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

Chapter: 2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing

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Suggested Citation:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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 20
Suggested Citation:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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 21
Suggested Citation:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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 22
Suggested Citation:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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 24
Suggested Citation:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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 25
Suggested Citation:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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 26
Suggested Citation:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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 27
Suggested Citation:"2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing." 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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2 Barriers and Supports for Learners in Computing As computing has become increasingly prevalent in the many facets of our daily lives efforts have focused on engaging children and youth in computing. A number of initiatives, in and out of school, seek to engage learners in a variety of different computing experiences—many with the goal of fulfilling the needs of the future workforce. As part of these expanding opportunities, there is strong emphasis on increasing the participation of learners from groups that are historically underrepresented in computing compared to their representation in the U.S. population, namely, woman, people of color (i.e., Black, Latinx, and Indigenous learners), individuals from rural communities, and those with perceived differences in ability (e.g., students with learning disabilities). Reaching representational parity is a goal that still remains despite these national efforts to increase participation of learners from underrepresented groups. The causes of the patterns of underrepresentation in computing are complex (Charleston et al., 2014; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018a; 2020; Scott, Sheridan, and Clark, 2014). A number of factors have been identified, including structural barriers such as access to courses and to technology, cultural barriers related to the norms and practices in the discipline, and stereotypes and implicit biases. Many of these barriers are rooted in racism and sexism and assumptions about who is capable in succeeding in computing. In this chapter, we examine patterns of participation in computing and discuss the barriers to participation. While it is beyond the scope of the committee’s charge to provide a detailed analysis of the historical, cultural, and social factors at play in the patterns of underrepresentation, they are important to understand at a broad level as they shape the learners’ perceptions of and experiences in computing. To illustrate how these barriers impact the trajectories of individual learners, we weave personal narratives from youth throughout the discussion.1 REPRESENTATION IN AND ACCESS TO COMPUTING Computing, along with other STEM fields, is a discipline that has long been perceived as being biased towards White men (Charleston et al., 2014). As stated above, there are a number of ongoing efforts to increase the representation of women and people of color. Despite these initiatives, the trends in representation of individuals in computing jobs throughout the last decade have remained relatively stable (see Figure 2-1). In 2019, the total U.S. workforce for all occupations included about 157.5 million workers; 47 percent are women, 12.3 percent are Black, 6.5 percent are Asian, and 17.6 percent are Hispanic. In contrast, as can be seen in Figure 2-1, in the computing workforce 25.3 percent of the workers are women, 10 percent are Black, 16.5 percent are Asian, and 8.9 percent are Hispanic. These data mirror the known patterns of overrepresentation of Asians and underrepresentation of women and Black and Hispanic people (Debusschere, 2018; Funk and Parker, 2018). It is important to acknowledge that Asian is an incredibly broad category with different histories of immigration and exclusion from US society and economies. Although Asians are overrepresented in computing, they are underrepresented in the US and are subjected to many of the same experiences described throughout this chapter.                                                         1 As noted in Chapter 1, these cases are illustrative and reflect the experiences of learners who have chosen to persist in computing. These cases do not highlight the many other examples in which learners do not persist either because they drop out or feel forced out (as discussed throughout this chapter). Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-1

