Blog Post

Lessons Learned from Starting Up the Equity and Access in CS Group

We were honored to have the opportunity to launch and facilitate the CS for All Teachers Equity and Access in CS discussion group. Since Equity and Access in CS was a new group, we had the opportunity to start from scratch and create our own expectations, vision statement, and goals and pathways for the year. Our priority was to build an inclusive and interactive virtual community that provides incredible learning experiences and connections to equity and access in education. Below, we share our experiences and lessons learned in growing a community.

5 Lessons Learned:

  1. Together Is Better!
  2. Quality > Quantity
  3. Getting a Little Help from Our Friends
  4. Organization
  5. Continue Building 

1. Together Is Better! (Co-facilitation). What made this new endeavor special is that we collaborated on EVERY single thing we did. It made the processing and tasks so much easier to have a thought-partner during the creation and design process. We both enjoyed using a spreadsheet to keep our thoughts, tasks, dates, tweets, brainstorming lists, and discussion thread posts organized and user-friendly. We even collaborated on working with the CS for All Teachers staff. We wanted to make sure we established a strong foundational understanding of our work as well as set expectations and goals for the year. Collaboration was also important because we wanted to make sure we were in sync with our thoughts, goals, and visions in growing our new group.

Our first task was to make a list of primary tasks we wanted to accomplish. One of the first action steps we did was to research other communities within the CS for All Teachers community. Our reason for doing this was to see how other groups were organized and most importantly to see how groups encouraged interactivity. We also decided to meet a few times per week to establish foundations for our community. We actually ended up meeting 3-4 times per week the first month instead of bi-weekly. We needed to create and design and design and create all the different pieces that were needed to build a successful community.

We felt so empowered and ready to transform after we created our vision statement: This interactive group focuses on equity and access in computer science for all. It is meant to be driven by engagement, reflection, and action. Our goal is to call out equity at all levels of computer science education, including awareness, access, engagement, achievement, integration, and impact in the world around us.

We were now armed with a vision statement and we needed a community image. Since part of our vision was to have an interactive group, we decided to let the members create our equity and access image. So we reached out to our members to help us create our image by asking them what three words came to mind when they thought of equity and CS. We used Menti to collect their answers, see below.

word cloud

 

2. Quality > Quantity (Comments and Engagement). Since our group focused on equity and access in CS, we wanted to make sure we called out a few items such as access, awareness, and, most importantly, engagement. We wanted our inclusive group to be driven by engagement and community members to engage in interactive conversations as well as share with us their stories, passions, intentional and personal connections, resources, and next steps.

One strategy was to engage members first in Twitter posts (our modified version of a Twitter slow chat) in the hope that they would continue their thoughts and conversations and visit our discussion group for further conversations, sharing, and engagement. Although we thought this would be an easy task, it turned out to be harder than expected. We made several pivots and modifications to our original plans of engagement and learned so much. We made notes along the way and collected data to better inform our next step decisions.

Speaking of data, we were so excited and empowered to get any engagement that we created matrices to see how many educators had either engaged in a Twitter chat, posted in our community, and joined our community. We looked at this data every time we met. We set new goals each week once we met previous goals.

3. Getting a Little Help from Our Friends (Cross-posting and Social Media). Networking was really important to our engagement goals. We did a lot of cross-posting on social media as well as on various social media platforms. It was also great to have the inter-support of other CS for All Teachers Ambassadors, who would either share our work or cross post and connect their work to our equity group.

Many times, we would post on our Equity and Access group and then also share that content and resources on Twitter, Facebook, and in other personal groups we belonged to. Again the goal was to share awareness and bring traffic back to our group.

4. Organization (Structured Tasks and Schedules). We both enjoyed our organization of our tasks and next steps. Our spreadsheet contained all of our Twitter and other social media posts, as well as detailed group posts, discussion threads, resources, links, etc. We included hashtags and tagged each other so that when we posted to social media we could continue to re-share and engage in various discussions. We took turns on posting and responding to posts, and checked our matrices of engagement before each of our planning sessions.

Before beginning our group tasks and work, we always took time for some social and emotional sharing and caring. This little time made our work sessions so much more productive as well as allowed us to stay focused on our tasks. It was wonderful to not only have a great thought-partner to grow a group, but this opportunity also allowed us to grow a great friendship.

5. Continue Building (Next Steps, Future Goals). We wanted to build a community where we could provide interactive learning experiences to others as well as be teachers and learners ourselves. We wanted to hear how equity in CS impacted both teachers and students, so we encouraged real-life story sharing. We did this with our very first discussion post, inviting members to participate in a roll call from around the world. We had an interactive map for people to indicate where they’re from and we had several participants from around the world.

map of pinned group members

 

One thing we know for sure is our passion, knowledge, and drive for equity and access has increased greatly. We had the opportunity to facilitate an online course for the University of Texas at Austin to further not only our knowledge about equity and access, but to share resources in the course with our fellow community members. We invite you to join the group and share your passions and real-life stories for equity and access in CS. And we continue to invite new and established members to share their stories and journeys as we create new pathways for equity and access in CS.

 

Vanessa Jones lives in Austin, Texas. She is a Code.org facilitator for CS Fundamentals, CS Discoveries, and CSF DeepDive. She is also a member of the CSEdWeek/Hour of Code Advisory Committee. Vanessa was one of the writers for the K-12 Computer Science Framework with a focus on Equity in Computer Science and is a member of the 100in10 Diversifying the STEM Teacher Pipeline Project Team.
 
Andrea Wilson Vazquez is a teacher and innovative instructional coach at an alternative high school outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she specializes in engaging students with a variety of unique learning needs through creative problem solving with technology and maker education. Andrea is also the Director of Educator Training with Code Savvy, a non-profit that empowers youth and educators with knowledge, skills and support to create new things with computer science, while interrupting and counteracting gender, racial and economic gaps in computing.