Project Spotlight: CompuGirls Scale-up

STELAR recently caught up with Dr. Kimberly A. Scott, Associate Professor in the Women and Gender Studies Department and Founder/Executive Director of the Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology (CGEST) at Arizona State University.  Dr. Scott is the Principal Investigator of the CompuGirls Scale-up project.  The CompuGirls Scale-Up project utilizes a culturally relevant technology (CRT) program to prepare girls ages 13-18 from the Phoenix high needs district to enter the STEM workforce. This project builds on the successful NSF-funded CompuGirls award (DRL 08-33773), which uses social justice-based multimedia projects to engage young women in activities that increase knowledge, understanding, and awareness of careers in STEM and information and communications technology (ICT).  The project conducts research studies to better understand the effect of participating in the CompuGirls program on girls self concept in technology, academic possible selves, and self regulation.

Can you share how CompuGirls works to develop girls’ motivation and persistence in Computer Science?

STEM work in CompuGirls is not conducted in isolation. Rather, CompuGirls provides a socially relevant purpose for creating STEM products. Participants research a social justice topic then create a digital story, write code for a game, develop a 3D world, or program a robot that reflects that topic. This is highly motivating for participants because our lessons encourage them to become change agents.

What do you think is the most important learning in this area based on your project work to-date?

Probably the most important learning surrounds the role of teachers in the program. For CompuGirls to be successful, teachers really have to be willing to embrace the role of facilitator, as opposed to director. This can be a difficult shift in perspective for some teachers.  To re-shape traditional thinking, we are constantly working to hone and provide quality professional development that includes culturally responsive techniques that allow for open dialogue and student led projects.

What are your top considerations when deciding if or how to implement CompuGirls in other states?

When implementing CompuGirls in other states, we consider, first and foremost, the population we will be targeting. The program focuses on girls from under-served communities, therefore, we look for communities that are in line with those populations. Second, we look at the existing infrastructure for both needs and assets. Is there access to transportation, technology, space? If needs are identified, we then take a problem solving approach to determine best methods for filling those needs. When assets are identified, we ask ourselves how we might leverage them to optimize results for the greatest number of students.

What excites you most about the work you do every day?

I get most excited when I see the growth in the girls. Many of them start out shy, doubting their own abilities. But by the end of the program, they are standing in front of crowd, sharing a product they created. Seeing the pride in their faces, that’s exciting.