Some literature on perceptions of IPT and IT/CS courses

Following up on my previous suggestion that High-school classes in information technology may be turning students off IT, I decided to do a quick literature search to see what was out there. Ain’t procrastination grand. Here’s what I found. I haven’t had a chance to read them, back to the assignment.

What I find interesting is that almost all of them are initially focused on the perceptions of girls. My feel is that there’s a significant percentage of boys that fit into a similar category.

Downes and Looker (2011) start their introduction with this

For the past decade, participation rates in computing and information technology (CIT) courses at schools and universities have been declining in countries such as Australia and the United States (Downes & Kleydish, 2007).

Koppi, T., Sheard, J., Naghdy, F., Edwards, S. L., & Brookes, W. (2010). Towards a gender inclusive information and communications technology curriculum: a perspective from graduates in the workforce. Computer Science Education, 20(4), 265-282. doi:10.1080/08993408.2010.527686

Abstract: …..Amongst the significant findings are that females are more concerned than males with interpersonal communication, the development of people-skills and the people side of ICT. Implications for the ICT curriculum are that it should have more than a narrow male-centred technological focus and include the involvement of people and the effects of ICT on society in general. This broad inclusive pedagogical approach would satisfy the needs expressed by all respondents and contribute to increasing the enrolments of both female and male students in ICT

Lasen, M. (2010). Education and career pathways in Information Communication Technology: What are schoolgirls saying? Computers & Education, 54(4), 1117-1126. Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.10.018

Abstract: ….Focus group data reveal that one barrier to selection of advanced ICT options was girls’ experience of junior secondary school ICT subjects which had been typically delivered by teachers with limited expertise and constituted by mundane, repetitive tasks. Further, while Non Takers of senior ICT subjects acknowledged the pervasiveness of ICTs in the workplace, they were disinterested in a specialized ICT career path. Hence, rather than undertake advanced offerings of little relevance to career aspirations, Non Takers perceived that they could continue to hone their skills on a needs basis and, indeed, were routinely and purposefully using computers in their home settings. A lack of understanding of the different foci of IPT (i.e. programming and databases) and ITS (i.e. multimedia and web design) was evident among Non Takers, with many singularly associating senior ICT subjects with programming and other highly technical skills. Both Non Takers and Takers (who in the context of the focus groups were largely Takers of ITS) expressed an aversion to programming….

There’s that old hatred of programming again. I find that disappointing. What is more creative with computers than using a programming language to take full control of the protean nature of the computer?

Anderson, N., Lankshear, C., Timms, C., & Courtney, L. (2008). ‘Because it’€s boring, irrelevant and I don’t like computers’€™: Why high school girls avoid professionally-oriented ICT subjects. Computers & Education, 50(4), 1304-1318. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2006.12.003

Courtney, L., Anderson, N., Lankshear, C., & Timms, C. (2007). Negotiating the twisted, broken and sometimes hidden pathways to lCT careers: Girls and lCT Research Findings. Redress, 16(3), 14-20.

Timms, C., Courtney, L., & Anderson, N. (2006). Secondary girls;€™ perceptions of advanced ICT subjects: Are they boring and irrelevant? Australian Educational Computing, 21(2), 3-8.

Abstract: ….The current paper examines responses to ‘The subjects are interesting’ and ‘I am interested in computers’ with particular attention to how attitudes of Non Takers of IPT fiTS diverge from those of Takers. Mann-Whitney U test comparisons found significant difference in attitudes between these groups. These data were reinforced with rich qualitative responses indicating these subjects were generally perceived by girls in high school, as boring, dull and uninteresting.

Downes, T., & Looker, D. (2011). Factors that influence students’ plans to take computing and information technology subjects in senior secondary school. Computer Science Education, 21(2), 175-199. doi:10.1080/08993408.2011.579811

Abstract:….The model indicates that, in addition to gender and the student’s beliefs about the value of the subjects, plans to take CIT subjects are also affected by the amount of use of IT at school. These school-related factors are inter-connected either directly or indirectly with students’ beliefs about their IT abilities at both school and home, as well as the amount of use at home. For educators who seek to improve participation rates, particularly for females, the identification of school-related variables is encouraging, as the school – unlike the home – is a relatively accessible site of intervention.

Is high school the next challenge for CS

I’m biased, for other reasons I’m in the process of becoming a high school teacher of information technology/maths. That said, it’s given me the opportunity to think about a problem from a previous live as a University academic in information systems/information technology.

That problem was that, apart from a small period of time around the dot-com boom, the type of students enrolling in these courses was very limited, primarily nerds. This wasn’t a problem because of the students, some very fine people within that group. It’s a problem for Uni IT/IS courses because this group represents only a very small percentage of the population and when enrolment numbers are tanking you worry about this.

The continual response from the University I worked at was to change the program, to make it more attractive. They never seemed to get the fact that by the end of high school, the majority of students have already made their up their mind about IT/IS because of their experiences. And they sure as hell aren’t signing up to do that for the rest of their life.

Which brings us to this quote from an article explaining how on University CS instructor has made his course more interesting by allowing students to work on something meaningful to them. And the quote from someone in the NSF saying that they have the high school CS course to get kids interested, but can’t get it in schools.

This seems to be shaping as the challenge for me in coming years, how to get a program like this into a high school and observe what it does.

Amplify’d from
“We’ll have no problem interesting kids in doing these things,” Cuny said. “The tough part is getting into the schools.”