Nearly every piece of technology you may use on any given day wouldn’t function without computer coding. While computer science has made incredible advances over the years, the issue of diversity looms.
“Traditionally, most computer scientists are white males. And that’s just one perspective in the world and we’d really like to expand that,” Ridgeview High School computer science teacher Josh Davis said.
A $628,000 grant awarded to OSU-Cascades from the Oregon Department of Education aims to address the issue.
“We have had computer science education in our state for over 50 years. But when we took a look at who was actually in the classes, it was a small segment of the student population,” said Jill Hubbard, Professor of Practice in Computer Science at OSU-Cascades.
According to OSU-Cascades’ website, 41% of Oregon high schools offer a foundational computer science course, but only 4% of the state’s high schoolers take those classes. Only 2% of those students are female.
“My life is controlled by this thing,” Hubbard said while pointing at her phone. “How can I turn it off? What kind of data is it collecting about me as I stand here? How is it being used? It is important for our young people to think about those bigger problems, and to have diverse minds approach them.”
The money will go toward recruiting, retaining and training new teachers to teach computer science courses in grade schools throughout the state — courses similar to the Girls Who Code club at Ridgeview High.
“We have a different perspective on things. You can’t have just one demographic of people focusing on the entire industry of something. A lot of women are detail oriented and I think that’s super useful for coding in general,” Ridgeview freshman Willow Dice said.
Oregon is one of the last states in the country to not have computer science standards in schools. The state will roll out standards, equipping all Oregon public schools with computer science classes, in 2027 and 2028.