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Abstract

Recent scholarship in computer science (CS) education shifts from a focus on the technical-cognitive skills of computational thinking to the socio-cultural goal of computational participation, often illustrated as remixing popular media (e.g. music, photos, etc.) in online communities. These activities do enhance the participatory dimensions of CS, but whether they also support broadening the participation of underrepresented youth remains unclear. While online communities that are dedicated to computational participation have existed in the U.S. for over a decade, many communities of color remain underrepresented in CS disciplines. How might CS educators, researchers, and technologists promote culturally responsive forms of computational participation? To answer this question, we propose a culturally responsive framework for computational participation called generative computing. Generative computing approaches CS as a means for strengthening relationships between learning environments and local communities, leveraging culturally relevant sources of wealth generation in technology design and implementation. To explore this concept, we conducted a mixed-methods study with a cosmetology high school program that predominantly serves young African-American women. Through a series of computationally and culturally rich cosmetology projects, we tested our hypothesis that generative computing can enhance connections between Black heritage, CS, and cosmetology while supporting students’ academic interests and knowledge.
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Generative Computing: African-American Cosmetology as a Link
Between Computing Education and Community Wealth
Abstract
Recent scholarship in computer science (CS) education shifts from a focus on the
technical- cognitive skills of computational thinking to the sociocultural goal of
computational participation, often illustrated as remixing popular media (e.g.,
music, photos, etc.) in online communities. Remixing does enhance the
participatory dimensions of CS, but whether such activities can also support
broadening the participation of minoritized populations remains unclear. Indeed,
while communities dedicated to computational participation have existed in the
U.S. for decades, many communities of color remain underrepresented in CS
disciplines. How might CS educators, researchers, and technologists promote
culturally responsive forms of computational participation? To answer this
question, we propose a culturally responsive framework for computational
participation call generative computing. Generative computing approaches CS as
a means for strengthening relationships between learning environments and local
communities, leveraging culturally relevant sources of wealth generation in
technology design and implementation. To explore this concept, we conducted a
mixed-methods study with a cosmetology high school program that serves
predominantly African-American young women. Through a series of
computationally and culturally rich cosmetology projects, we test our hypothesis
that generative computing can enhance connections between Black heritage, CS,
and cosmetology while improving students’ academic interest and success.
Keywords: computer science education; computational thinking; computational
participation; cosmetology; broadening participation
Introduction
In efforts to broaden the scope of computer science (CS) education and diversify points
1
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
of entry for youth, Kafai and Burke (2014) recommend a shift from computational
thinking to computational participation, which they define as “the practices and
perspectives that are needed to contribute within wider social networks, including but
not limited to schools” (9). However, Kafai (2016) cautions that “it is not possible to
address all of the difficulties of implementing computational participation by placing
students in groups, having them program applications, and encouraging them to remix
code” (27). One such difficulty is the underrepresentation of racial and ethnic
populations minoritized in CS. Indeed, while remixing does enhance the participatory
dimensions of CS, how such activities can simultaneously support broadening the
participation of underrepresentation populations remains unclear.
Even though online and offline communities dedicated to computational
participation have existed in the United States for decades (Kafai and Burke 2014), the
representation of African-Americans in U.S. CS education and workforce remains
significantly low (Computing Research Association 2018). Consistent with the
problems of female underrepresentation in CS more generally (Margolis and Fisher
2002), African-American females are represented less than their male counterparts
(Dillon et al. 2015). According to data collected by the Computing Research Association
(2018), in 2017 African-American women were less than 1% of the total female
recipients of Masters degrees (15).
While there are many sources of societal inequities and structural racism that
contribute to underrepresentation in CS education (Lachney 2017a), there is evidence to
suggest schools themselves play a significant role (Margolis et al. 2008). Not only do
2
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
schools in African-American communities often lack culturally responsive curricula, but
as early as primary and secondary school African-American girls are often criminalized,
stereotyped, expected to conform to White middle-class expectations, and given the
impression by adults—who are supposed to be nourishing their potential—that
academic success is out of their reach (Morris 2016). This is exacerbated by wealth
inequities that African-American communities face due to histories of economic
exclusion (Rothstein 2017), the ongoing privatization of community assets (Lipman
2011), the lack of representation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
(STEM) fields—which leads to a dearth of role models—(Farinde and Lewis 2012), and
so on. Thus, because educational equity is so closely coupled with economic access
(Anyon 2014), improving CS education for African-American women is not only a
matter of creating more culturally responsive curricula that are self-affirming (Scott and
White 2013), but also connecting CS to local sources of wealth generation in students’
communities (Eglash et al. 2017a).
Our guided research questions to address these issues are: how might CS
educators, researchers, and technologists promote culturally responsive forms of
computational participation? And, how might these forms of computational
participation not only support the educational interest and achievement for young
women but also link up to sources of wealth generation that are important to young
women and their local communities? As partial answers to these research questions, we
introduce a framework for broadening the participation of minoritized communities in
CS education that we call generative computing. Generative computing brings together
research and design literature from culturally responsive computing (Pinkard 1999;
3
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Eglash et al. 2013; Kafai et al. 2014; Scott et al. 2015; Lachney 2017b) with “generative
justice” theory (Eglash et al. 2017b). We hypothesize that when children participate in
generative uses of computing, we can not only achieve the goals that Kafai (2016)
intends with computational participation but do so in such ways that are culturally
responsive and supportive of local sources of wealth generation.
To explore this hypothesis, we detail a case of generative computing in a
multimodal and community-oriented interactive learning environment: a four week after
school cosmetology/CS program attended by seven African-American and multiracial
girls that took place at an Upstate New York vocational high school. The program
focused on a specific cultural area of computational and mathematical significance: the
fantastical geometries of cornrow braiding in African-American traditions. Research
shows that West African origins of popular hair braiding styles in the U.S., including
cornrows, have mathematical and computational sophistication in their adaptive scaling
and iterative patterns (Eglash 1999). Also, beauticians and braiders have played
important roles in political activism, community organizing, and resistance to white
supremacy, while simultaneously being a local source of entrepreneurship and wealth
generation (Gill 2010). When the mathematical and computational significance of
braiding is made explicit within this context, opportunities arise for CS to become
responsive not only to students in school but also to the larger communities where
students live and work.
Generative Computing: A Culturally Responsive Approach to Computational
Participation
Generative computing can be understood as the computational application of
4
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
“generative justice” theory: “The universal right to generate unalienated value and
directly participate in its benefits; the rights of value generators to create their own
conditions of production; and the rights of communities of value generation to nurture
self-sustaining paths for its circulation” (Eglash et al. 2017a, 769). Generative justice
has been applied to a variety of contexts—from energy policy (Dotson and Wilcox
2016) to bioremediation (Kellogg 2016)—but it is most frequently associated with the
development of culturally responsive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
(STEM) education (Cooke 2016; Eglash et al. 2017b). While these scholars focus on
STEM generally, they have taken a particular view of computational thinking that
grounds it in already existing community assets (Bennett 2016).
The ideas and concepts that make up computational thinking (e.g., algorithm,
problem abstraction, decomposition, etc.) have a long history in CS dating back to the
1950s and 1960s (Yadav et al. 2014). The term first appears in the work of Papert
(1980) but isn’t popularized, defined, or operationalized until Wing (2006) decades
later. While it has many definitions (Shute et al. 2017), for the purposes of this paper
computational thinking is defined as “the thought processes involved in formulating
problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in the form that can be
effectively carried out by an information-processing agent” (Cuny, Snyder, Wing 2010,
cited in Yadav et al. 2014). Below we will focus on two ideas that are central to
computational thinking: decomposition—“breaking a problem down into smaller, more
manageable parts”—and algorithm—“a list of steps that can be followed to carry out a
task” (Krauss and Prottsman 2017, 173). As researches and educators working in the
tradition of teaching CS without computers—sometimes known as “CS Unplugged”
5
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
(Bell and Newton 2013)—can attest, these ideas do not limit computational thinking to
the use of computers, but also craft practices, bodily movements, games, and other
social and cultural practices that may appear familiar to many children and adults.
