Preparing High School Students with Autism for the Future of Remote Software Development Work
Attracting diverse youth to computer science professions is important to our national interests and to provide economic opportunity. This project will engage high school students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a remote video game design and software development summer camp. Through teamwork activities, participating youth will develop and practice communication and collaboration skills while growing their professional knowledge and skills to prepare them for potential careers in computer science. To support teaming and social skills development, the project team will develop a software program, Collaboration Station, that provides learners with an online, virtual environment for collaborative programming. Embedding student learning in a virtual summer camp environment provides participating high schoolers with the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills for remote work, which is increasingly common in computer science careers. A distinct feature of this project is its focus on the attributes that learners with ASD bring to support their preparation for and interest in computer science.
As all project activities will take place online/remotely, the team will use research methods that attend to the appropriate and effective use of multimedia recordings and database evidence of participant engagement in the virtual environment. Employing primarily qualitative analysis, the team will analyze recordings of camp activities and use audio transcripts for thematic analysis through iterative, interpretive passes on the data using open and axial coding. The project’s design and development process will be guided by a special kind of advisory board, composed of autistic self-advocates from the community. These project collaborators will provide essential expertise and experience to inform the project’s direction, design, and implementation. Outcomes of this project include a conceptual and operational model for a summer camp experience that supports students with ASD in the development of their computer science knowledge and teaming skills. The summer camp model and its outcomes will be disseminated to academic, educational, and ASD advocacy communities through academic research and educational technology conferences, a public podcast series, and a public blog. Anonymized project data will be shared through a web-based appendix for other researchers’ use. This project is co-funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. This project is also co-funded by the CS for All: Research and RPPs program.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.