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Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors (2021)

Chapter: 8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda

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Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
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Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
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Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
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Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
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Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
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Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
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Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
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Page 141
Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
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Page 142
Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
×
Page 143
Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25912.
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Chapter 8 Conclusions, Recommendations, and Research Agenda The committee was tasked with exploring the role of authentic learning experiences in computing and their potential to cultivate interest and competencies necessary for pursuing careers in computing. To address this, the committee examined the evidence on learning and teaching using authentic experiences for computing in both formal and informal settings in children and youth ages 5 through 18, with particular attention to engaging learners who have been typically underrepresented in computing fields based on gender, race, ethnicity, or perceived ability. The committee recognized that the term “authenticity” has taken on multiple meanings. It is often used to refer to a broad range of learning experiences in STEM that incorporate open- ended, hands-on pedagogical approaches grounded in real-world contexts. It is also used to refer to learning experiences that are designed to closely resemble professional practice in a STEM discipline. Authenticity can also refer to how meaningful or relevant a learning experience seems from the learner’s perspective. Given the complexity of the term, the committee identified two key facets of authenticity: “professional authenticity”—that is, aligned with professional STEM practices and culture—and “personal authenticity”—that is, personally or culturally meaningful to the learner. In reviewing the relevant research, the committee began by using the broadest definition of authenticity—open-ended, problem or project based, and making—to examine the evidence for whether these kinds of approaches in general hold promise for supporting the development of interest, identity, and competence in computing. The studies reviewed did not distinguish between professional and personal authenticity in the way the committee describes. However, research on learning more generally and in the context of other STEM disciplines suggests that attention to personal authenticity—that is considering what might make the experience meaningful for the learner—may be especially important for engaging learners who have been underrepresented in in computing due to gender, race, ethnicity, or perceived ability. The committee recognizes that computing is more than just coding or computer science. Computing is now a part of nearly every occupation, not only those in the technology industry. As a result, competencies for computing are needed for a wide range of jobs and careers— computer scientist, database manager, software developer for media in the arts and music industries, spreadsheet developers—across multiple industries. Developing competence in computing requires computing-specific foundational knowledge and skills, as well as skills and knowledge that are applicable and useful in contexts beyond computing, such as critical thinking and creativity. This broad framing means that the outcomes go beyond a narrow focus on coding to include a larger set of foundational knowledge and competencies. Finally, the committee considered the range of settings in which authentic learning experiences in computing occur, including schools, informal settings, home, and online communities. The committee focused particularly on learning experiences that are designed and facilitated by educators or other professionals (National Research Council, 2009). In examining programs across these settings, the committee identified promising elements of design that can guide development of more effective authentic learning experiences in computing. This final chapter presents the committee’s conclusions and recommendations for policy, practice, and research and data collection drawing on the evidence discussed across the chapters. These are followed by a research agenda that identifies gaps in current knowledge with respect to Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-1

the ways that authentic learning experiences in computing can lead to the development of interest and competencies for computing, especially among learners who have been historically underrepresented in computing because of gender, race, ethnicity, or perceived ability. CONCLUSIONS In reviewing the available information on authentic learning experiences for developing interest and competencies for computing, the committee made the following conclusions, which inform the recommendations that follow. CONCLUSION 1: Women, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people are underrepresented in computing related careers and in the educational pathways into them when compared to their representation in the population of the United States. This underrepresentation is due, in part, to historic inequities, systemic biases, and stereotypes about who can succeed in computing as well as to lack of access to learning opportunities. The substantial impact of computing on society, personally and professionally, over the last 20 years has prompted more urgent calls to engage all learners in computing. There has been particular attention to providing learning opportunities that engage individuals from groups that are currently unrepresented in computing related careers. The intent is to broaden participation in computing careers by increasing the diversity of the individuals who enter the pathways into the profession. Authentic learning experiences in computing are often thought to be more appealing to and engaging for a broader range of learners (Chapter 2). CONCLUSION 2: Authentic learning experiences in computing that are designed to closely mirror professional practice—professional authenticity—may engage some learners. However, historical inequities in computing, biases, and stereotypes may also make these kinds of experiences unattractive to learners from communities that have typically been underrepresented in computing. Authentic experiences in computing are often designed with the goal of providing learners with an opportunity to gain a sense of what a career in computing might entail. This focus on professional practice can unintentionally bring with it some of the problematic elements of professional practice that perpetuate exclusion of people from particular demographic groups. In addition, due to stereotypes about who is most likely to succeed in computing, learners themselves understand that these experiences are not designed for them (Chapter 2). CONCLUSION 3: Research on learning more generally, and in the context of other STEM disciplines, indicates that interest, motivation, perception of the discipline, and self-efficacy play important roles in learning and can shape later choices and identity development. They are likely to play similar roles in learning in computing and in shaping choices and identity development related to computing. CONCLUSION 4: Learning experiences in computing that are designed with attention to learners’ interests, identities, and backgrounds—personal authenticity—may attract and retain more learners who are underrepresented in computing because of their gender, race, Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-2