Kafai and Burke (2014) expand upon the concept of computational thinking by
pointing out that a strict focus on the individual technical-cognitive skills of thinking
limits what teaching CS and programming affords people in the 21st century, namely
participation in the social networks and communities, online and offline. Emphasizing
these socio-cultural affordances, they advocate for a shift from computational thinking
to computational participation. Drawing on examples from online computing
communities such as MIT’s Scratch and offline computing communities such as the
Computer Clubhouse Network, they explain that computational participation is meant to
signify “the practices and perspectives that are needed to contribute within wider social
networks, including but not limited to schools” (9). This shift highlights that “When
computation is thought of in terms of participation and not just thinking, it becomes
clear that there is a tremendous discrepancy in who gets to participate” (Kafai and
Burke 2014, 9-10). Indeed, the focus on inequities in technological access, often
described as the digital divide, is only part of the picture (Fields et al. 2015). Inequities
are also reproduced through who has the knowledge and skills to create and express
themselves through digital media and networks, sometimes known as the “participation
gap” (Jenkins et al. 2006).
Pointing out how technology education, in and out of schools, reproduces larger
economic and social inequities is important for social justice movements and
scholarships. But only framing the relationship between technology and knowledge as a
6
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
“divide” or “gap” risks the imposition of deficit thinking on the communities in
question. Generally understood, deficit thinking in educational contexts takes on an
assimilationist ideology that assumes young people, and the adults in their communities
must change and conform to outside institutions and forces (e.g., schools, philanthropic
foundations, technology companies, etc.) if they want to obtain academic success
(Yosso 2005). Little focus is placed on the existing assets and sources of wealth
generation that already exist within many low-income neighborhoods and communities
of color. Educators and researchers have started to challenge such perceptions by
drawing on literature from culturally responsive computing to show how computational
thinking is already part of many community practices and traditions (Eglash et al. 2006;
Kafai et al. 2014; Babbitt et al. 2015; Bennett 2016).
Building on the goals of culturally responsive teaching to frame students’
heritages, families, and personal identities as assets to teaching and learning (Gay
2010), culturally responsive computing connects these assets with computational
technologies and thinking to the benefit of both schools and communities (Scott et al.
2014; Lachney 2017b). Culturally responsive computing comes in many forms,
including initiatives that use computing for social critique (Scott and White 2013),
democratizing CS (Ryoo et al. 2013), identity exploration (Vogel et al. 2019), among
many others. Bennett’s (2016) approach to culturally responsive computing seeks to
show how computational thinking already exists within cultural practices and artifacts
of vernacular and indigenous communities; using the term “heritage algorithm” to make
the point that algorithms are commonly used in cultural arts such as Native American
quilting traditions, West African symbol systems, and African-American braiding (593).
7
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Generative computing builds on Bennett’s approach to culturally responsive
computing by making heritage algorithms explicit in their connections to locations of
wealth generation (e.g., braiding salons, artisan studios, etc.). Like computational
participation, generative computing frames computational thinking in socio-cultural
terms, but instead of only seeking connections from the outside it locates computational
thinking within existing practices for aiding community goals (education, economy,
health, equity, etc.) and showing how those goals can benefit from computing
technologies and CS knowledge. We hypothesize that as a framework for broadening
participation, generative computing can make CS education more responsive to
students, as well as open up pathways for CS to make contributions to local
entrepreneurship, culturally-situated business, and other community assets. Generative
computing, then, aims to diversify not only who participates in the CS education
pipeline, but also diversify the output of computational innovation.
Generative Computing in/as Cosmetology
In this paper, we focus on a generative computing initiative in which African-American
cosmetologists collaborated in the design and implementation of educational computing
activities and tools. Cosmetology is well suited for generative computing because of its
political, economic, educational, mathematical, and socio-cultural significance in
African-American communities. Gill’s (2010) historical research on African-American
women in U.S. beauty industries reveals deep legacies of organizing for community
change at grassroots levels. Building on the salon as a community asset, Majors (2015)
shows they are important sites of teaching and learning, where cultural literacies and
identity development are passed down from one generation to the next. Also in relation
8
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
to the salon, Wingfield (2008) details how ownership is a major entrepreneurial avenue
for African-American women to gain financial mobility and generate wealth, while also
recognizing that the salon industry is not immune from the gendered racism of larger
entrepreneurial patterns and U.S. economic policies. There are many intersectional
struggles around class, race, ability, and gender facing those in both the beauty industry
and cosmetology education, including a disproportion of non-Black owned companies
that make Black hair care products (Byrd and Tharps 2001).
In the research described below, our team found that computational thinking and
other STEM knowledges embedded in cosmetology practices and content were able to
be used in an after-school program to the mutual benefit of both cosmetology and
computing education. The primary means for making these connections was a suite of
educational technologies called “Culturally Situated Design Tools” (CSDTs). The suite
includes but is not limited to visual programming environments that help incorporate
indigenous and vernacular knowledges into STEM lessons and classrooms (Eglash et al.
2006). This study focuses on one CSDT in particular, Cornrow Curves. The scaling
patterns of cornrow braids are part of a larger body of African fractals that include self-
similar architecture, recursion in textiles, iterative loops in divination symbol
generation, and other computationally significant practices (Eglash 1999).
It is critical to understand that CSDTs are not imposing Western math on
“accidental” fractal patterns. Rather these are a deliberate, intentional body of
mathematical and computational knowledge that arose independently of Europe. This
does not mean it contains proofs and theorems; African fractals have their own means of
communicative practices. The role of the CSDT simulations is to “translate” between
9
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
different computational traditions. Because students and their teachers have been
(mis)educated to think of African cultures as “primitive” societies in which
sophisticated math and computing ideas are conspicuously absent, this perspective may
not be immediately apparent. But as long as they use the Cornrow Curves learning
environment to combine a cultural background of African and African-American
hairstyling with the algorithmic aspects of cornrow braiding, the goal of shifting CS
interests, skills, and understanding may still be met.
Braiding algorithms exist at several scales. In their original Indigenous context,
society-wide coding of distinct patterns signified marital status, kinship, and age-grade
initiations. In the U.S. context, one style might sweep the nation, or one salon might be
known for a particular cluster of algorithms. Within any one particular rendering, a
client might request some symmetry or curvature that organizes all braids across the
scalp. Even within a single cornrow braid, it is mathematically significant in part
because of the way that it is created with iterative applications of transformational
geometry: each plait of the hair grows or diminishes progressively in size, angle, and
translation. Cornrow Curves affords users opportunities to experiment with these
parameters, reverse-engineering a known pattern to see how hairstylists have been
aligning their cultural aesthetics with mathematicians’ sense of iterative transforms, and
developing a repertoire of what any computer scientist would understand as an
algorithm.
Cornrow Curves: Computational Explorations of African-American Heritage
Algorithms
The graphical user interface (GUI) of Cornrow Curves is a visual programming
application—similar to MIT’s Scratch where users design and produce media through
10
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
dragging, dropping, and snapping together code blocks into a script (see figure 1)—that
is framed by the historical, cultural, social, mathematical and political context of
cornrow braiding. The software application itself is a fork of Berkley’s Snap! blocks
based programming language. But unlike traditional Scratch and Snap! applications,
parts of Cornrow Curves (e.g., certain blocks, sprites, etc.) were designed through
collaborations with cornrow braiding and cosmetology experts (as well as feedback
from teachers and students). When connecting cosmetology and CS through cornrow
braiding we aim to neither put a thin ethnic veneer on the same old lessons nor merely
“mix in more tech and stir.” When users first arrive at the Cornrow Curves landing
page, they are greeted with a graphic image of an African American woman with a
cornrow hairstyle.
These background pages take a student through the history of cornrow braiding
to contextualize its computational and mathematical significance. It starts with a page
titled “African Origins,” which connects the cultural values of braiding historically to
how cornrows exemplify larger trends of African mathematics. Next, the page “Middle
Passage” highlights the role of braiding and hairstyles in resisting the white supremacist
erasure of African culture during the U.S. slave trade. The “Civil Rights” page explores
the role of braiding as an African tradition that affirmed Black identity in African-
American civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. The final background page,
“Hip Hop” begins in the 1970s and goes through the 1990s to show how braiding has
been central to Black cultural expression, with celebrities and artists continuing to
innovate the styles for their own purposes and in their own contexts.
