writing being the writer of the box around ethnicity because of thinking about role models and also reflecting upon my own teaching and my own experiences and who were the role models. There weren't any. I didn't actively use any ethnically diverse role models in my teaching, and to be quite honest, I find it quite a challenge to do the box. I spoke to lots of people and we kept coming up with answers such as "We don't know", "who is this person?", you know, "who could we use?" And so, you know, there is this there's a lot of research still needed in this area to highlight who people are. It isn't that people don't exist. We have to think about issues that have occurred in the past through colonialisation and colonisation and the impact that each and every one of us still feel, inventions not being recorded by certain peoples and things like that that it can appear as if there are no inventors, there's no creators of certain communities, and that's just simply not true.

James Robinson:

And Yolanda, do you want to add

Yolanda Payne:

Everything that Beverly is in the states. And so what we have found is that there are pockets of resources. Often teachers don't know about them, don't have access to them. And it's not that people are intentionally doing these things. But if you're not in these, if you're not a part of an ethnic group or racial or racial group or, you know, just a part of different groups you don't often see outside of that. But when you're working with students and they never see themselves represented, it does something to that person, you know? And so we're using a program, and one of the students said, Well, why aren't there any black female characters? And as Beverly said, up until that time, I'd never thought about it. I would just choose one, modify it. And then that was fine. But just the lack of inclusion, even that sends a message.

Beverly Clarke:

Hundred percent absolutely

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Yeah, it comes back to that idea access and opportunity. And I think tips for teachers. I think you've hit on a really good tangible one there, which is in your body of resources. Make sure that there are assets that young people can use that reflect who they are. So I have a question for both both of you, Beverly and Yolanda, educators listening to this podcast. What are kind of your top tips that they could go and implement sort of immediately? What is something you would like them to do? I think I guess the first thing is for them to reflect on their own practice. But then what are the steps that they could take or the things that they could implement straight away to be making a positive impact in this area?

Beverly Clarke:

So I've been reflecting on this headline would be to know your learners and don't make any assumptions. Don't assume that. Say, for example, if you've got a class of white children that the child that's non-white, for example, necessarily knows something about another culture. It's the same culture, we're all in the same culture here. You know, don't say to a child, you know, that's perhaps appears visually different. Well, what can you say on this topic? Because that is an inappropriate question. That does happen. It happens so frequently. Where do they live in relation to the school? Then understand any cultural differences, any religious differences just to listen to them, and that could come out quite easily. It's not something you have to ask explicitly, but when you set work, read actually read what they write and start relating to your learners. I'd also say use relevant examples. So, you know, sometimes you know, we tend to use things like, I'll give example fruits, apples, pears, fruits that you will find in a certain one country. But the students who have got an ethnically diverse background, they will be aware of other foods and students who've got a parent or a grandparent from another country. So encourage that sharing of different examples and always in a respectful way . And role models, role models are very important and they should be threaded through seamlessly. The number of schools have been into where we've got display boards, and yes, we are interested in the history of and people who have passed before us. But we also need these living everyday role models. And one of the things that I've got in the CAS in a box on ethnic diversity is taking a look at your curriculum, your specification and thinking about the role models that you use for each topic. Just go through in a first pass, write down the role models, then go through in a second pass. Look at as a gender balance. Do you have different races and cultures and all of that? You are improving your lesson and giving a richer experience. And above all, I'd say, being relatable, being someone that other people feel they'd like to share with. Because, you know, if you're talking about something that's near and dear to your heart, don't want to think anyone is going to laugh, laugh at you or think of you different. You just need to be relatable. Here also this whole concept around culturally responsive pedagogy that that's really important. And having a look of that and a lot more detail, there's a lot of writings out there around culturally responsive pedagogy.

Yolanda Payne:

So Beverly hit on the majority said, like, I can sit here and listen to her all day. But again, the biggest the biggest thing that I would say is to have a heart for your students, whether they are children or adults, and realise that everyone brings in different experiences. And so to constantly give an opportunity for your students to share. I tell teachers those first couple of weeks of school are really important in building a community. The standards that you have, the lessons that you have, they will all be there. You will not get the same results if you don't invest into the community, as Beverly said, giving your students an opportunity to share. They will tell you anything that you ask and they will show you things if you take the time to look at it. And that's important not only in the core areas, but also in computer science. You'd be surprised at the funds of knowledge, the wealth of knowledge our students are bringing into the classroom that are never tapped into because no one takes the time to ask a simple question

Beverly Clarke:

Yeah, you know, agreeing with also to share some of the there's the National Education Union here is also in addition to Raspberry Pi Foundation published a small paper on culturally responsive teaching. So I'd say, you know, that's another resource to tap into. We've spoken about ethnic diversity, what gender diversity is also important, and I'll share an example from my teaching days when you know the curriculum didn't require a computer to be opened. But I thought, well, to enrich the experience of my learners, they actually need to see what's inside this box that they're using. So I said, All right, let's get some old computers in and open them up. And so I gathered my class around and I'll never forget a young man said to me, "miss, Are you OK?" I said, You know, yes, I'm OK. And he goes, Are you really OK? And I said, Yes, I am. And I said, You know, is there a problem? And he said, "Miss, but you're a woman and you've got a screwdriver and you're going to open that". And at first I thought, What is this? Is this a sort of joke to derail the lesson? And you know what? It wasn't? He had genuine concern that I needed help to basically continue any further with a screwdriver and opening this box. I think I'd like to think in that moment, he learnt something about gender. Because I'd stood in front of him for years, so ethnically he knew who I was. You know, was visible, but he didn't think of me as a woman, then doing something which clearly in his head, you know, he's aged about 14, so that's very male should she be doing that and it's really interesting. So role models and seeing people doing a whole load of different things, it's really, really important.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

And Raspberry Pi Foundation, in of information around that exact topic so do check out raspberrypi.org, and we'll put some links in the show notes. So Yolanda, kind of same question really like, what are your kind of top tips for teachers to sort of implement sort of as soon as possible?

Yolanda Payne:

Oh, yes, absolutely. And so for us here in Georgia, where we're now, there's a law where every middle school and high school is going to have to implement a computer science course by next year. And we're already looking at how is that going to be done equitably and inequitably because, you know, there's already schools that are doing it and then there are schools that this is going to be a struggle for. And so for me, having for me, being a black female in a classroom, not afraid to pick up a screwdriver, not afraid to take apart a computer, not afraid to do things. I think that was one of the biggest catalysts for my girls to to see. And when I say my girls, I mean my students and my Code Club, because once you're my code club, you're mine. And so, oh, they see me do that. And just forging through, you know, I think that gave them more confidence to do different things. And a lot of times I would make them take the lead on things and then show other students. And, you know, and so in doing that, that boosted their confidence. It I was right there in the classroom with them and I was willing to learn with them. I have to say it was always white male teachers that noticed my passion for technology and encouraged me. And so, you know, it's not a matter of just seeing someone that looks like you. It's a matter of seeing your students and seeing what they're good at and giving them an opportunity to be good at it.

James Robinson:

That sounds really interesting. I think they're both those collection of tips are really fascinating, and it's interesting how you both spoke about the importance of that sort of person-ability, the approach-ability, those listening skills and making sure that you really understand the needs and experiences of your students. I was just thinking about sort of addressing the kind of the white male teacher being being of that kind of persuasion. And I was curious, like, I think sometimes as someone in that position who has had a relatively privileged experience of computing and access to computing. What are the things that that people in my position who are, you know, really want to do the best for their students, what is it? What are the kinds of things that they can do to make sure that they're providing opportunities and encouragement and really be an advocate in this space?

Yolanda Payne:

If you notice someone is good at statement that right there you you'd be surprised at how far that goes. For instance, I got into my graduate programme because the instructor said, his name is Eddie Hinton, He said. Dr. Eddie Hinton said, "Yolanda, you're really good at this. Did you know that there's a degree over at Mississippi State in this, this area?" I had no clue. There was a whole degree that I could do something that I thought was just fun. And so just that one word of encouragement put me on a whole total. I mean, just a totally different path. And so just acknowledging what you see in students can give them, you'll never know if that one word of encouragement is the thing that sticks in a 12 year old's mind. Even if everything else around them is saying, No, no, no, you can't do that, you're being that one person that saw that one thing at that moment might change the direction of their lives.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

I mean, it's everything you say own experience, I think the reason why I have so much passion for computing, education, science as a subject and discipline is just thanks to my, my parents, my my dad. I come from a really kind of poor working class background here in England. My parents did not have access to university education. My dad was very quick to as someone who is a heating engineer and a plumber. He's always was always my whole life, sort of playing around with technology and different tools and so on. So we were really lucky that he brought home a sort of device he brought home a Commodore 64 when I was very young and you know, I would sit with him and I would play it, and I know I can kind of work backwards, but all of my passion comes from that experience and also my school. Having one just one BBC micro computer, which if you were good at maths and you had completed all of your maths work, you were allowed to have a go at. So I was kind of in that bubble of someone who was allowed to mess around with logo. So what you're saying really resonates, but no one else around me or I didn't have access to experts. I didn't have access to people who would support me, but I was lucky enough to have that access to technology. So, you know, whenever I hear you talk about this, I always just feel a lot of, you know, connectivity with you because I have a similar sort of story. It would be really great if we got to a point in society where everyone didn't have that origin story. I want to get to a point where where young people say, Oh, I went to a Code Club or I had this amazing teacher or it was on the curriculum or I want to get to that point. We're not quite there yet. That's my dream. But, you know, just it would be good to hear from your perspective and your location kind of what are the barriers really for access for young people to computing education?