ethnicity, or perceived ability than learning experiences that focus solely on professional practice. CONCLUSION 5: STEM experiences can be both professionally and personally authentic at the same time. These facets of authenticity do not need to be in opposition and ideally experiences can be designed to incorporate both. The above set of conclusions builds upon the evidence presented in Chapter 3. Research from the broader field of STEM learning suggests that motivation to learn and learning outcomes are associated with learners’ personal interest in a topic or discipline, their perception of value and use of what they are learning, and their sense of competence in engaging in the practices and community of the discipline. When a STEM learning experience is connected to cultural referents, places, and social relationships that learners find personally meaningful, it can foster a sense of disciplinary learning that is relevant to the learner. In view of this research, authentic experiences in computing that reflect professional practice and also connect learners to problems that they care about are one possible approach for reaching a broader range of learners. CONCLUSION 6: For most individuals, a single authentic STEM experience may not be sufficient to sustain interest and develop a suite of competencies in computing. Multiple experiences over time and across settings and contexts may help facilitate the development of enduring interest and competencies. Developing knowledge and skills in computing takes time, as does developing an identity as someone who can succeed in computing. As described in Chapter 3, research on learning in other STEM disciplines suggests that multiple, connected experiences in different settings across time can be a powerful way to develop competencies and identity in STEM disciplines. Some researchers have pointed to the importance of considering the “ecosystem” of learning opportunities a learner may have open to them and how a learner’s experience may unfold and connect across different settings. Access to and participation in computing activities across multiple settings can help shape whether emerging interests and competencies develop further and eventually result in long-term participation in computing (see Chapter 3). Consistently positive experiences may facilitate continued growth and confidence, while negative or conflicting experiences may undermine learning and engagement. This is consistent with retrospective accounts in the field, including the personal trajectories presented in Chapter 2. CONCLUSION 7: Research on authentic learning experiences in computing is in the early stages with few studies that employ causal designs and uneven attention to different cognitive, behavioral, and affective outcomes. The evidence that is currently available shows mixed results. However, research on authentic learning experiences in other STEM subjects suggests that such experiences can increase interest and competencies for those disciplines. Although the research in other STEM disciplines points to ways in which participation in authentic experiences can increase interest and competencies in STEM (see Chapter 3), the research on computing is emergent (Chapter 4). There are an increasing number of studies examining the relationship between authentic learning experiences in computing and specific Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-3

