Physical Computing Increases Access to Computer Science for Historically Marginalized Students
Physical computing is hands-on and tangible, bridges the “digital divide”, promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem solving, and promotes a sense of belonging and community.
In 2017, only 9% of computer science degrees were awarded to Black or African American students, and only 12% were awarded to Hispanic or Latinx students
Women earn only 18% of computer science degrees in the US
Only 25% of computing jobs are held by women
Historically, several populations have been marginalized from computer science education opportunities. Some of the groups impacted include women and girls, racial and ethnic minorities, students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners. Women and girls have been historically underrepresented in computer science education and related fields.
According to data from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), women earn only 18% of computer science degrees in the US, and only 25% of computing jobs are held by women. Black, Latinx, and Native American students have also been historically underrepresented in computer science education and related fields.
According to data from the National Science Foundation, in 2017, only 9% of computer science degrees were awarded to Black or African American students, and only 12% were awarded to Hispanic or Latinx students.
Students from low-income families may face barriers to accessing computer science education opportunities due to lack of access to technology and resources, as well as other systemic inequities.
Students with disabilities may also face barriers to accessing computer science education opportunities due to lack of accessibility and accommodations, as well as social stigma and discrimination.
Students who are English Language Learners (ELL) may face additional challenges in accessing computer science education opportunities due to language barriers and lack of resources tailored to their needs.
Providing physical computing opportunities can be an effective way to increase access to computer science education for historically marginalized and minority student populations, and help to promote greater equity and inclusion in the field.
Increasing access to physical computing is one potential way to increase access for marginalized groups. Physical computing is hands-on and tangible, bridges the “digital divide”, promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem solving, and promotes a sense of belonging and community.
Physical computing allows students to engage with computer science concepts in a hands-on and tangible way. This can be particularly helpful for students who may struggle with traditional computer science instruction, such as those who are visual or kinesthetic learners or who may not have prior experience with technology.
By providing physical computing opportunities, educators can create a more inclusive learning environment that accommodates a broader range of learning styles and experiences. Physical computing can help to bridge the "digital divide" and provide access to technology and resources for students who may not have access at home or in their communities. This is particularly important for historically marginalized and minority student populations who may be more likely to face barriers to accessing technology and resources due to systemic inequities.
Physical computing can help to promote creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving skills, which are important for success in computer science and related fields. By engaging in hands-on projects and activities, students can develop a deeper understanding of computer science concepts and apply them in meaningful and relevant ways. Physical computing can help to promote a sense of belonging and community in computer science education for historically marginalized and minority student populations. By providing opportunities for students to work together on projects and share their experiences and perspectives, educators can help to create a more inclusive and supportive learning environment that encourages greater participation and success.
What is Physical Computing?
Physical computing is a type of computing that involves creating interactive physical systems by combining hardware devices such as sensors, motors, and microcontrollers with software programming. The goal of physical computing is to create interactive systems that can sense and respond to the physical world, such as robots, wearable technology, and other electronic devices.
Importance of Physical Computing
- It teaches computational thinking: Physical computing involves problem-solving and designing solutions using computational thinking, which is a critical skill in the digital age. It involves breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable components and designing solutions using algorithms and data structures.
- It promotes creativity and innovation: Physical computing encourages students to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to real-world problems. It allows them to combine their knowledge of computer science with their creativity and imagination to design and build interactive systems.
- It provides hands-on learning opportunities: Physical computing provides students with hands-on learning opportunities that allow them to see the direct impact of their coding and design decisions. This type of experiential learning can be more engaging and meaningful than traditional classroom instruction.
- It prepares students for the future: Physical computing is becoming increasingly important in a wide range of industries, from robotics and automation to wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). By learning about physical computing, students are better prepared for the future job market and the digital economy.
Physical Computing in Classrooms
Physical computing has become increasingly popular in recent years, and many schools are incorporating it into their curriculum. Some schools may have dedicated makerspaces or technology labs where students can experiment with physical computing, while others may use classroom sets of kits or online resources to teach physical computing concepts. It is clear that physical computing education is becoming more prevalent in elementary schools, and efforts are being made to increase access and opportunities for students to learn about this important field.
In Brox, New York, Alexa Sorden, principal at Concourse Village Elementary, introduced Unruly Splats to her school as a tool to engage students in computer science in physical education classes. Under the guidance of Concourse Village Elementary gym teacher, Thomas Girolamo (Coach G), students engage in game building activities with Splats, giving students a concrete way to interact with science, math, and P.E.
“I believe that integrating STEM across all classes, including P.E., is vital because it helps to foster ingenuity and creativity,” said Sorden, who has made it a goal to extend STEM concepts across all curricula in the school.
Coach G also noticed that Splats helped make his classes more inclusive and collaborative: “Some of the kids who usually shy away from the traditional sports, they really shine with Splats because although they might not be the most athletic or the fastest, Splats creates a really inclusive classroom experience which is awesome to see. Every single student is participating.”