11
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
The heritage algorithm of cornrow braiding is represented in Cornrow Curves as
a specific script of blocks, which students learn to assemble in a tutorial (along with
blocks to change hair colors) and then can reverse engineer when they open the software
(see figure 2). When the visual programming application opens, the default script (see
figure 3) loads blocks that first clears the output screen, sets the plait image as active,
points the angle of rotation at 12 degrees, sets the initial size of the costume to 30% of
the actual size of the PNG file and locates the initial image at the Cartesian coordinates
x = -200 and y = 220. Next, the code enters a loop that repeats 25 times and, in each
iteration, translates the graphic image by 40% of the width of the image, rotates the
image by -7 degrees, scales the image to 95% of the current size, and then stamps the
image. As the loop code iterates, it creates the first cornrow braid on the output screen.
The practice of creating this script is one of “translating” localized community
knowledge into a formal equivalent that one might find in a mathematics or CS
classroom without assimilating it so much that it becomes unrecognizable to braiders
themselves.
For example, a math class would see the geometric transformation of translation
as length units, whereas the Cornrow Curves represents it in the percentage of plait
width. This not only better reflects the artisan’s emic thinking (“Make each new plait
consistent with the look of the last one”) but also makes the script much easier (you
would otherwise have to introduce a variable that scales the translation length so that it
is consistent with the scaling in size). Emic goals did not always result in ease of
scripting. For example, the addition of a single “braid” block (figure 4) was created
when we found that students interested in complex patterns involving multiple braids
12
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
were creating scripts of unwieldy length and that it fit with braiders’ understanding of
each braid as a unit, as opposed to each plait or twist of hair. The creation of a braid-
specific block fits within a larger scholarship on the educational use of domain-specific
modeling languages (DSMLs), often for creating “synergistic” lessons between
computational thinking and STEM disciplines (Hutchin et al. 2018a). This work draws
on the affordances of programming languages to support computational modeling
procedures but in specific disciplinary domains. For example, Hutchens et al. (2018b)
used Snap! to create blocks that help to model motion and force in the context of
physics. In a similar way, the braid block in Cornrow Curves is designed to help bridge
the domains of braiding and CS, modeling the geometric features of cornrows and
African mathematics. Later work with a high school CS teacher required us to remove
the ability of the block to reset size each time it is called (because he wanted to motivate
the use of variables). While the change made it better suited for CS, it created a steeper
learning curve, not ideal for a cosmetology class, where closer fidelity to the braiding
experience is helpful. The next version will likely offer different "editions" for different
classrooms.
Context, Participants, and Methods
Context
Our research on Cornrow Curves in the context of cosmetology education took place at
a public vocational school in Upstate New York, over the course of four-weeks during
March of 2017. The vocational school is a branch of the local public high school that
serves close to 2,500 students, over 50% of which are Black/African-American. The
13
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
program was designed as an after-school activity in collaboration with the head of the
school’s cosmetology department, who is also an African-American entrepreneur and
salon owner with thirteen years of teaching experience. The cosmetology curriculum is
largely project-based—using a mix of lessons that are hands-on and theory-based—to
prepare students to take the New York State exam to become licensed cosmetologists.
The program also places students in salons to get on the job training and the hours
required for gaining professional licensures. The program has a strong presence in the
local community, organizing spa and hairstyling events at the school that are open to the
public.
Building on this interdisciplinary connection between cosmetology and
computing, we called the after-school program “Cos-Computing.” With the help of the
cosmetology teacher, we agreed that in addition to learning math and programming
skills through virtually simulating cornrow braids in Cornrow Curves, students would
also learn physical cornrow braiding techniques. This presented an interesting
opportunity to see if the transfer of knowledge could move in both directions (i.e.,
between physical and virtual braiding). We hypothesized that connecting this culturally
situated knowledge to CS would open up pathways for generative circulations of value
—though it was unclear at the time what these would look like—between school and
community.
Program Design and Pacing
Initial discussions about the program took place during October 2016 with the
cosmetology teacher. Our goal was for students to learn the transformational geometry
14
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
that is embedded within cornrow braiding (i.e., angle, rotation, dilation, and translation)
and apply that knowledge to virtual and physical braids using the computational
thinking concept of algorithm. The collaborative planning between the research team
and the cosmetology teacher for the after-school program started in January 2017 and
extended up until the workshop began. The program took place during March 2017,
three days a week (Tuesday-Thursday) after school for one hour. The cosmetology
teacher helped with recruitment by advertising the program to her cosmetology students,
as well as parents and youth she knew as customers and colleagues from her salon. The
workshop was scheduled for three weeks but due to snow days and inconsistent
attendance of some students, we ended up running the program over four weeks. The
workshop was designed around three deliverables that would be put on display during a
public event held by the cosmetology department at the end of the program: 1) cornrow
braided mannequin heads, 2) 2D Cornrow Curves designs, and 3) 3D printed
mannequin heads with Cornrow Curves hair designs.
To explore the cultural background of cornrow braiding, students studied
historical and cultural research on the Cornrow Curves website. Next, students worked
through a Cornrow Curves tutorial that introduces the blocks needed to create the
heritage algorithm of a single braid. Once students were familiar with the functionality
of Cornrow Curves, they were given a braiding lesson using mannequin heads. Students
were then challenged to simulate their own or a peer’s braided design in Cornrow
Curves. We also gave them the option of choosing a design from an online source or
library of goal images. Once students’ designs were complete, our research team
translated the 2D images into 3D models, finally rendering them as 3D prints in time for
15
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
the public event. The actual work of turning the 2D designs into 3D designs was done
by researchers due to the difficulty of translating between the two spaces. The 3D
modeling process that placed the design on top of a mannequin was shared as part of a
lesson with the students. The public event was scheduled for the last day of the program
and served two purposes: 1) to raise community consciousness about the mathematical
and computational significance of African-American heritage and 2) for students to
show off their computational work in a public context, which is an important part of
motivating computational modeling and design (Papert 1980).
Participants
Seven participants attended long enough to learn the software and explore the
connections between braiding, computing, and mathematics in a meaningful way. One
student did show up for the first two days but never returned thereafter. Of the seven,
five identified as Black/African American, two as multiracial, and all as female (see
table 1). They ranged in age from 14-17 (see table 2) and grades from 9th-11th (see
table 3). Five of the students were in one of the teachers’ three cosmetology courses,
and two students were not, but had an interest in CS, STEM, and/or braiding. While the
program was completely voluntary, students were encouraged to show up for as many
days as they could to complete their designs for the public event. However, some of the
students had obligations beyond school (i.e., work and family) that prevented their
consistent attendance.
Five of the participants attended regularly, and two attended sporadically. These
two students still learned about the history of cornrow braiding, became proficient with
16
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Cornrow Curves software, explored the heritage algorithms both virtually and
physically, and one presented at the community event. Because we prioritized these
aspects of the program over the creation of their own designs, they started but were
unable to complete their final projects in time for them to be 3D printed, though we
made sure that the artifacts they did create (physical braids on mannequins and 2D
designs) were shown off at the public event. What we learned from this experience was
that students, even if they are intrinsically motivated to learn, often have competing
interests that, at the moment, will trump educational opportunities. We used this
information to inform future work by paying students to attend programs and providing
opportunities for multi-generational attendance.
While seven participants cannot be statistically significant, STEM education
researchers who focus on issues of equity and racial identity have argued for the
importance and need of “small-n” studies. Slaton and Pawley (2015) argue that
academics will need to overcome stigmas associated with small-n studies and learn from
individual narratives or small group dynamics to fully understand issues of
underrepresentation in STEM education and fields. They argue that ignoring or
dismissing small-n studies that focus on already underrepresented identities in STEM
risks further marginalization, as they are left out of the conversation or assimilated into
more general group identities.
Data Collection and Analysis
Building on the need for more small-n studies while also seeking to provide valid and
strong research findings, we used a mixed-methods approach. Consistent with more
17
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
qualitative norms in computer science education research (Searle and Kafai 2015;
Tenenberg 2019), data were triangulated—“seeking the convergence and corroboration
of results from different methods and designs studying the same phenomenon” (Biesta
2017, 159)—to construct rich narratives of individuals and a dynamic portrait of the
group. Data were collected in the form of pre- and post-surveys from the students,
students’ written reflections, semi-structured pre- and post-interviews and daily debriefs
with the cosmetology teacher, field notes and audio-recordings from each day of the
program, video recordings of the public event, and student-created designs. A math
teacher who came to observe periodically was also interviewed at the end of the
program. Finally, we include in our analyses four interviews from two of the students—
who completed their designs to 3D prints during the program and later participated in
two other program that aimed to connect computing and cosmetology—that were
conducted at later dates. These interviews sought to explore the two students’
perceptions about the relationship between mathematics, computing, and braiding.