affective, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes. In some cases, the results are positive and promising, whereas in other cases the findings are either inconclusive or are not significant. Settings for Authentic Experiences in Computing Authentic learning experiences in computing come in a variety of forms. They may include recreational pursuits such as participating in online games and creative communities to more structured activities in classrooms, after-school programs, or camps. They also include experiences in school settings. CONCLUSION 8: Authentic learning experiences in computing can occur in a wide range of settings, including classrooms, community organizations, homes as well as online. Each setting brings constraints as well as affordances with respect to the potential to provide experiences that combine both personal and professional authenticity. CONCLUSION 9: Programs in out-of-school settings often have the flexibility to design learning experiences in computing that reflect the interests and identities of the learners and communities they serve. This flexibility may provide an opportunity to incorporate greater attention to personal authenticity. At the same time, wide variations in the nature of settings themselves, funding mechanisms, organizational capacity, and program design can make it difficult to arrive at broad generalizations about the outcomes of these programs. Program designers in out-of-school settings have the opportunity to tailor learning experiences that are reflective of the culture, interests, and assets of the learners and communities they serve. However, the evidence suggests that the distribution and quality of out-of-school opportunities are tied to various factors, such as time, cost, transportation constraints, as well as reliable access to physical spaces, knowledgeable facilitators, and availability of materials that are conducive to such activities and learning experiences. Although experiences may be designed to be more personally authentic to the learner, they may not be promoted broadly enough to reach learners from underrepresented communities (Chapter 5). CONCLUSION 10: Participation in learning experiences for computing in K–12 schools is uneven. There are fewer opportunities, either as stand-alone courses or integrated into other school subjects, at the elementary and middle school grades, and relatively more opportunities in high school. In high school, there have been recent efforts to design courses to engage learners who have been traditionally underrepresented in computing based on gender, race, ethnicity, or perceived ability. However, at all grade levels there is little information about the nature of the learning experiences themselves and the degree to which they might reflect professional and personal authenticity. Providing learning experiences in computing in K–12 schools has the potential to reach learners who otherwise would not have sought them out. However, as described in Chapter 6, factors within schools such as time in the curriculum, access to technology and the expertise of teachers make it difficult to provide learning opportunities that address both personal and professional authenticity. In addition, inequities in access to computing experiences both within Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-4

and across schools mean that Black, Latinx, Indigenous students, and students from rural and low-income communities have fewer opportunities to engage in any kind of learning experiences in computing. At the high school level, there have been efforts to design courses that can attract students from groups who have historically not been represented in computing courses (Chapter 6). CONCLUSION 11: In both formal and out-of-school settings, educators and program facilitators who have strong backgrounds in computing and are proficient in pedagogical approaches that engage learners are key to implementing professionally and personally authentic learning experiences in computing. Educators and facilitators benefit from professional preparation that equips them with the necessary skills, resources, and experiences to adequately implement authentic STEM experiences for learners. With the press to expand the numbers of programs that provide learning experiences in computing, there is increased demand for educators and facilitators who have the knowledge and skills to lead them. There are recent efforts to more systematically understand the types of professional learning experiences that are beneficial for facilitators in out-of-school settings as they work to develop and refine their knowledge and skills (see Chapter 5). In school settings, elementary and middle school teachers typically do not have formal training in computing (Chapter 6). Designing Authentic Learning Experiences in Computing CONCLUSION 12: Principles for good program design for STEM learning, which incorporate attention to both professional and person authenticity, suggest that careful attention to the following factors is essential:  programmatic goals, including specification of desired outcomes;  characteristics of the learners to be served;  learners’ interests, identities, and backgrounds;  involvement of supportive caregivers, peers, educators, facilitators, and mentors;  preparation of the individuals who will support the experience;  ensuring participants have access to necessary materials and resources; and  the organizational contexts within which the learning will occur. Design, in any context, should begin with a sense of “why” and “for what purpose” one is designing. Having an explicit understanding of the purpose and clearly articulated goals allows for better alignment between intentions and actions such that it will be easier for program designers to specify what it is that they want participants to know or be able to do, and as a result what should be taught, to whom, and how. Chapter 7 elevates a number of key design considerations (i.e., learners, community, activities, environment, duration, tools and iteration) that can guide development of programs that are tailored to the characteristics of a particular setting and community. CONCLUSION 13: In order to build competencies for and sustained interest and identity in computing, learners need to engage in multiple learning experiences over time. To Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-5

