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Towards Justice in Undergraduate Computer Science Education: Possibilities in Power, Equity, and Praxis

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Social Justice: Pedagogy, Curricular Reform, and Activism

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Gabriel Medina-Kim Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Gabriel Medina-Kim is a PhD student studying the intersections of computing and feminist & anti-racist STS in the program of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His research interests center critical participation, good intentions, and imagining anti-oppressive futures in computing by mobilizing cultural and sociotechnical systems lenses using anti-racist, feminist, and decolonial thinking. His research extends his undergraduate training, teaching, and research assistantships at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, where he received a B.S. in Computer Science. Currently, Medina-Kim researches how undergraduate students negotiate commitments to social justice throughout their participation in co-curricular humanitarian engineering projects.

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As initiatives to expand computer science education scale nationally in the United States with increased corporate and federal funding, recent computing education research has called for its researchers and educators to consider justice-centered approaches in their engagements with equity in computing. This involves expanding conventional notions of equity so that interventions in equity do not end with broadening participation. Increasing representation in classrooms and industry is one of many approaches necessary to critically engage how computing (education) is entangled with power and discrimination. By reading in critical scholarship that calls for computer science and its educators to internalize how computing shapes and is shaped by society, critically engaging the racial and sociopolitical contexts of computing becomes an urgent necessity for computing education. This paper responds to such calls for justice in computing education by thinking with the author’s course plan for an undergraduate computer science elective as an entry-point into discussing how computing educators can practice justice-centered approaches to equity. Titled “Power, Equity, and Praxis in Computing,” the course plan is discussed and assessed through three facets: the course’s purpose, its content, and its (intended) learning environment. The purpose of the course is to make space for undergraduate computing students to explore how systems of power are coproduced with computing so that students can practice making social justice-centered transformations as critical participants of their field. The content of the course plan is organized through modules that overview sites and considerations for intervention in computing. The learning environment is discussed through commitments to Queer and Critical Race pedagogies, interdisciplinarity, and mixed methods in which teacher-student partnerships embolden students to read and write (both code and written word) with computer science, science and technology studies, and anti-racist Feminist studies. Ultimately, the author outlines the importance for computing education researchers and practitioners to draw upon the field’s interdisciplinarity to center justice within computing education research for equity.

Medina-Kim, G. (2021, July), Towards Justice in Undergraduate Computer Science Education: Possibilities in Power, Equity, and Praxis Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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