News on the Radar: 10/28/20

Here is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT’s radar recently and which we think will be of interest to you. The practices or content of the news gathered (while not endorsed or vetted by NCWIT) is meant to spark new conversations and ideas surrounding the current diversity statistics and trends in the tech workforce. We encourage you to add your two cents on this month’s topics in the comments below.

Did you know that EngageCSEdu is now hosted by ACM?

EngageCSEdu is a searchable online collection of computer science (CS) course materials contributed by CS faculty, evaluated by experts, and selected based on alignment with evidence-based engagement and retention practices. This month, NCWIT Senior Research Scientist Beth Quinn talks to educators about how this resource was developed, how it can help faculty engage students in computing courses, and what’s next for EngageCSEdu.

What’s new about the administration of EngageCSEdu?
BETH QUINN (BQ): NCWIT developed EngageCSEdu with funding from Google. Over the last five years, we grew it to be a recognizable and trusted source of engaging assignments and projects for introductory computing courses. But, NCWIT is all about supporting our member organizations to build diversity, equity, and inclusion into the “bones” of their organizations. You know, for DEI initiatives to really work, they need to eventually be just “how we do business.” So we asked, “What would that look like for EngageCSEdu?” There was a really clear answer: ACM! It’s the premier, global professional organization for computing professionals, and it has provided fantastic leadership in CS education through its Education Board and Advisory Committee. So, we’re really excited to announce that EngageCSEdu is now an official project of the ACM Education Board! And, because it’s an ACM project, the editors-in-chief have arranged for the review process to go through ScholarOne, just like ACM journals.

What do you most want faculty to know about EngageCSEdu?
BQ: We brought on two external editors-in-chief in January of 2019: Briana Morrison (University of Nebraska at Omaha) and Michelle Craig (University of Toronto). They have done such fantastic things for the project. They give amazing feedback to authors, and the information provided to readers about each collection item is very useful. Faculty can really count on the assignments being high quality.

What do you think is an underappreciated feature or aspect of this resource?
BQ: It’s highly searchable. One of the perennial problems of collections is that they suffer from “mission creep.” Soon all kinds of items — from whole courses to exams to websites — creep in. This can really break searchability. We’ve resisted this strongly and kept our eye on our original focus: individual assignments, projects, and homework so that EngageCSEdu remains highly searchable.

The other thing I would say is that it uses a pretty rigorous system of peer review, not unlike a peer-reviewed journal. Not only can educators trust the quality of the materials, but authors can get great feedback on their work from knowledgeable reviewers, including learning scientists and DEI experts, whether or not a piece is published. Our authors say it’s super helpful, especially because they don’t often get this kind of feedback for their teaching materials.

To start exploring EngageCSEdu, go here.

Did you know that encouragement from teachers and other adults can help girls see themselves as coders?

A recent article in ScienceDaily offered an overview of findings from a study on interactions between students and instructors in a coding camp for middle school girls. The Florida State University research team “looked at when and how the girls were recognized for their coding successes during the camp, and how teachers and peers responded when the girls demonstrated coding skills.” The specific forms of praise and encouragement the girls received had an impact on their perceptions of themselves as “coders,” the researchers discovered. For example, a student who was “praised for demonstrating a skill might feel more like a coder than one lauded for her persistence,” while being “praised in front of other girls…had more impact than a discreet pat on the back.” 

This study adds to the growing body of research demonstrating that encouragement matters and plays a critical role in engaging more young women and girls in computing. For more on how educators, parents, and other adult influencers can help girls see themselves as coders, see the NCWIT resource, Bridging the Encouragement Gap in Computing. When it comes to encouragement, a little effort can go a long way. Researchers at Microsoft found that girls in grades 5 through 8 who are encouraged by their teachers or parents are roughly 1.5 times more likely to take computing and technology classes in high school compared to girls who have not been encouraged to do so. 

One way educators and other adults can support high school women in pursuing their tech interests is by encouraging them to apply for the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. Use this form to let a student know you think they would be a great candidate – but act now, because the deadline to apply is Thursday, November 5!

Did you know that inclusive workplace cultures support the retention of women in tech roles?

A recent CNET article discussed findings from the Resetting Tech Culture study, conducted by the IT consulting firm Accenture in collaboration with NCWIT K-12 Alliance Member Girls Who Code. The study surveyed 1,990 tech workers, 500 senior human resources staff members at tech firms, and 2,700 college students. One noteworthy takeaway from the study was the observation that approximately half of all young women who go into tech jobs leave those positions by age 35, with 37 percent of respondents citing “noninclusive company culture” as their reason for leaving. The study also found disparities in perception between HR leaders and women employees. While 45 percent of HR respondents believed that it is “easy for women to thrive in tech,” only 21 percent of women employees agreed with that statement, with the numbers dropping “even lower, to 8 percent, for women of color.” Recommendations for improving inclusiveness in the tech workplace included “setting external goals; encouraging all parents to take parental leave; and providing mentors, sponsors and employee-resource networks.”

For a deeper dive into the reasons why technical women often leave their jobs mid-career, as well as an extensive overview of issues facing women in computing fields, see the NCWIT resource, Women in Tech: The Facts. Want to move the needle on retention of technical women in your organization? Recruiting, Retaining, and Advancing a Diverse Technical Workforce: Data Collection and Strategic Planning Guidelines offers a research-based approach to help you get started and chart a course for success.

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