Beverly Clarke:

So just what Yolanda's just me. So my GCSE and A-level years, my teacher was a white male. And so that's Mr McNulty. And he was absolutely fantastic. I still find myself thinking today, where is he? What did he do? Did he know the impact he had upon me? And by the time I did, my A-levels were just the class of five girls. And you know, if memory serves me correct, one of those was non-white. But he encouraged and he showed the way and where I went to university in London, it was very mixed. And I do remember in my industrial placement, I worked for the Met Police and I went to a department which was all male. And but there was encouragement there, OK? And I do remember my manager at the time saying, Right, you know, he's got a young student in, Come on, come with me, Beverly. Do you know anything about networks? And I didn't. And he said, Let me show you Novell Networks is what it was at the time. He said when you leave university, you put this on your CV, you will get a job. He was absolutely spot on. So that encouragement is really important. Not writing anyone off based, on any sort of bias or whatever, but just encouraging that person to get involved and be a participatory citizen. And something else that Yolanda said is but learning alongside your, your students so you know you're making mistakes with them, you're opening the box. Also, you know, you may not know which screws to unscrew, first of all, but just really getting stuck in. And them seeing you as human. And you know, James, you're saying, you know, what can you do? Is that being relatable and encouraging and also accepting, you know what? There's some things I don't know but I'm willing to learn, so I think that's really, really important.

James Robinson:

I, that all really resonates in my kind of my early 20s kind of reflecting on my teenage years and kind of thinking, it's such a shame that my school didn't offer computer science and I didn't have those same experiences that my my, my peers at university had. But actually reflecting on it. Now I look back and I think actually I was in a very privileged position. You know, I had that that that device that my parents sort of scrimped and saved to buy at a young age. I had school teachers that encouraged me and allowed me to essentially break computers, but so I had all those opportunities and actually, it gave me the curiosity and self motivation to go and seek those answers and those challenges and those opportunities. So, yeah, it's really it's really kind of interesting to kind of reflect on these, these sort of overlapping origin stories and how how transformational a device can be.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

But that's the thing, right, I equity and opportunity, it's not just devices. You know, if we reflect back on our experience, it's not just devices, it's also the opportunity of access to resource, whether that resource is expertise or role models or it's or it's, you know, curriculum time, dedicated time a space in school where you are able to have that opportunity, whether it's just a club or it's formally as part of your school day. Those are access areas in which we need to make sure everybody has that opportunity.

James Robinson:

So my final question to Yolanda in practical terms about an equitable classroom and and knowing that we'd reach that kind of that that place, that kind of goal that we're trying to reach. What does that equitable classroom look like in your view?

Yolanda Payne:

So an equitable classroom, in my student knows what their part of the puzzle is. And so for me, tying it back to computer science, everyone is not going to be a coder. But there are so many different roles associated with technology, with computer science that can be tied into other content areas. If in an equitable in an in a classroom where equity is being shown, it would be every student knowing themselves and where where they can contribute.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

We asked you our audience, for on what equity in computer science education means to you in practise computing from St. John's College said. I like to think of computing at key stage three, which is ages between 11 and 13 as an experience, a chance to try out and see the variety of uses. Computer science has, use a varied curriculum and plenty of cross curricular contexts.

James Robinson:

And our friend Alan Harrison that his girls lack confidence, which stops them choosing the subject at key stage four, which is our kind of age 14 to 16. And so that key stage three period that Carrie Anne has just mentioned is really important to build praise and confidence and also to use that time to kind of demonstrate representation through our role models and so on. So that's a really good point. I think it's not without its challenges. Mrs. Mounsey on Twitter said in practise, computing needs buy in from school senior leaders and needs to be seen as relevant to all and giving students the opportunity to explore and find out what engages them.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Rebecca Franks also responded learners to see the variety that the subject has to offer, allowing the students to see an aspect that is for them. And finally, Nick Kelsey says very much agree about everyone having the opportunity to access the subject. This is crucial not just for students, but for the productivity of the UK and beyond. My thanks to Yolanda Payne and Beverly Clark for sharing their experience with us today and for all their efforts in raising the profile of diversity and inclusion in computing education. We need more people like them. You can read their articles on this topic in issues 11 and 14 of Hello World magazine. If you have a question for us or a comment about our discussion today, you can email via [email protected] or you can tweet us @helloworld_edu. So James, it's been a bumper episode today. What did we learn.

James Robinson:

So much! I think first and challenges here there are big challenges, but there are so many things that teachers can do. And I think that point about being relatable, approachable and knowing your students is the biggest difference. I think our educators can make.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

How about you? Well, I'm going screwdriver in the faces of many people and to demonstrate that computer science is for everyone.