Despite the nation’s immediate agenda to exponentially increase diversity in computer science education, there is a dearth of research on how to engage students’ learning (and civic engagement) in 21st century skills. Access to computer science education has been limited to an elite band of youth, primarily male and White. For example, in Arizona, only 190 students took the Advanced Placement Computer Science (APCS) High School Exam in 2013: among them were 100 White, 46 Asian, 22 Mexican American, and 2 American Indian high school students (The College Board, 2014). Moreover, Phoenix Union High School District offers only one APCS course, district-wide (Phoenix Union High School District, 2013-2014). These numbers reflect and reinforce the disparities in the national computing workforce; in 2013, 26 percent were female, 2 percent of females represented the ancestral heritage of North, Central and South America combined (National Center for Women in Technology, 2013).
In order to engage more diverse communities, computer science education desperately needs research on how to draw from and incorporate the ancestral cultural wealth of underserved populations, including females. In addition to being one of the most racially segregated areas in education (Margolis, 2009), the manufacture, production, and disposal of computational devices poses a serious threat to environmental sustainability, often produced for capital gain alone, and at a high cost to the environment (Bowers, 2000). While underserved populations live with these consequences, there is a dearth of equitable opportunities to contribute diverse views to potential solutions to complicated societal problems, much less acquire the 21st century skills in computing.
Computer science inextricably shapes our lives, but a myopic portion of our population has access to this gatekeeping education. Underserved populations hold a wealth of indigenous knowledge yet very little is done to make space for indigenous peoples to thrive in computer science education. My vision for a sustainable approach to computer science education is motivated by the preservation of ancestral knowledge systems and the protection of Mother Earth.
My interdisciplinary research weaves indigenous studies, computer science education and environmental sustainability. Indigenous knowledges re-connect us with the land. Computer science teaching and learning can be leveraged as a tool for increased awareness and strategic action towards, for example, sustaining food and water systems, particularly in light of increased food deserts and water shortages.
Bowers, C.A. (2000). Let them eat data: How computers affect education, cultural diversity, and the prospects of ecological sustainability. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
Margolis, J., Estrella, R., Goode, J., Jellison Home, J., & Nao, K. (2008). Stuck in the shallow end: Education, race and computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Moreno Sandoval, C. D. (2013). Critical Ancestral Computing: A culturally relevant computer science education. Psychnology Journal, 11(1), 1-25.
National Center for Women in Technology. (2013). By the numbers. Washington, DC: Women and Information Technology Office. Retrieved from https://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/btn_02282014web.pdf
Phoenix Union High School District. (2013-2014). Course Catalog, 2013-2014. Phoenix, AZ: Phoenix Union High School District.
The College Board. (2014). AP Program participation and performance data 2013. Washington, DC: Research and Development Office. Retrieved from http://research.collegeboard.org/programs/ap/data/participation/2013