These patterns of representation (and underrepresentation) start early. For example, as described in more detail in Chapter 6, access to computing varies by grade, rates of poverty at a school, ethnic make-up of a school, and school size (Banilower et al., 2018). Further, the patterns of who takes computing course are comparable to the patterns observed in the profession; girls and people of color are less likely to take advanced placement computer science courses (see the section on Equity in AP Computer Science Courses). Additionally, as described in Chapter 5, there are differences in the availability of computing experiences in out-of-school settings (Afterschool Alliance, 2016). Access to computers and the internet at home is another factor that may contribute to patterns of underrepresentation. The term “digital divide” is used to refer to differences in access to, or use of, technologies across individuals or schools based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, education level, disability status, and first or primary language (Gorski, 2005). One common indicator of this “divide” is inequality in access to computers and the Internet (Gorski, 2002; 2005). Figure 2-2 shows the access to computers in the home for learners broken down by race, ethnicity. Figure 2-3 shows Internet use in the home. Over the 7-year period from 2010 to 2017, levels of access and use have remained relatively stable for learners who are White or Asian while access and use among learners from other racial and ethnic groups has increased. Despite these increases, gaps still remain, particularly between learners who are Native American/Alaska Native and their White and Asian counterparts. SOCIAL AND CULTURAL BARRIERS IMPACTING PARTICIPATION While access and opportunity likely contribute to the historical patterns of underrepresentation, social and cultural barriers rooted in racism and sexism play a significant role. Rodriguez and Lehman (2018) stress the importance of understanding who is being privileged or marginalized in the system, and how individuals from privileged groups have access to opportunities for success and possess power over marginalized groups. Computing, as a field, has been historically composed of White men, and the values, norms and practices of the field have been shaped by them (Björkman, 2005; Faulkner, 2001; Rodriguez and Lehman, 2018). These norms, values, and practices are reinforced and perpetuated by those in the discipline with the most power (Rasmussen and Hapnes, 1991) and are communicated to prospective learners (Rodriguez and Lehman, 2018). Thus, in both in and out of school learning environments, learners are exposed to the cultural norms and assumptions of the field and this shapes their perception of computing and their and their own relationship to the discipline (Barkey, Hovey, and Thompson, 2015; Hansen et al., 2017; Rodriguez and Lehman, 2018; Schulte and Knobelsdork, 2007; Wong, 2016; Zander et al., 2009). In some cases, the norms and values of computing may be unfamiliar to individuals who are not a man or White, and in some cases, they may even be at odds with the norms and values learners bring from their own homes and communities (NASEM, 2016). When individuals experience overt or implicit racism and sexism, they may perceive an environment as oppressive and hostile (Beasley and Fischer, 2012; McGee, 2016; Naphan- Kingery et al., 2019). Moreover, they may come to feel as if they are “tokens” or representatives of their social group (Kanter, 1977), which has been associated with depression and anxiety (Jackson, Thoits, and Taylor, 1995) and declining performance due to stereotype threat (Steele and Aronson, 1995). Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-2

Sense of Belonging and Identity Across the varied settings of everyday life, as well as in media and popular culture, young people encounter representations of STEM and computing culture and identities. This includes encounters with role models, media depictions, and instructional content that influence how learners value and identify with different activities, practices, communities, and potential occupations. Learners begin to develop mental models about vocational pathways and identities and also develop a self-concept in relation to potential occupational pathways. This influences a learner’s sense of affiliation with a professionally authentic computing community of practice (see Chapter 3 for additional discussion of communities of practice). Box 2-1 presents the case of Nathan, who first started out playing Minecraft with friends and through his continued computing experiences, felt “competent and empowered” as he began to develop an identity as a computing professional.2 Research has suggested that one of the reasons women and people of color choose not to participate in computing is a sense that they do not belong in the field (Barker et al., 2009; Cohoon, 2002; Margolis and Fisher, 2002; Sax et al., 2018). Sense of belonging refers to the extent to which individuals feel like they belong or fit in a given environment and is a fundamental need that drivers learners’ behaviors (Baumeister and Leary, 1995; Sax et al., 2018; Strayhorn, 2012). As described in the previous section, learners from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in computing (based on gender, race, ethnicity, or perceived ability) experience learning environments in computing differently (Barker et al., 2009; Margolis and Fisher, 2002; Margolis et al., 2008; Strayhorn, 2012). For example, women may be discouraged from participation in STEM because the typical discourse promotes the narrative that these fields are better suited to men (Blickenstaff, 2005; Haaken, 1996; Raffaelli and Ontai, 2004; Reilly, Rackley, and Awad, 2017). These messages can be conveyed by parents, teachers, and others who have this assumption about computing careers (Eccles et al., 1990; Sadker and Sadker, 1994). Sense of belonging is important for developing an identity as someone who can succeed in computing. Dempsey and colleagues (2015) defined a computing identity as the extent to which the learner sees themselves as a computing professional (Rodriguez and Lehman, 2018). There is a strong relationship between having a computing identity, intending to pursue computing as a major (Dempset et al., 2015; Peters et al., 2014), and feeling a sense of fit with the field (Lewis, Anderson, and Yasuhara, 2016; Lewis, Yasuhara, and Anderson, 2011). For example, in school settings, learners are less likely to be exposed to teachers of color, which is a missed opportunity of exposing learners to role models and pedagogies that are informed by minoritized perspectives and experiences (see Chapter 6, Equity and Access in Computing in Schools section). In understanding how learners experience computing and how they see themselves fitting into the field it is important to consider the learner’s intersecting identities (Coles, 2009; Crenshaw, 1994; Donovan, 2011; Settles, 2006). That is, for example, how being a woman and being Black or Latina might together create a unique lens through which an individual                                                         2 Four individuals—Nathan (Box 2-1), Raven (Box 2-2), Hermione (Box 2-3), and Antonio (Box 2-4)—and their self-reported formative experiences of authentic experiences for computing are described. Out of consideration of these individuals’ privacy, proper names have been changed. Throughout the report, where appropriate, the experiences of these individuals are referenced to illustrate various aspects of the committee’s framework (see Chapter 3) with respect to authentic experiences and their potential impact for outcomes related to computing. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-3