ensure that learners are aware of, guided through, and have access to opportunities to engage in authentic STEM experiences for computing, it may be ideal to leverage the contrasting strengths of out-of-school and formal settings by building and brokering stronger connections and pathways between them, as well as with home, community contexts, and youth-driven online communities. Learners’ experiences in out-of-school and school contexts often happen with little connection to each other. Yet, evidence from other STEM subjects (Chapter 3) suggests there is power in developing connections between learners’ experiences across different settings and designing opportunities with these connections in mind. Partnerships between settings can enhance these connections, for example, museums partnering with schools to develop curriculum and provide professional development opportunities (Chapters 5 and 7). Furthermore, research suggests that relevance and personal authenticity may be supported by connections to place and culture and reinforced when supported and connected across settings (see Chapter 3). RECOMMENDATIONS In light of the evidence discussed throughout the report and the conclusions above, the committee recommends the following actions to ensure that a broader, more representative set of learners have access to authentic STEM experiences that can spark and cultivate interest and competencies for computing. The committee recognizes that while there is a strong call to expand the number of opportunities to learn computing, the evidence exploring how these experiences relate to developing interest and competences for computing is still emerging. Despite the limitations in the research, the committee offers a set of recommendations that focus on how research, design, and professional preparation and continued learning can support these changes while also emphasizing a systemic view of the changes needed to make progress toward a more widespread, equitable access to authentic STEM experiences for computing. RECOMMENDATION 1: Program designers should be intentional in the design and implementation of programs offering authentic learning experiences that build interest and competencies for computing. This includes:  having clear and explicit programmatic goals and continuous refinement of the program to ensure alignment to those goals;  designing for personal authenticity that builds on learners’ interests, identities, and backgrounds while also designing for professional authenticity;  ensuring that the participants include people who are underrepresented in computing because of their gender, race, ethnicity, or perceived ability;  considering inclusion of families and community members as well as learners in opportunities to co-create activities;  ensuring educators and facilitators have adequate preparation and access to necessary materials and resources; and  reflecting on whether the communication, outreach, and operation of the program is inviting for learners who are underrepresented in computing because of their gender, race, ethnicity, or perceived ability. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-6

RECOMMENDATION 2: Practicing teachers in schools and facilitators in out-of-school time settings should seek out opportunities and materials on how to incorporate effective practices for creating authentic learning experiences in computing within an existing program that includes utilizing problem-/project-based learning strategies, allowing learner choice among activities, and considering learners’ contexts outside of school time. RECOMMENDATION 3: Preservice and in-service teacher educators and trainers of out- of-school time facilitators should ensure that educators and facilitators are equipped to engage learners in personally authentic learning experiences in computing. This includes providing ongoing opportunities for educators to learn and practice using inclusive pedagogical approaches, as well as having access to materials and resources that build on learners’ interests, identities, and backgrounds. RECOMMENDATION 4: School leaders should consider a variety of ways to provide access to authentic learning experiences for computing. These include (1) addressing challenges (e.g., lack of instructional time and teacher expertise) associated with integrating authentic computing experiences into instruction in a variety of subjects, (2) increasing access to stand-alone computing courses, and (3) ensuring schools have adequate resources such as equipment, reliable broadband Internet, and time. RECOMMENDATION 5: Program providers in out-of-school settings should increase efforts to expand access to authentic learning experiences for computing through growth of opportunities and active program promotion within underserved communities and in rural areas. This includes considering ways to reduce barriers to participation such as time, cost, and transportation. It also includes offering programs multiple times or during the evening and weekends, reducing program costs or offering financial assistance, and subsidizing transportation. RECOMMENDATION 6: Program evaluators should develop and apply robust models of evaluation that take into account the distinctive features of authentic learning experiences in computing. More specifically, this includes attending to personal and professional authenticity, considering connections across settings, and to the extent possible, disaggregating findings and examining differences between and within groups (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc.) for computing outcomes as a central part of model building and evaluation. RECOMMENDATION 7: There should be a broad-based effort to cultivate a network of opportunities, as well as supports for learners to navigate between them, both in and out- of-school to increase access and opportunities for sustained engagement with computing. To achieve this:  funders should support initiatives that make connections across settings—both formal and out-of-school settings including home and online—and between industry and educational efforts for authentic learning experiences in computing;  designers and educators across formal and out-of-school settings should consider tailoring to the community context, learners’ backgrounds and experiences, and Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-7