The pre-survey was administered before students began any of the activities and
the post-survey was administered on the day before the public event. The survey
consisted of five sections. The first section asked for information on gender, age, school,
grade, and race or ethnicity. Section two was made up of ten close-ended statements,
designed to measure students’ perceptions of school, cosmetology, community,
computer science, and the relationships between them on a five-point Likert-type scale:
1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Neutral, 4=Agree, and 5=Strongly Agree. The
third section was made up of five vocabulary statements with a bank of transformational
18
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
geometry and CS words: angle, iteration, rotation, dilation, and translation. Students
were to choose a word from the list and match it with the correct statement.
The fourth section contained two items to measure students’ computational
thinking by asking them to abstract scaling patterns from cornrow braids and apply
them to other physical objects, asking how they would simulate those patterns. The first
of these questions showed a picture of a xylophone. We sought to measure how students
would transfer or abstract their knowledge of the scaling patterns found in the cornrow
heritage algorithms to describe the scaling pattern found in an object unrelated to hair
braiding. We chose an image of a xylophone because it still represented a cultural
artifact with the scaling patterns, but it was different enough from braiding to judge
knowledge transfer. The second question sought to measure students’ knowledge of
loops and iteration by showing them one picture of a triangle on a Cartesian coordinate
system with a picture next to it of the triangle repeated four times and rotated around the
origin, each by 90 degrees. We asked, “Starting with this triangle, describe the process
that creates the pattern of 4 triangles.”
Given the geometric features of cornrows, the fifth section contained two items
that aimed to measure students’ knowledge of transformational geometry; asking them
to describe visual changes in shapes on a coordinate plane. The first question in the
section presented an “L” shape that was four inches and asked how tall the shape would
be if we changed the shape by a scaling factor of 50%. The second question presented
two “L” shapes with one rotated ten-degrees and labeled as such. We asked them to
apply the same rotation again and write down the new angle in degrees. Due to the
19
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
small-n of this study, descriptive statistics were used to analyze changes in students’
knowledge as a result of participating in the program.
Interviews and daily debriefs were audio recorded and transcribed, while video,
pictures, and students’ reflection were analyzed in their raw form alongside field notes.
Field notes, interviews, debriefs, and video were analyzed with a “descriptive” coding
technique where excerpts from the text or video were summarized or tagged with a
word or phrase—most promptly centering around nouns—to denote a relevant topic
(Saldaña 2016, 292). These codes were then aggregated into organizing themes (i.e.,
intersections between computing, mathematics, and cornrows; talking braiding with
math and computing; computational thinking in braiding and cosmetology) to present as
findings below. A video log was created for the public event, which was a minute-by-
minute breakdown of students’ engagement with their community and their articulations
of the connections between computing, mathematics and braiding to approximately
thirty audience members. Video files from two different cameras were used to create the
video log, one camera that faced the audience, and the other faced the presenters.
Sections of interest from these videos were transcribed for a more thorough
examination. We used data from the public event as an indicator for students’ take away
from the program and their understandings of the math, computing, and braiding
connections. Students’ 2D designed were analyzed by identifying what and how many
blocks were used in the context of what was made available in the original heritage
algorithm to judge their command of Cornrow Curves. We compared these findings to
images and students’ vocal descriptions of their physical braids to see if there was any
possible relationship between braiding skills and the scripts they created in Cornrow
20
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Curves. Because students saved their work at the end of each session we were able to
analyze the progression of their projects.
Findings
Intersections of Computing, Mathematics, and Cornrows
The role of braiding, including but not limited to cornrow braiding, is a unit in the
cosmetology curriculum, one required by New York State for certification programs.
But perhaps more important for the Cos-Computing program was students’ interest in
the cultural and stylistic practices of braiding and their positive associations with the
activity. Indeed, when looking at statement two in table 4, the majority of students
consistently indicated that they were passionate about cosmetology. This was supported
by students’ self-direction and enthusiasm on the third day of the program when they
were assigned to apply the math and computing ideas from the Cornrow Curves tutorial
to physical braiding on mannequin heads. While students struggled to connect the dense
text of the tutorial to the function of specific blocks without instructors’ interventions,
the tutorial images still provided them with a way to visually make the connections
between the math, computing, and braiding.
The teacher started the physical braiding lesson by asked who knew how to
make cornrows. Four students raised their hands; three did not. The four who knew how
to braid were self-directed, while the other three moved closer to the teacher for
instruction. She told them they would need to start with a box braid first and then apply
that technique to cornrows. Cornrows, she explained, “is just a box braid on the scalp.”
21
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
She instructed them to part three sections of hair. They did while she explained the two
different ways to make a box braid,
We are going to practice the box braid two different ways, it is very important that you
get both ways, that you understand both ways, techniques of braiding, so that it is easier
to transfer into the cornrow… We know that a braid is three strands of hair. So the first
technique I want you to try is alternating from side-to-side, from the left to the right,
going over the middle strand.
To emphasize this technique, she repeated “over the middle strand” multiple times
before having the student try out the next technique, “under the middle strand.” After
this short introduction she parted some hair on her mannequin to explain the technique
for cornrow braiding:
Now you have your cornrow parted out, right? Okay? So what I normally do, is I’ll take
maybe a half an inch, okay? Separate it into your three sections, okay? Start your box
braid the way you normally would, see that? Start your box braid. Now what I’m going
to do, after two rounds, if you want to count it, after two round, you want to take hair,
the hair beneath it, maybe a quarter of an inch, add it to the middle, the middle strand of
hair. Braid two rounds, now move down, the section below it, add to the middle strand.
Two rounds, add to your middle strand. Two round, add to your middle strand.
Originally, including the braiding part of the program was counter-intuitive to our
research team—why go back to physical braids when we have been working towards
increasing forms of abstraction? But the cosmetology instructor was proved right. We
found that this part of the instruction, with its directionality and repetition, was helpful
to connect the the algorithmic and iterative aspects of physical braiding to the process of
creating virtual braids.
22
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Students’ attitudes toward CS appeared to change after the program. First, CS
appeared more relevant to cosmetology. Post-surveys suggest increases in students’
attitudes that “computer science will make me a better cosmetologist” and “computer
science is helpful for professional cosmetologists” (see table 4). Second, zero students
indicated that they would be “bored learning computer science” (down from three). And
third, the majority indicated that CS could be a means for “helping” their community.
Continuing on from this third level, one of the more striking changes from pre to post—
one that challenges our initial hypothesis about the generative mutuality of cosmetology
and CS—was the decrease in students’ attitudes that cosmetology can be used to “help”
their community, though the majority continued to think that it could despite this drop.
At the same time, the fact that there was an increase in students wanting to use their
skills to become professional cosmetologists suggests that the two domains may still be
mutually beneficial.
While students had a generally positive view of CS, only a small minority of
students indicated that it would be an area of interest in college, with no changes from
pre to post. In fact, when looking at other future oriented academic statements (i.e., “my
future depends on working hard in school” and “my future depends on working hard in
the cosmetology program”), there were also no changes. Still, there overall
understanding of computing appears to have increased, specifically their understanding
of the embedded mathematics and algorithms in braiding, demonstrated qualitatively by
their presentations at the public event.
Approximately thirty people attended the public event, which was structured to
begin with presentations followed by introductions to three different stations for guests
23
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
to explore the computational and mathematical significance of cornrow braiding: a
physical braiding station, a 2D virtual braiding station, and a 3D printing station.
Students presentations and the post-presentation Q&A focused primary on the African
roots of braiding and hairstyling—including by not limited to cornrows—and their roles
in African and African-American identities. The presentations included topics that
ranged from hairstyles in traditional African weddings to the assimilationist re-naming
of cornrow braids as boxer braids by White athletes.
While identity was the primary focus, interspersed throughout the presentations
students explained the math and computing of braiding. Perhaps because the Cornrow
Curves and 3D printing stations already appeared so directly connected to math and
computing, the explanation of the connections were most explicit when introducing the
physical braiding station. As the student tasked with making this introduction explained,
Like, for example, in this braiding like you can see that dilation was used because in the
beginning, it comes out shorter, like smaller and then it gets bigger. And this is some
styles that African-American women do wear.
Later, when prompted by one of the researchers to explain the connection between
computing and braiding another student emphasized the versatility of the term
algorithms.
Researcher: You guys learned about an algorithm, what is an algorithm?