experiences and perceives the world. In addition, the ways that other people perceive an individual’s intersecting identities may contribute to a learner’s experience of marginalization (Rodriguez and Lehman, 2018). Despite the importance of intersectionality for understanding learners’ experiences and the development of their identities in computing, current research predominately focuses on gender or race and ethnicity. The Role of Stereotypes and Implicit Biases Stereotypes create associations between occupations, fields, and identity categories such as race, class, and gender. Stereotypes suggesting science and other high-prestige occupations are the province of people who are privileged in society—upper-middle class, White, and male— are pervasive even in school settings (Allen and Eisenhart, 2017; Bang et al., 2013; Carlone and Johnson, 2007; Carlone, Scott, and Lowder, 2014; Tan et al., 2013). For example, researchers have found that stereotypes about the gendered nature of a discipline (e.g., computer science is for men) have a negative effect on whether people not of that gender (e.g., women) have a sense of belonging to that field (Cundiff et al., 2013; Martin, 2004). Stereotypes about computer science start young and may be more prevalent than stereotypes about other STEM disciplines, such as science and math (for additional discussion, see Chapter 6). For example, researchers found that learners as young as first grade believed boys were better than girls at robotics and programming but did not believe the same about math and science. They also found that girls with stronger stereotyped beliefs had lower interest and self-efficacy in computer science (Master et al., 2017). However, providing girls with experience in programming at this age seemed to confront these trends and reduce gender gaps by increasing learner interest and self-efficacy in computer science. Models do not come solely in the form of adults Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (1995) describe learners as making behavioral judgments based on what near peers are doing and what those in the next stage are doing. For example, sixth graders look toward what eighth graders do, and this may then shape the degree to which sixth grades participate in computing experiences. At the high school level, one study found that negative stereotypes about computer scientists have a detrimental effect on girls’ interest and sense of belonging in computer science (Master, Cheryan, and Meltzoff, 2016). Further, these researchers discovered that stereotypes can be communicated by the physical environment (such as images that convey the notion of computer science as geeky on the wall of a classroom), and that physical environments that do not convey these images can have a positive effect on girls’ interest. As described above, the tendency to reiterate the lack of women in computer science activates a stereotype threat that negatively influences women’s involvement (Naphan-Kingery et al., 2019). As aspirations are impacted by stereotype threat, an effort to change recruiting verbiage and attitude is required at all levels (Shapiro and Williams, 2012). Box 2-2 provides a case example of Raven, who first developed an interest in computing in elementary school as she used graphic editing tools while working on the school’s yearbook. Strategies to Address Cultural Barriers Lack of socially similar (defined as being of the same gender, race, or socioeconomic class) role models has frequently been cited as an important reason why there are few women in STEM and IT (Teague, 2002; Townsend, 1996). Exposure to alternative representation in the Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-4