attending to cultural relevance;  local STEM institutions, schools, and out-of-school providers should develop partnerships that allow them to develop complementary programs that fill in gaps and connect learners to other opportunities within the network; and  stakeholders in the network should be sure that they are providing opportunities in communities of underrepresented learners. RESEARCH AGENDA During the course of the committee’s review of the existing literature, numerous opportunities for research were identified that could help provide a deeper understanding of the ways in which authentic learning experiences can develop and cultivate interest and competencies for computing. Research on learning experiences in computing specifically is relatively sparse; however, findings from other STEM disciplines offer some guidance. The pressure to expand access to computing and the proliferation of programs for computing creates urgency for the research community to better understand how these experiences can best support learners. The major gaps in the evidence base related to learning experiences in computing include a lack of knowledge about the access and participation in authentic learning experiences in computing, particularly those that occur outside of the formal school setting; a lack of evidence about the specific design features and pedagogies that facilitate high quality authentic learning experiences in computing; and a lack of evidence about the effectiveness and outcomes of programs that provide authentic learning experiences in computing. What was clear from the review of the literature is that in published studies of particular educational programs authors need to provide more detail including better descriptions of the program design, length, participants, role/approach of teacher/facilitator, data collection techniques, analysis, and findings. The field may also benefit from development and use of standardized measures of outcomes. Future research needs to explore and identify the varied images and narratives of diverse students’ trajectories in computing. This would also include a need for longitudinal studies to establish relationships between authentic STEM opportunities and outcomes in computing careers and majors. This report has also highlighted the lack of and need for research on learning experiences in computing that take place in home and family contexts and online. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of this line of research. Descriptive research could illuminate the landscape of such opportunities and provide insights into the quality and type of experiences available; it could also show the extent to which students of different backgrounds have access to and participate in such opportunities. For example, the field would benefit from an understanding more about the affordances of virtual experiences, and what goals can be achieved virtually versus those in real-life settings. This section identifies priorities for research and discusses multiple methodological approaches needed to answer questions about access to, participation in, and outcomes related to computing that vary for students of different backgrounds and geographic contexts. That is, more research is needed to identify specific practices and designs for effective inclusive programming. It is worth noting that this research is challenging due to the heterogeneity of learners as well as type and quality of authentic STEM experiences. The possible areas for study below are an Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-8

invitation for continued dialogue and a guide for funders or researchers seeking to understand the role of authentic learning experiences in developing interest, foundational knowledge, and competencies in computing. Equity and Inclusion Possible research areas that center equity and inclusion include studies that:  examine programs with proven success for students from minoritized communities as well as those in rural settings in computing-related activities;  focus on effectiveness of specific instructional practice supporting inquiry-based and project-based learning and making-oriented activities (e.g., electronic-textiles) in computing, particularly for historically underrepresented populations;  investigate under what circumstances and how ethnocomputing, and other culturally responsive and culturally sustaining pedagogical approaches, can improve students’ knowledge, sense of belonging, and aspirations in computing; and  examine how the racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation identity of educators or facilitators shapes students’ perceptions of computing and their own sense of belonging. Policy Research needs in the area of policy include studies that:  examine how particular educational policies support the availability and quality of authentic computing experiences for students, particularly for historically underrepresented groups of students;  explore effective recruitment of diverse (particularly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous) educators and facilitators;  examine the role of the private sector and commercial products and platforms in supporting and inhibiting access to authentic learning experiences in computing; and  analyze the nature and impact of schools, districts, or states adding computing education in K–5, middle, and high school settings (e.g., integrated within STEM subjects and/or standalone courses, duration of experiences). Supporting Learning How to best support authentic learning experiences in computing might be explored through studies that:  outline effective professional preparation and professional development programs, including pedagogy and content knowledge, for teachers and facilitators;  probe how in-school and out-of-school, home, online, and youth-driven learning experiences can mutually support students’ ongoing participation and aspirations in computing;  examine how accumulated learning experiences about computing, over time, supports students’ efficacy, interests, and knowledge growth towards pursuing computing; Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-9