Student: A set of instructions followed in the computer or anywhere.
The inclusion of “anywhere” speaks to this students’ understanding of not only an
algorithm as it appears and is executed in the Cornrow Curves software, but also
Bennett’s (2016) take on algorithms as part of existing heritage practices.
24
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Playing on the “multiplicity” of algorithms—that is the multiple, but not
pluralistic, means and shapes of algorithms (Bucher 2018)—when making connections
between computing and culture appears as one of many strategies for broadening what
can count as CS education and who has CS-types of knowledge. Aligned with the
increasing recognition of algorithms as non-neutral entities, Bennett’s (2016) concept of
heritage algorithm helps make the case that while algorithms are used by popular search
engines like Google, for example, contribute to structural racism (Noble 2018), they can
also be framed as empowering ways to affirm one’s identity and community knowledge.
Talking Braiding with Math and Computing
The fact that students readily applied math and computing concepts to braiding was
helped by their existing familiarity with many of the terms used throughout the Cos-
Computing program. Indeed, there was little change in students’ understanding of the
math and computing vocabulary (see table 5). From school or elsewhere, the majority of
students appeared familiar with the transformational geometry vocabulary, and with
only one computing term (i.e., iteration), they were either familiar with it or were able
to guess through a process of elimination.
Perhaps due to the social atmosphere that physical braiding affords compared to
the 1:1 computing activities during students’ work in Cornrow Curves, their familiarity
with the vocabulary was most apparent on the day that the cosmetology teacher
delivered a braiding lesson, having students braid mannequin heads while encouraging
them to explain their designs using the math and computing terms that had been
introduced in the Cornrow Curves tutorial (see figure 5):
25
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
I took one braid and set it at one angle and my, I’m going to forget this part,
iteration? I just iterated it all the way straight back, and then just changed the angle
and iterated it straight back three times.
I used translation because the different plaits they translated along the head.
I set it at like a 90-degree angle and then like the rotation, it was like, I kept it
rotating.
A little bit of dilation, but not really. And then you would use iteration because you
are repeating the same pattern, at least that’s the goal.
As these quotes suggest, students were not only able to remember how each of the terms
was applied to braiding in the software but also translate that knowledge to physical
designs. Still, it would wrong to assume that this translations process was intuitive just
because of their familiarity with braiding or geometry.
When asked if she “buys” the idea that braiding has mathematical significance
during an interview the following year, one student responded,
Ask me a year ago, no, not at all. But after one, being in [the Cos-Computing] program
and then being a mentor in this program, definitely. I am, I am your person on board
with the mathematics behind braiding, and I might have forgotten some of the terms and
things, but definitely there is a correlation.
The students’ reflection indicates that while mathematical and computational ideas are
embedded within vernacular and indigenous designs, simply engaging them may not be
enough to make the translation. What is more, knowing geometry, for example, and
being a braider may not be enough to make the connection that braids dilate, translate,
rotate, and reflect on the scalp during a transformational geometry lesson. This is not to
say that mathematical and computational thinking is not taking place, but that a
26
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
culture/technical divide is often reinforced in and out of school. The knowledge
domains of mathematics and braiding, for example, are not often afforded opportunities
to explicitly interact to make the translation process between the two common
knowledge. With this understanding, Cornrow Curves acts as a bridge between existing
knowledge domains, bringing them together in news ways, shaping the meaning of each
without loosing site of the original cultural context.
So while the questions intended to measure students’ abilities to solve
transformational geometry problems also only saw slight improvement (see table 6),
this should not be an indicator of the value of the program. Indeed, the math teacher
reinforced the importence of the program as a bridge between different knowledge
domains. He told us that the program had positive outcomes in terms of student
engagement with mathematical ideas: “...by the end while students were coding I would
ask them questions, and so, for example, I would ask, how do you dilate in real life?
‘You dilate your hair,’ she said, ‘Oh you add more hair’.” Still, in working with both
teachers during and after the program, they continued to struggle with the deeper
connecting. They tended to favor the connection between cosmetology and business
math, with the mathematical design elements of braiding remaining secondary. This is
not surprising given that business math is not only a common way for math teachers to
highlight “real life” applications, but is also featured prominently in the cosmetology
curriculum.
Computational Thinking in Braiding and Cosmetology
When modeling their own cornrow designs students struggled to move beyond
the basic blocks that were used to represent the heritage algorithm in Cornrow Curves.
27
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
To a certain extent, this makes sense due to the program’s emphasis on those blocks and
the fact that the majority of the students were novice programmers. While they were
exposed to the library of blocks that were available to them in the software, none of the
students choose to experiment with blocks that were not introduced in the tutorial. What
is more, only two students used the “braid” block. This resulted in students having
extremely long scripts that could have been made more efficient if they were exposed to
nested loops or more strongly encouraged to use the domain specific braiding block.
While more research is needed to make definitive claims, one potential
explanation for the creation of long scripts, not automated or black boxed, is that doing
so maps onto the authenticity of the braiding process itself. The notion of automating
steps of the braiding process might have appeared counterintuitive after the time and
energy put into physical braiding: a long and time-consuming braiding design might
appear to require a long script that is equally time-consuming. This brings up interesting
questions about how to support cultural authenticity when physically exploring heritage
algorithms, while also teaching students about key computational thinking terms, such
as automation.
Table 7 is a comparison between the physical braids, 2D designs, and 3D prints
for the five students who completed their designs in time for the public event. It is hard
to determine how much of a correlation there is between the physical designs and 2D
designs in terms of math and computational knowledge. While Student 4, an
experienced braider, had the most dynamic 2D design—using the software to turn
cornrows into buns—her physical braiding was relatively straight forward, taking the
form of a basic pattern that fits the curvature of the head. What does stand out is the fact
28
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
that Students 2 and 3, who had two of the more creative physical styles—moving away
from following the curve of the head to braid with different angles and rotations—were
also the two students who used the “braid” block in their designs. These two novice
braiders and programmers not only pushed boundaries physically but also virtually.
While more research needs to be conducted to make concrete claims about the mutually
beneficial relationship between physical braiding and programming virtual braids in the
development of computational thinking, post-survey results indicate that students did
improve on those questions intended to measure computational thinking (see table 8).
This coupled with their understanding of physical and virtual algorithms provides
grounds for following up on the possibility.
While planning the program, the cosmetology teacher drew on the computing
ideas we were discussing during lesson planning. For example, when planning the
activity where students reverse engineered and simulated a physical or photographed
braided design in Cornrow Curves she asked: “I noticed that you said the kids they
will… actually will design their braid. They will have to pretty much… was it the
algorithm?... Algorithm, okay so they will need to pretty much take apart their partner’s
braid.” She also suggested that the skills learned when using Cornrow Curves had direct
applicability to the in the salon. Multiple times during debriefs and interviews she
framed this potential transfer of knowledge around the notion of planning: “...I actually
see this benefiting the salon, especially for planning and prepping, and you know, for
some of the braiding services that we provide.” One way to interpret the connections
between planning a hairstyle and designing in Cornrow Curves is through the
computational thinking concepts of algorithm and decomposition.
29
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
The cosmetology teacher used the term algorithm in reference to taking “apart
their partner’s braids.” This was relativley consistent with how we were talking about
algorithms in the program, as we engineered and reverse-engineered phystical and
virtual braids. In retrospect, a more nuanced way we could have talked about this
process with the teacher was by making an explicit connection to decomposition during
the planning of this activity. The computational thinking connection to planning and
preparing that the teacher alluded to might be interpreted in terms of an algorithm.
Drawing on the multiplicity of the term to encompass not only design processes but
organizing and managing when, how, and where those activities take place fits with the
computational participation criteria of publicly displacing computational artefacts and
processes in a community network. Online, many computational participation
communities have the ability to curate personal profiles and project displays (Kafai and
Burke 2014). The practice of showing off and sharing out youth-created artifacts is
common in physical spaces as well, including the Computer Clubhouse (Kafai et al.
2009) and the YouMedia library space (Larson et al. 2013). Moving forward it is worth
exploring how the computational thinking that is supported by curation activities
(Resnick 2012) can be leveraged as young people network with local entrepreneurs (e.g.
natural cosmetics producers) and business owners (e.g. African braiding shops) to
display artifacts that are computationally and culturally relevant.