media, instructional materials, or through atypical role models exhibiting vocationally relevant dispositions and skills is a way of combating stereotypes (Carter-Black, 2008; O’Keeffe, 2013). Several scholars have found that exposing learners to women in computer science who can serve as role models who are similar to those learners can help them see themselves in the computer scientist role (Asgari, Dasgupta, and Stout, 2012). For example, young women exposed to computer science instructors who are women in high school were more likely to major in computer science in college (Beyer and Haller, 2006). Box 2-3 describes the case of Hermione, who had exposure to role models who reflected her identity, in multiple settings, all of which allowed her to persist in computing while recognizing that in the field of computing, she is “unique” as a Black women. Studies in engineering have also shown a positive relationship between exposure to women role models and persistence in the major (Amelink and Creamer, 2010). However, other scholars have found that role models can have a negative influence if they conform to negative stereotypes. For example, Cheryan and colleagues (2011) found that when role models conform to the stereotype that computer scientists are “geeks,” they did not have the expected positive influence on women’s self-efficacy. Culturally relevant, responsive, and sustaining pedagogical approaches (described in more detail in Chapter 7) have highlighted the importance of settings that recognize the varied backgrounds and unequal resources that young learners bring to STEM experiences (Ladson- Billings, 1995; Scott and Zhang, 2014; Scott, Aist, and Hood, 2009; Scott, Sheridan, and Clark, 2015). For example, research with young women of color in STEM programs has highlighted the importance of creating programs grounded in learners’ identities and life experiences, equipping learners from minoritized groups to be change agents who can challenge dominant practices and cultures (Ashcraft, Eger, and Scott 2017; Ashford et al., 2017; Scott and Garcia, 2016). These counter spaces are a way of making STEM and computing relevant and authentic to learners who are marginalized in the dominant cultures of STEM, and have been shown to increase their engagement and interest (Barron et al., 2014; Erete, Martin , and Pinkard, 2017; Lee et al., 2015). Box 2-4 presents the case of Antonio, who had multiple opportunities with computing in a number of different settings; through these experiences he had opportunities that allowed him to further develop his interest in programming and robotics. ROLE OF AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCES The committee sees authenticity as central to learners’ creation of a computing identity and authentic experiences as a vehicle for addressing the structural and cultural barriers inherent in computing. Throughout this report, the committee puts forth two senses of authenticity: personal authenticity which describes activities in which learners find personal meaning and interest, and professional authenticity which describes practices that are like those used by professionals in computing. Learning environments designed for professional authenticity exhibit features of problem solving, creation, experimentation, and inquiry that mirror or are directly connected to the culture, practices, and communities of computing professionals. We use the term “personally authentic” when the activity is personally or culturally meaningful in the mind of the learner. Authentic experiences in computing come in many variations from coding an app for a service-learning project to crafting/sewing e-textiles with a caregiver to playing video games with friends. All of these might be considered authentic experiences, but they might vary in the Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-5

degree to which they are personally or professionally authentic. The committee recognizes that there might be a perceived tension between personal authenticity and professional authenticity. But this tension dissipates when personal and professional authenticity are understood as separate dimensions rather than as oppositional to each other, or as two ends of a single continuum. Instead, the committee considers personal and professional as each representing their own continuum and an experience can be more or less personally and/or professionally authentic on each spectrum. An experience that learners find personally motivating may not be grounded in professional practice, just as an experience that a learner recognizes as reflecting professional practice can also be grounded in personal interests. But experiences can be designed to be both professionally authentic and personally authentic. In it important to recognize, however, that professional practice in computing reflects a history and disciplinary culture that tends to exclude women and other marginalized groups such as Black, Latinx, and Indigenous learners. Therefore, and experience that is “professionally authenticity” may inadvertently exclude some learners. Although educators can work to create learning experiences in computing that foster personal authenticity by incorporating cultural elements and practices of groups traditionally underrepresented in the field, the professional world may also needs to evaluate and address policies and practices that create barriers to diversity and inclusion. SUMMARY Many authentic learning environments in computing have strong associations with a culture of science and technology that has historically been dominated by White men. What feels authentic to those who reflect the dominant culture of computing may feel exclusionary to women, people of color, and those with differences in perceived ability. As articulated throughout this chapter, women and minoritized learners experience multiple barriers to participation in computing. Some barriers are technological and economics, while others are social and cultural, including racism, sexism, stereotypes, and implicit bias. These barriers can in turn influence computing identity and a sense of belonging to STEM and computing, in particular. Providing learners with authentic experiences that attend to both professional and personal authenticity may be a mechanism for addressing some of these barriers. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-6

BOX 2-1 Nathan Nathan, a White man in his early 20s, grew up the oldest of three siblings in Texas where the sole computer at home available for child use was a shared family laptop. In middle school, when he had his scheduled turns to use the family laptop, he would often play Minecraft with friends in the neighborhood. Upon learning that players could set up their own server, Nathan and his friends decided that they should create one for themselves that was customized to allow the play styles they preferred. “Completing that installation was my first real experience with debugging and exposure to programming. Even though it took time and involved some problem solving, I felt competent and empowered” because he was able to install a server version of his favorite online game. His interest in the backend of computing piqued, he would later use portions of his time on the shared family laptop to watch online video tutorials that introduced programming basics in the Java programming language. By working on some of these online programming problems, he became exposed to various discrete mathematics and number theory problems that came up with computing. This led him to search for solutions online and stumble upon online coding communities that posted mathematical coding challenges. He began to complete those challenges and participate in those online communities. By this time, Nathan was in high school and enrolled in computer science courses including the AP computer science course that was offered. “My first classroom computer science teacher was an inspiration” and ended up being an influential figure “who demonstrated a strong understanding of coding and was a highly effective teacher.” Throughout high school, Nathan also maintained an interest in biology and started a high school club around the topic of synthetic biology. In his summers, he would work in a biology laboratory at the local university that he learned about from contacts his parents had, and that too eventually led to some use of his coding skills. After high school, “I wanted to pursue studies in bioengineering at a major research university but decided to add computer science as a second major because I am still really interested in it.” Years later, Nathan is still in touch with his first high school computer science teacher through social media and participates in online coding communities and the open source movement. SOURCE: As told to the committee on April 24, 2020. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-7

