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All Roads Lead to Computing: Making, Participatory Simulations, and Social Computing as Pathways to Computer Science

Abstract

"Computer science (CS) is becoming an increasingly diverse domain. This paper reports on an initiative designed to introduce underrepresented populations to computing using an eclectic, multifaceted approach. As part of a yearlong computing course, students engage in Maker activities, participatory simulations, and computing projects that foreground the social and collaborative aspects of CS. Collectively, these activities are designed to introduce learners to the growing diversity of what CS looks like in the 21st century. This paper lays out the practical and theoretical motivations for the Computational Thinking for Girls (CT4G) project, specifically highlighting the use of Making through physical and social computing as ways to engage students in CS. A snapshot of one activity from the program is provided-Wearing the Web-in which students use open-hardware programmable badges to explore the underlying structure and technology that enables the Internet. Data from the first year of the CT4G program are presented to show the positive effects that this diverse introduction to CS is having on the students with respect to their attitudes toward CS."

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