3D Cornrows Beyond Cos-Computing
Once the program ended, the 3D printed mannequin heads travelled beyond the school
into a professional salon that was owned by the cosmetology teacher. The research team
30
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
was interested in how these specific 3D prints might not only support students’
educational interests and achievement, but also how they might support braiders,
cosmetologists, salon owners, and others in the beauty industry. Originally we had
thought that the prints could be displayed in the shop’s window, hypothesizing that the
novelty of having a 3D printed object in the salon might increase foot traffic. However,
the teacher’s salon was in a basement, without windows. Still, she was excited about
showing them off in her salon and agreed to put them on display (see figure 6). Indeed,
the cosmetology teacher was generally willing to try out innovative ways to connect her
profession with the work we were doing together. As she explained in one of our
debriefing sessions, “I’m open to how we can you know, push into your world. You
guys can push into our world.” While we did not make a hypothesis about putting the
3D printed Cornrow Curves design in this particular setting, we did find that they
played an unexpected role as a topic of conversation.
Cosmetologists draw on a range of STEM literacies in their daily work, from
balancing the pH of different to understanding what products do to hair anatomy and
physiology. In our collaborations with cosmetologists, we found that these knowledges
can be important for retaining clients, making them part of broader conversations. There
were multiple indications from the cosmetology teacher that talking about the Cos-
Computing supplemented conversations that bridge arts and STEM already taking place
in her salon. During a debriefing session, she explained how cosmetology acts as a
bridge for such domains more generally: “I have a chemist... that comes to my salon,
she's so into hair and fashion and everything, it's not either or, you know, so I think this
is what's great and… these are the things that our customers talk about…” Knowing
31
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
that cosmetology is already a site of STEM expertise, we found that including the 3D
prints in the teachers’ salon added to the repertoire of STEM knowledge in
conversation.
The following year we interviewed one of the cosmetologists who works in the
teacher’s salon. She had a daughter in the Cos-Computing program and, at the time of
the interview, had collaborated in another workshop we ran a month prior. The interview
was conducted in the salon, where the 3D prints were still on display. Have been
introduced to Cornrow Curves, the cosmetologist explained how she talks about the 3D
prints when clients ask about them:
I’m just like how do you take like this little algorithm thing and put things here and it
creates this braid over here and then when you expressed to me about… how Europeans
didn’t start mathematics… I express all of that to them and they are like “wow.” And
see and then just go on and on, so it sparks like this bigger conversation.
While there was a general goal when working with the seven students to challenge
Eurocentric histories of mathematics and computing, the idea that the 3D prints might
act as a means to challenge them the salon was not on our radar. Such unexpected
finding support calls for more qualitative measures of success in programs and research
on broadening participation in CS (Scott et al. 2015). More broadly, assessing the
success of broadening participation cannot be limited to the numbers of people entering
the CS pipeline, but must also include the diffusion of CS knowledge across local
communities, requiring a transdisciplinary approach to assessment that may benefit
from not only qualitative and qualitative methods but also humanistic inquiry.
32
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Discussion
Initial results from Cos-Computing suggest increases in students’ interest in CS and
understanding of computational thinking skills, which is consistent with other empirical
findings (Eglash et al. 2011; Babbitt et al. 2015; Davis et al. 2019). So while this aspect
of the research is not unique, previous studies took place in traditional formal or
informal educational contexts, not explicitly connected to the communities of practice
that the CSDTs highlight. In this sense, what stands out about this study is the ability to
help answer specific questions about leveraging local sources of wealth generation that
are important to students’ communities in CS education.
How might CS educators, researchers, and technologists promote culturally
responsive forms of computational participation?
We have sought to answer this first question by analyzing data from the the Cos-
Computing high school program. This generative computing effort sought to maintain
the socio-cultural framework for computational thinking that is indicative of
computational participation but added culturally responsive elements by making explicit
connections between computational thinking, local sources of wealth generation, and
culturally situated design. How other educators, researchers, and technologists might
also support culturally responsive forms of computational participation largely depends
on their willingness to connect with local community expertise—found in and beyond
the school walls—and identify culturally important community assets that are relevant
to computing education.
Connections between educators and local communities are complicated by the
fact that many teachers do not live in the communities they serve and the vast majority
33
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
of teachers in the U.S. are White (Picower 2009). This has resulted in increased
recognition for the need to diversify the teacher workforce, while also developing
strategies for White teachers to support students of color in culturally authentic and
responsive ways. For example, Emdin’s (2016) work on culturally responsive teacher
education encourages educators to engage in community events and spend time in the
neighborhoods where schools are located. This is certainly a strategy for teachers, but in
the context of generative computing should also be extended to researchers and
technologists.
Findings ways to connect educational technologies and artifacts to local sources
of wealth generation provides pathways for the diffusion and traveling of computational
artifacts and ideas across community settings. But, like teachers, many technologists
and researchers working to broaden participation are not from the communities where
they will be working to develop and implement technologies. This is exactly what, in
part, culturally responsive computing seeks to change. While not all technologists or
computer scientists of color need to or should be working on issues of broadening
participation, having greater representation in the field increases the changes of
technologists and researchers working toward such goals to be more connected
communities where young people live and work. In cases where there is a dearth of
local technologists or computer scientists, working with residents to learn about CS-
culture connections can be a way to make CS an authentically relevant domain for not
only young people but also adults.
How might these culturally responsive forms of computational participation not only
support the educational interest and achievement for young women, but also link up
34
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
to sources of wealth generation that are important to them and their local
communities beyond school?
While post-survey results indicate an increase in students wanting to pursue
professional cosmetology, to answer this question, it is important to examine direct
instances where the possibility for the value generated by the program entered the world
of cosmetology. One major indicator of the potential benefit that the Cos-Computing
program had for the teachers’ local salon was its impetus for adding African
mathematics and computing ideas to the repertoire of existing STEM knoweldges that
exist and are discussed in the salon. In addition to supplementing this existing
knowledge-base, the cosmetology teacher also indicated that she was inspired to try and
physically braid some of the students’ virtual designs, “I mean – I just – you can
actually charge a customer for that. So I just saw the dollar signs. The potential dollar
signs for having something like that in your beauty salon.”
Additional research is needed to continue to explore the potential of generative
computing to support both academics and local wealth generation, but these initial
anecdotes suggest there is a strong potential for programs like Cos-Computing to be
mutually beneficial. Our argument is that if the CS community is truly committed to
broadening the participation of racial and ethnic minorities it is not enough to reduce
metrics of success to classroom demographics. CS educators and researchers need to
become involved in local affairs and know how CS and other STEM fields can become
useful innovations to the communities where students live and work.
35
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Conclusion and Future Work
This paper has introduced the concept of generative computing in the context of a
cosmetology/CS after school program, to help researchers, technologists, and educators
hink more critically about the types of sociocultural learning environments that
educators and researchers should nourish in their support of computational thinking/
Generative computing aims to diversify both the entry points and outputs of CS. Our
findings suggest that through a set of computationally rich cosmetology projects,
pathways opened for students to use computing as a conduit for enhanced value flow
between CS and Black cosmetology practices in ways that improved their academic
interests and knowledge of CS.
Based on these initial findings, we have two future directions for research on
generative computing in the context of cosmetology. The first includes studying the
computational thinking of physical braiding practices. While students in the Cos-
Computing program were able to translate knowledge between the virtual and physical
braids, many questions remain unanswered about whether braiding can act as a type of
CS unplugged activity. Running a comparative study between a group of students who
learns with both physical braiding and Cornrow Curves and another group who learns
the same material but just with physical braiding, may provide some insight into the
potential of culturally situated unplugged activities while bringing up important
questions about what might be lost without the virtual simulations.
The second future research direction is looking at the impact that programs like
Cos-Computing might have on professional settings, like the salon or barbershop. The
3D printed mannequin heads that were based on students’ designs attracted a reasonable
36
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
amount of attention from community members and teachers at the Cos-Computing
community event. This is partially due to the novelty of 3D printing but also from the
fact that it was a new way to represent popular hairstyles. Our team has started to
explore if we can build on these novelty and popularity factors in ways that could
benefit the local cosmetology community. One promising avenue is using the
mannequin heads as advertisements in salon windows. Many salons already do this with
traditional mannequins but adding the computational value of 3D printing might make a
salon stand out as technologically unique while also creating relationships between
cosmetologists and makerspaces or schools.
Acknowledgements
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #1640014.
The views and opinions expressed in this work do not necessarily represent those of
NSF.