BOX 2-2 Raven Raven, a self-identified Latinx/Native American woman in her early 20s living in the southwest United States, had just completed her bachelor’s degree in computer science and minors in mathematics and art from a public university in the South when we spoke with her. Her family values the arts, with her grandfather working as a practicing artist and arts figuring prominently in her mother’s career and in her sibling’s hobbies. “I did not consider myself to be especially strong in the arts until I got involved with computing. I enjoy computing activities that involve designing and developing front-end interfaces and experiences for websites and web services.” While artistic expression was a part of what she currently enjoyed about computing, it was not her initial entry point. Her first memorable exposure to computing was through working on her elementary school’s yearbook and using graphics editing tools, although it was her move to middle school that really got her interested in computing. When she began middle school, Raven joined an afterschool program offered at her school that would provide students time to work on projects and computer modeling software. As a student in a new school, “my primary motivation for joining the afterschool program was to meet new people and make friends. I did not know other students at my new school, and the program sounded like everyone worked together and could be a way to build relationships while building things with computational technology.” She described her participation in that afterschool program as central to her interest and pursuit of computing as an adult. Raven continued with that same afterschool program for years and did make good friends through it. Sustained participation led to Raven’s eventually becoming one of the mentors in her later years because “the mentors and facilitators in the program were my inspiration.” Some came from a technical background and knew more about the tools and technologies that they were using. Some came from an artistic background and championed the creative process for the learners who participated. Through that afterschool program, Raven was exposed to multiple computer-based modeling environments, HTML and CSS, paper circuitry, and the Processing arts-oriented programming language. Her growing confidence with technology led her, as a high schooler, to sign up for and participate in local summer programs at a nearby university that introduced her to Arduino and animation-based programming (e.g., Alice). The breadth of exposure helped Raven appreciate that computing was not for a single career or application. Rather, it could be used across industries and one could apply computing in a number of different ways in a number of different professions. Through her participation in these out-of-school activities, she would make small projects as gifts for her sister or to help her sister with school projects. She also pursued options in school to build websites for class projects rather than traditional papers or dioramas. One of her websites went on to win a state award. When she began college as a computer science major, “I was discouraged by one of my introductory programming courses.” Raven described how she struggled with the traditional programming assignments and tests that were given, which were quite different from her experiences in afterschool and summer programs. Her professor even told her that computer science may not be the right field for her, but she had enough resilience to decide she was not going to be dissuaded from completing that degree. As a college student, she also continued to mentor—most prominently for a couple years as an afterschool computer science teacher for a university affiliated elementary lab school. There, she introduced younger students to Scratch Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-8

and the Greenfoot programming environments. Having just graduated with her degree, she is confident that she has skills that are broadly applicable to a range of fields and jobs. She is, to this day, in close contact with her mentors and mentees from the afterschool computing program that she began in middle school. SOURCE: As told to the committee on June 11, 2020. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-9