 detail the impact of peer and adult encouragement for supporting students’ interest in pursuing computing; and  identify the skills, interest, and competencies in computing that are developed in home- based settings or outside of structured (in-school or out-of-school time) learning environments, such as hobbies, crafting, gaming, entrepreneurship, etc. Personal and Professional Authenticity Research areas that center personal and/or professional authenticity in learning experiences for computing includes studies that:  investigate how specific computing learning experiences can support a combination of both professionally and personally authentic computing learning experiences;  seek to understand the trade-offs for different groups of learners of the relative emphasis given to personal or professional authenticity;  explore personally authentic STEM experiences for underrepresented learners, and how they align or differ from those that are professionally authentic and personally authentic experiences for groups dominant in STEM fields; and  explore the effective practices for creating more inclusive professionally authentic settings, including college computing departments and the technology industry, for students who participate in computing education experiences. FINAL REFLECTIONS As articulated throughout this chapter and report, the profound impact of computing has substantially shaped our everyday lives. Engaging learners in opportunities that enable them to develop computational literacy and skills is imperative. However, as this final chapter suggests, there is much more that can and should be learned about the outcomes, nature, and design and implementation of authentic learning experiences for computing. This should not discourage those designing, implementing, or studying such experiences. On the contrary, our conclusions, recommendations, and research agenda strongly suggest the potential for authentic learning experiences to cultivate the interest and competencies for computing. In order to realize this potential, the energy, creativity, and resources of researchers, practitioners, and concerned funders must now be directed at generating more thoughtful, high- quality, and evidence-based work. Given the inherent complexities, it will not be a surprise to find that designing, implementing, and documenting effective authentic learning experiences for computing is both time consuming and expensive. Despite these very real challenges, the possibility of ensuring learners have access to authentic experiences that will allow for the development of interest and competencies for computing is enticing in its potential for developing both a knowledgeable and creative citizenry and a robust and diverse computing workforce. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 8-10

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Computing in some form touches nearly every aspect of day to day life and is reflected in the ubiquitous use of cell phones, the expansion of automation into many industries, and the vast amounts of data that are routinely gathered about people's health, education, and buying habits. Computing is now a part of nearly every occupation, not only those in the technology industry. Given the ubiquity of computing in both personal and professional life, there are increasing calls for all learners to participate in learning experiences related to computing including more formal experiences offered in schools, opportunities in youth development programs and after-school clubs, or self-initiated hands-on experiences at home. At the same time, the lack of diversity in the computing workforce and in programs that engage learners in computing is well-documented.

It is important to consider how to increase access and design experiences for a wide range of learners. Authentic experiences in STEM - that is, experiences that reflect professional practice and also connect learners to real-world problems that they care about - are one possible approach for reaching a broader range of learners. These experiences can be designed for learners of all ages and implemented in a wide range of settings. However, the role they play in developing youths' interests, capacities, and productive learning identities for computing is unclear. There is a need to better understand the role of authentic STEM experiences in supporting the development of interests, competencies, and skills related to computing.

Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing examines the evidence on learning and teaching using authentic, open-ended pedagogical approaches and learning experiences for children and youth in grades K-12 in both formal and informal settings. This report gives particular attention to approaches and experiences that promote the success of children and youth from groups that are typically underrepresented in computing fields. Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing provides guidance for educators and facilitators, program designers, and other key stakeholders on how to support learners as they engage in authentic learning experiences.

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