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Gender n Ethnicity n
Female 7 Black/African American 5
Male 0 Multiracial 2
Table 1. Gender and Ethnicity of Participants.
Age n
14 1
15 1
16 4
17 1
Table 2. Age of
Participants.
Grade Level n
9 1
10 3
11 3
Table 3. Grade Level of Participants.
Statement Pre: # of
Student
who
Marked
Post: # of
Students
who
Marked
Change
43
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Agree +
Strongly
Agree
Agree +
Strongly
Agree
1 My future depends on working hard in school. 7 7 0
2 I am passionate about cosmetology. 5 5 0
3 I want to use my cosmetology skills to become a
professional cosmetologist.
3 4 +1
4 My future depends on working hard in the
cosmetology program.
3 3 0
5 I can use cosmetology to help my community. 6 5 -1
6 I think understanding computer science will make me
a better cosmetologist.
3 6 +3
7 I would likely be bored learning computer science. 3 0 -3
8 If I were to go to college I would be interested in
study computer science.
1 1 0
9 I can use computer science to help my community. 3 5 +2
10 Computer science is helpful for professional
cosmetologists.
3 5 +2
Table 4. Responses to pre and post- attitudes survey.
Survey n Mean of Points
(Maximum = 5)
Change in Mean
from Pre to Post
Pre 7 4.43
+0.14
Post 7 4.57
Table 5. Mean scores of pre and post vocabulary questions.
44
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Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
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Survey n Mean of Points
(Maximum = 2)
Change in Mean
from Pre to Post
Pre 7 0.86
+0.14
Post 7 1.00
Table 6. Means scores for pre and post-transformational geometry questions.
Student 1 Student 2 Student 3 Student 4 Student 5
Physical
Braids
Cornro
w
Curves
Designs
3D
Prints
Table 7. A comparison of the physical braids, 2D designs, and 3D prints
Survey n Mean of Points
(Maximum = 9)
Change in Mean
from Pre to Post
Pre 7 5.43
+1.71
Post 7 7.14
Table 8. Mean scores of pre and post computational thinking questions
45
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Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
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Figure 1. The GUI of Cornrow Curves
Figure 2. Landing Page for Cornrow Curves
46
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Figure 3. Default Script for Cornrow Curves
Figure 4. Domain-specific “braid” block
Figure 5. A student uses hand gestures to explain the angles of her cornrow braid design.
47
This is an electronic version on an article published in Lachney, M.,
Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2019). Generative computing:
African-American cosmetology as a link between computing education
and community wealth. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21.
Interactive Learning Environments is available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/nile20/current
Figure 6. 3D printed mannequin heads on display at the teacher’s salon
48
... Cooke shows how she employed the concept of meta-tuning as Director of the program to think about the differential outcomes for students as they learn computing by "tuning" designs for either hegemonic or counter-hegemonic priorities. The final section, "CHP in CS Education through Making" is based on Bill Babbitt and Michael Lachney's efforts [59,60] to highlight the expertise and knowledge of Black entrepreneurs and cosmetologists during a library maker program called the Generative Cosmetology Lab. This section details their processes of designing culturally and computationally rich activities that engaged the counter-hegemonic value of the African American Natural Hair Movement (a type of independent maker movement, in and of itself) as a foundation for CS and engineering education. ...
... The second group of activities were designed for young people to explore the scaling geometries that are embedded in cornrow braid designs, first through a physical braiding lesson on a mannequin, and then with the culturally situated design tool, Cornrow Curves [31,60]. The goal was for young people to use CS concepts (e.g., iterative algorithms) and math concepts (e.g. ...
... Because of the drop-in scheduling, there was a lot of fluctuation, anywhere between 5 and 14 young people per day, but in general the goal of having a voluntary makerspace predominantly (but not exclusively) occupied by young women of color was a success. Elsewhere (under more controlled learning environments) we have discussed pre and post learning comparisons for this suite of culture-based software and hardware activities [31,60]. However, in this case we were more focused on community impacts. ...
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Students' lives, both in and out of school, are full of different forms of value. Wealthy students enjoy value in the form of financial capital; their fit to hegemonic social practices; excellent health care and so on. Low-income students, especially those from African American, Native American, and Latinx communities, often lack access to those resources. But there are other forms of value that low-income students do possess. Most examples of what we will call Counter-Hegemonic Practice (CHP) in the African American community involve some mixture of Indigenous African heritage, contemporary innovation in the Black community, and other influences. Moving between these value forms and the computing classroom is a non-trivial task, especially if we are to avoid merely using the appearance of culture to attract students. Our objective in this paper is to provide a framework for deeper investigations into the computational potentials for CHP; its potential as a link between education and community development; and a more dignified role for its utilization in the CS classroom. We report on a series of collaborative engagements with CHP, largely focused on African American communities.
... For example, students in one CRC after school program used computing and computational thinking to help design 3D-printed cornrow braids (Lachney, 2017b), which were then placed in a local hair salon. Lachney et al. (2019) report that the 3D-prints prompted conversations in the salon about the "algorithms" of braiding, adding to the already existing repertoire of STEM knowledge that is found in Black hair salons. In this case, the language and ideas of computational thinking became more than academic content, they also became relevant and meaningful to people's socially and culturally situated experiences. ...
... This is unfortunate because there is evidence to suggest that cultural experts can help to make deep culture-computing connections that challenge traditional assumptions about whose knowledge is relevant to CS and programming (Lachney & Yadav, 2020;Lachney et al., 2021a). This also provides opportunities for cultural experts to bring knowledge of culture-computing connections back into their own locally meaningful contexts (Lachney et al., 2019), thus helping to build a multidirectional foundation for broadening participation. In response, this paper has sought to introduce the idea of culturally responsive debugging and provide a proof of concept through one CRC professional development workshop with cosmetologists, librarians, and urban farmers. ...
... Before the first, second, and third authors came up with the debugging activity, the first and last authors spent multiple years collaborating with cosmetologists to understand how their expertise intersected with STEM topics and how to represent that expertise in computing education. Elsewhere we have reported on how to design technologies and technology experiences that bridge culture and computing, as well as our approaches to collaboration and trustbuilding (e.g., Lachney et al., 2019;Lachney et al., 2021b), but we have not studied our collaborators' own experiences or engagement with code. ...
Article
Despite the value that cultural experts bring to efforts to broaden the participation of racially minoritized youth in US computer science, there has been little research on supporting their knowledge of computing. This is a missed opportunity to explore the diffusion of computing knowledge across local community contexts where underrepresented youth of color spend time. To address this gap, we present one strategy for promoting cultural experts’ early engagement with code, culturally responsive debugging: using culturally situated expertise and knowledge to debug code. We analyzed qualitative data from a professional development workshop for cultural experts to evaluate this strategy. Our findings have implications for broadening participation efforts and supporting non-programmers’ knowledge of code.
... The workshop introduced the cosmetologists to two educational technology programs that connect hairstyling and computing. The first was a culturally situated design tool called Cornrow Curves, which is a visual programming application that offers users opportunities to create designs using the adaptive scaling geometry of cornrow braids (Eglash et al. 2006;Eglash and Bennett 2009;Lachney et al. 2019). The second was pH Empowered, which includes building and calibrating pH sensors and connecting them to digital visualizers to test the pH of various off the shelf hair products. ...
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Full-text available
Culturally responsive computing (CRC) frames the localized knowledges and practices of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities as assets for working toward racial justice in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A key part of CRC is the role that local communities play in designing and/or implementing curricula and technologies. Yet, there is a dearth of research on collaborating with local knowledge experts and what they think about CRC. In response, this paper details a two-year long research project on the design and implementation of one CRC program called pH Empowered. pH Empowered uses computing to bridge Black hairstyling, chemistry, and entrepreneurship. Through a mixed-methods study of one pH Empowered professional development workshop, we show how cosmetologists, urban farmers, and librarians had diverse perspectives about how to be culturally responsive with STEM and the racial justice goal of broadening participation in STEM education.
... The majority of CRC research tends to report on out-of-school or after-school contexts (e.g., Eglash et al,. 2013a;Scott et al., 2015;Pinkard et al., 2017;Lachney et al., 2019a). While there is little doubt that the focus on informal learning environments is productive, especially considering the roles that schools play in reproducing inequities (Margolis et al., 2008;Anyon, 2014), we also believe that without more attention to CRC in formal contexts the current state of underrepresentation is unlikely to improve. ...
