Oct 19

New commitments to equity, engagement at the CSforALL Summit

“Power is the ability to write and author the American story… and that requires ambition to be nurtured; it requires the administration of an infrastructure that can do this.”

These words come from Dr. Kamau Bobb of Georgia Institute of Technology, explaining how institutes of higher education are, can, and should be supporting the effort to get computer science education to ALL of the Nation’s students. Dr. Bobb spoke on a panel during the CSforAll summit, addressing how the computing initiative is at the forefront of what equity in the coming century will ultimately be and offering a salient framing for why more than 400 cross-sector advocated gathered in St. Louis to celebrate successes and design for action toward achieving CSforAll. More than 170 organizations, including the Afterschool Alliance, committed to various activities and supports to bring high quality computer science to all students.

Throughout the day of celebration on October 17, advocates shared resources, policies, and coalitions that have been vital to the ongoing success of the CSforALL movement. Many hammered home how reaching CSforALL will require utilizing the complete learning ecosystem, and reaching kids in all of the places they learn. Some highlights are described below; check out the recording for more!

The Afterschool Alliance moderated a panel highlighting the immense potential of leveraging afterschool programs and long-standing youth development networks to bring computer science learning opportunities to scale. The Girl Scouts of the USA, 4-H, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America all highlighted their new and evolving computer science pathways.                                                                

Each organization has chosen to create pathways for computer science learning, and make them accessible for all of their locales. For example, Suzanne Harper of the Girl Scouts described their “good, better, best” model, in which a spectrum of engagement options — unplugged activities, technology-enabled experiences, deep engagement with technology professionals and mentors, and sustained interaction with the field — are leveraged by scouts in pursuit of new robotics and cybersecurity badges.

With more than 300 years of combined experience serving youth across the nation and a combined footprint in every zip code, county, and military station in which our children learn, these organizations are critical components to the computer science learning ecosystem. Leveraging their immense reach and deep infrastructure is a tremendous win for millions of kids served by these organizations. 

The panel finished with a call to action for the cross-sector stakeholders interested in supporting CSforALL, including:

  • Do not forget that the digital divide is still real and all too relevant. We must eliminate the digital divide if we are going to reach all young people with computer science. When supporters work with afterschool programs, help them with their technology infrastructure.
  • Volunteer training is a must to build confidence in the volunteers and program providers who deliver computer science activities; simple trainings can go a long way, so help develop portable and scalable videos and tools for provider training.
  • Listen to kids and focus on delivering resources to team leaders who can invest in engaging and inspiring kids.

In addition to this call to action, success stories from organizations and initiatives serving at the tip of the spear for CS education equity abounded. Technolochicas, a partnership between Televisa Foundation and the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) established to provide role models and visibility of opportunities and careers in computer science and technology to young Latinas and girls, announced the expansion of their “Technolochicas LiFT” program, currently in 12 states, to Arizona in 2018. LiFT is an afterschool program designed to get middle school Latinas access to computer science experiences. (Tune into the live stream at the 10:14:10 mark to see more, including the trailer for the new Technolochicas sitcom.)

Competitions to recognize and celebrate youth in technology also appeared in force. Now in its third competition cycle, The Congressional App Challenge encourages kids to learn how to code through designing original applications. These students and their apps are then selected by their Members of Congress for recognition, prizes, and a display of the apps at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The competition is coordinated by the Congressional Internet Caucus and the Internet Education Foundation. More than 220 Members of Congress across 45 states have opted in to the challenge, which closes on November 1. While the current reach is impressive, especially in light of significant rural participation, the Congressional App Challenge commitment for CSforAll is to reach all 50 states, including all rural districts, over the next 5 years.

Looking for more? Visit the Afterschool STEM Hub for recommendations on supporting afterschool computer science in our Computer Science Position Statement.