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cSELF (Computer Science Education from Life): Broadening Participation through Design Agency

October 1, 2013

The phrase ?broadening participation? is often used to describe efforts to decrease the race and gender gap in science and engineering education, and in this paper the authors describe an educational program focused on addressing the lower achievement rates and career interests of underrepresented ethnic groups (African American, Native American, and Latino students). However ?broadening participation? can also describe the more general problem of a narrow, decontextualized form of education that can alienate all demographics. Broadening the scope of computing education can not only help address disparities in differ ent social groups, but also make technical education more attractive to all individuals, and help us create a generation of science and engineering professionals who can better incorporate an understanding of the world into their technical work. The program the authors report on, Computer Science Education from Life (cSELF) takes a modest step in this direction. Using the concept of ?design agency? the authors describe how this merging of abstract formal structures, material creative practice, and cultural knowledge can improve underrepresented student engagement, and foster learning practices in computing that offer broader forms of social expression for all students.?