BOX 2-3 Hermione Hermione, a college sophomore, is a Black woman who grew up in a large urban center in the Northeast, who always thought she wanted to be a history teacher. Working in the field of computer science had never crossed her mind. Her first exposure to CS was through an AP CS course, the Beauty and Joy of Computinga, her sophomore year of high school. At the time, her family did not own a computer. “The school put me in the class. I had no choice and tried to get out of it. At first, I hated it. I didn’t understand it. But I had a fabulous teacher, and I fell in love with it.” The following summer, she had an opportunity to intern through the school district’s CS internship program. The paid internship offered 60 hours of on-the-job CS/tech experience and career preparation through a local university that included writing assignments, interview practice and resume review. Hermione recalled that the internship was transformative in that it exposed her to careers in computing that she didn’t know existed and also put her in contact with an excellent mentor. This first internship led to a second one the following summer with the district’s CSforAll initiative team. Through this internship she learned more about the education side of the industry. While interning, she worked with district staff who designed and implemented the initiative and attended many of the districts’ professional development offerings for teachers. She met other industry professionals, including software engineers who, “blew my mind talking about what they do and how much they love it.” Having sparked an interest in CS, Hermione began to attend hackathons outside of school. These internship experiences led her to apply to a small liberal arts college as a computer science major (with a data science minor), where she has just completed her sophomore year. As a Black woman, Hermione noted that she doesn’t “see” herself in CS at her college. Despite this, she feels supported by her professors and believes they work hard to make her feel included. Her first mentor at her internship was also Black, and she noted that he prepared her for what she would experience in the field of computing. For example, he talked to her about code switching, and encouraged her to “be yourself as much as you can.” Though no one in her family worked in CS or knew much about the field, they supported her pursuit of her interests. In addition to her AP CS course teacher and her mentor at her internship, Hermione points to several CSforAll school district staff whom she met through her internship (including several who are women, Black, and Latinx) as a constant source of motivation and encouragement to stay in CS. To this day, they continue to check in on her, send her emails, and invite her to attend summer professional development sessions. Hermione’s career goal now is to combine computer science and statistics in some way, perhaps in biocomputing. She wants to “take data and tell a story with it.” Her summer internship following sophomore year in college was cancelled due to COVID-19, so instead, she made plans to take an online bootcamp course to learn blockchain in C. SOURCE: As told to the committee on May 12, 2020. a The Beauty and Joy of Computing course is a CS Principles course developed for high school juniors that is designed to meet learners where they are. Snap! (an easy-to-learn blocks-based programming language) is used to cover the big ideas and computational thinking practices in the CS Principles curriculum framework (Ball et al., 2020). Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-10

BOX 2-4 Antonio Antonio is a Latino high school senior living in the mountain west who has been accepted to the college of engineering at a major research university. Although he has yet to decide on the specific major he will study, the ones he is considering are all computing and technology intensive. Three years prior, when Antonio was in his first year in high school, his family immigrated from Mexico, where he was born and raised. In Mexico, Antonio’s primary exposure to computing was through his school’s computer literacy courses, which emphasized learning keyboarding skills and productivity software, and through his own smartphone which he had received when he had been in the fourth grade. He had found his Mexican school’s exposure to computing to be uninteresting. His preference at that time was to focus on popular video games. “My friends and I would search for online videos on how to hack some of those games.” Besides that, he freely explored and customized settings on his smartphone because “I wanted to figure out how things worked, and I was curious how I could modify the different settings.” After moving to the US, he discovered that the local public library had a makerspace and was offering workshops and classes for free. He began to attend those regularly, going up to twice a week to the library makerspace, and learned how to program an Arduino, operate a 3D printer, build robots, and laser cut objects. “The staff and instructors really encouraged and motivated me as I programmed games, made miniature light sabers, and built webpages.” Over the years, his participation in library makerspace programs escalated to the point that he became one of the mentors there. He also began participating in workshops that were hosted by the local university, some of which his mother had learned about and shared with him and some that were being implemented through the library makerspace. In school, when his schedule had room for electives during his junior and senior years, Antonio began taking some courses on programming and robotics to further his interest. He also took courses in media editing software, which improved his ability to make custom videos. “The classes were more enjoyable than some of my other classes because the teachers were more fun and entertaining.” Most recently, Antonio participated in programming internships with local organizations. He considers himself to be quite interested and competent in technology and computing, and attributes this in large part to the library makerspace, technology classes at school, and some workshops offered at his university, as well as the enthusiastic support and encouragement from his immediate family. SOURCE: As told to the committee on April 9, 2020. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-11

FIGURE 2-1 Trends in representation for computing jobs. NOTES: It should be noted that the data does not report on Pacific Islanders, Native American participation or multi-racial people. Additionally, the data is flawed in that people who identify as Hispanic are typically not reported as having a race. SOURCE: Committee generated based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. Data tables available: https://www.bls.gov/cps/tables.htm. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-12

FIGURE 2-2 Percentages of learners ages 3 to 18 who have access to computers at home, selected years: 2010–2017. SOURCE: Committee generated based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics; Available: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_702.10.asp?current=yes. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-13

FIGURE 2-3 Percentages of learners ages 3 to 18 who use internet at home, selected years: 2010–2017. SOURCE: Committee generated based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics; Available: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_702.15.asp. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs 2-14

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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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