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Surprising Possibilities Imagined And Realized Through Information Technology (Spirit): Attracting High School Students To Information Technology

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Knowing Our Students, Faculty, and Profession

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1104.1 - 14.1104.12



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Paper Authors


Ashlyn Munson Colorado School of Mines

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Ashlyn H. Munson ( received her MS in Applied Mathematics at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), and will complete her Ph.D. at CSM in Applied Mathematics, with a focus in Biostatistics, in the summer of 2009. Her research interests include educational assessment and biostatistics.

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Barbara Moskal Colorado School of Mines

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Barbara M. Moskal ( received her Ed.D. in Mathematics Education with a minor in Quantitative Research Methodology and her M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Professor in the Mathematical and
Computer Sciences at the Colorado School of Mines. Her research interests include student
assessment, K-12 outreach and equity issues. In 2000, she received a New Faculty Fellowship at the Frontiers in Education Conference and in 2006, she received the William Elgin Wickenden Award with her colleagues, Barbara Olds and Ronald Miller. Dr. Moskal is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Engineering Education.

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Alka Harriger Purdue University

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Alka R. Harriger ( joined the faculty of the Computer and Information Technology Department (CIT) at Purdue University in 1982 and is currently a Professor of
Computer Information Technology and Assistant Department Head. Professor Harriger's
current interests include reducing the IT gender gap, web application development, and
service learning. Since January 2008, she has been leading the NSF-ITEST SPIRIT project
which is discussed in this article and seeks to rekindle enthusiasm for information technology disciplines as a career choice among high school students, especially young women.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Surprising Possibilities Imagined and Realized Through Information Technology (SPIRIT): Attracting High School Students to Information Technology


There has been a significant decline in the number of female students who are interested in pursuing majors in the fields of Information Technology (IT). Additionally, the supply of students educated in IT is less than the current employment demand. The primary goal of the SPIRIT program is to increase high school students’ interests in IT through direct interventions and through secondary contact via high school teachers and guidance counselors. Selected high school students were invited to attend a summer workshop in 2008. Multiple forms of assessment, including pre and post assessments, attitudes measures and self-report, were used to evaluate the impact that the summer workshops had on participants’ IT attitudes and performances. The qualitative and quantitative measures used in this investigation indicate that both the students’ attitudes and performances improved from beginning to end of the one week summer workshop.

I. Introduction

Compared to the current employment demand for information technology (IT) professionals, the number of students selecting to pursue degrees in IT in the United States is inadequately low.1,2,3 Using statistics collected and published through the National Science Foundation, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded across the nation in computer science rose by less than one percent between 1997 and 2006. Yet, the demand for IT professionals is growing. Many authors have argued that this marginal growth is inadequate to meet U.S. industrial needs.3

The statistics with respect to the percentage of women pursuing IT careers is of even greater concern. In 1997, 27% of awarded computer science bachelor’s degrees throughout the nation were awarded to women. This percentage remained approximately constant until 2003 at which point it began to drop.4 Between 2003 and 2006, both the percentage of women and the number of women receiving bachelor’s degrees in computer science decreased. By 2006, only 21% of awarded bachelor’s degrees across the nation in computer science were awarded to women; this reflects a numerical difference with over 6000 fewer degrees being awarded to women in 2006 than in 2003. According to an article in the New York Times, the gap between males and females pursuing computing degrees has recently reached 25 year all time high.5 Women, as a subpopulation, are severely underrepresented in IT fields and their participation is decreasing. Women account for only 20% of the IT workforce in the United States.6 Yet, it is well recognized that women offer to IT viewpoints that are different from males, and these diverse perspectives are necessary to the advancement of the field.7

Research [8] in computer science education has provided insight into the problems that need to be addressed in order to increase the participation of both males and females in computer science. Several researchers have found that students, especially women, lack confidence in their

Munson, A., & Moskal, B., & Harriger, A. (2009, June), Surprising Possibilities Imagined And Realized Through Information Technology (Spirit): Attracting High School Students To Information Technology Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4787

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