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Full-text available
Background: As teachers work to broaden the participation of racially and ethnically underrepresented groups in computer science (CS), culturally responsive computing (CRC) becomes more pertinent to formal settings. Objective: Yet, equity-oriented literature offers limited guidance for developing deep forms of CRC in the classroom. In response, we support the claim that “it takes a village” to develop equity-oriented CS education but additively highlight the roles of cultural experts in the process. Methods: We use a case study methodology to explore one instance of this: a collaboration between a multi-racial team of researchers, a Black cosmetologist, and a White technology teacher. Findings: Three themes supported the CRC collaboration: multi-directional relationship building, iterative engagement with culture-computing, and collaborative implementation of a hybrid lesson. Implications: As opposed to orienting broadening participation around extractive metaphors like “pipelines,” our case study constructs the metaphor of an “open village” to orient CS education toward collaborations between schools and the communities they serve.
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In this work we examine youth learning in an informal computing program implemented through a library-university partnership. In particular, we introduce and illustrate a culturally responsive computing framework which served as a foundation for the design of the program. Subsequently, we examine youth collaboration as well as affective and cognitive learning outcomes. Data were collected from university program facilitators and 30 youth over one semester. Data were collected through observations, lesson plans, computational artifacts and interviews with two case study youth. Results indicated that youth formed a variety of learning communities during the collaborative development of computing artifacts. Frequent participants were found to work with a greater number of peers compared to less frequent participants. Results from case study participants also indicated improvements in their computational competencies. Findings from this work have implications for the design of informal learning environments that help broaden participation in computing.
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This paper describes a decolonial perspective on material agency in the context of STEM education and application. Using the framework of generative STEM, we engaged in case studies with African, African American, South American, and Native American educational communities. This research shows that understanding material agency based on Indigenous knowledge systems can open a rich source of research and education content. Using a suite of simulations, Culturally Situated Design Tools, we apply this body of research to the classroom. One important theoretical conclusion is the contrast to a “content agnostic” position. A generative framework instead offers a robust blend of user agency and instructional guidance. The outcomes indicate statistically significant and notable improvement for STEM skills and interests. We conclude with a contrast to the quantum epistemology approach to posthumanism. We show that the Indigenous material agency framework in generative STEM is a better fit to decolonial aspirations, and that it offers a more transformative vision for the potential role of STEM in transitioning from an extractive to a generative economy.
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Culturally responsive computing repurposes computer science education by making it meaningful to not only students, but also to their families and communities.
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Broadening the participation of underrepresented students in computer science fields requires careful design and implementation of culturally responsive curricula and technologies. Culturally Situated Design Tools (CSDTs) address this by engaging students in historic, cultural, and meaningful design projects based on community practices. To date, CSDT research has only been conducted in short interventions outside of CS classrooms. This paper reports on the first semester-long introductory CS course based on CSDTs, which was piloted with 51 high school students during the 2017-2018 school year. The goal of this study was to examine if a culturally responsive computing curriculum could teach computer science principles and improve student engagement. Pre-post tests, field notes, weekly teacher meetings, formative assessments, and teacher and student interviews were analyzed to assess successes and failures during implementation. The results indicate students learned the conceptual material in 6 months rather than in the 9 months previously required by the teacher. Students were also able to apply these concepts afterward when programming in Python, implying knowledge transfer. However, student opinions about culture and computing didn't improve, and student engagement was below initial expectations. Thus we explore some of the many challenges: keeping a fully integrated cultural curriculum while satisfying CS standards, maintaining student engagement, and building student agency and self-regulation. We end with a brief description for how we intend to address some of these challenges in the second iteration of this program, scheduled for fall 2018. After which a study is planned to compare this curriculum to others.
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Bilingual education has described a process called translanguaging by which students use linguistic resources across and beyond multiple named languages to learn. Here, we examine how bilingual learners translanguage while learning computer science. These middle schoolers participated in a curricular intervention which infused computational thinking into their Spanish-English bilingual language arts class. Through a descriptive qualitative methodology, we document classroom moments supporting four claims: 1) students' translanguaging blurs linguistic, disciplinary, and modal boundaries, 2) computational literacies are intertwined with students' other literacies, 3) students' attitudes about language and the contexts around them play a role in their translanguaging, and 4) students translanguage to engage in specific CT practices.
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Synergistic learning of computational thinking (CT) and STEM has proven to an effective approach in helping students develop better understanding when learning in a number of STEM domains, while simultaneously helping them develop computational thinking concepts and practices. With advances in technology, the ubiquity of computational devices and tools, and the globalization of product development, it is important for our students to not only develop multidisciplinary skills acquired through such synergistic learning opportunities, but to also acquire key collaborative learning and problem-solving skills. In this paper, we describe the design and implementation of a collaborative learning-by-modeling environment developed for high school physics classrooms. We develop systematic rubrics and discuss the results of key evaluation schemes to analyze collaborative synergistic learning of physics and CT concepts and practices The need for interdisciplinary STEM skills coupled with collaborative problem-solving abilities has increased significantly in an age driven by technological advancements and globalization. With the increasing reliance on computational modeling and simulation tools in the workplace (Freeman et. al., 2014), secondary school students need for developing computational skills is clearly outlined in the United States' Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS, 2013) and the Computer Science (CS) Education (K-12 Computer Science Framework, 2016) frameworks. An approach to ensuring the development of these needed skills is through the synergistic learning of STEM and computational thinking (CT) concepts and practices in classroom environments. Synergistic learning is further amplified, when students collaborate to build and refine computational models, and then use these models in problem solving tasks. In particular, computational model building helps students develop important reasoning, explanation, and argumentation processes, which are key scientific practices. The driving force behind the integration of CT into STEM domains can be traced to Papert's (1993) pioneering call for inserting constructivist elements through programming into K-12 curricula to enable students to generate and develop powerful ideas. This framework, further invigorated by Wing's (2006) demonstration of the ubiquity of computational thinking concepts and practices across disciplines, clearly lays out the pedagogical benefits of synergistic learning. These include lowering the CS learning threshold by easing the introduction to programming through the use of contextual-ized representations while also lowering the learning threshold for science concepts by reorganizing them around intuitive computational mechanisms as opposed to equation-based continuous forms (Sengupta, 2013). These benefits have been actualized through studies run with computer-based learning environments (e.g., CTSiM (Basu et al., 2017) and Netlogo (Weintrop, 2016)), further motivating
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This framework for developing pre-service teachers' knowledge does not necessarily depend on computers or other educational technology.
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The Cambridge Handbook of Computing Education Research - edited by Sally A. Fincher February 2019
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IF... THEN provides an account of power and politics in the algorithmic media landscape that pays attention to the multiple realities of algorithms, and how these relate and coexist. The argument is made that algorithms do not merely have power and politics; they help to produce certain forms of acting and knowing in the world. In processing, classifying, sorting, and ranking data, algorithms are political in that they help to make the world appear in certain ways rather than others. Analyzing Facebook's news feed, social media user's everyday encounters with algorithmic systems, and the discourses and work practices of news professionals, the book makes a case for going beyond the narrow, technical definition of algorithms as step-by-step procedures for solving a problem in a finite number of steps. Drawing on a process-relational theoretical framework and empirical data from field observations and fifty-five interviews, the author demonstrates how algorithms exist in multiple ways beyond code. The analysis is concerned with the world-making capacities of algorithms, questioning how algorithmic systems shape encounters and orientations of different kinds, and how these systems are endowed with diffused personhood and relational agency. IF ... THEN argues that algorithmic power and politics is neither about algorithms determining how the social world is fabricated nor about what algorithms do per se. Rather it is about how and when different aspects of algorithms and the algorithmic become available to specific actors, under what circumstance, and who or what gets to be part of how algorithms are defined.
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Enrolling the cultural capital of underrepresented communities in PK-12 technology and curriculum design has been a primary strategy for broadening the participation of students of color in U.S. computer science (CS) fields. This article examines two ways that African-American cultural capital and computing can be bridged in CS education. The first is community representation, using cultural capital to highlight students’ social identities and networks through computational thinking. The second, computational integration, locates computation in cultural capital itself. I survey two risks – the appearance of shallow computing and the reproduction of assimilationist logics – that may arise when constructing one bridge without the other. To avoid these risks, I introduce the concept of computational communities by exploring areas in CS education that employ both strategies. This concept is then grounded in qualitative data from an after school program that connected CS to African-American cosmetology.