Social Justice Software

This dissertation presents a study of the burgeoning field Culturally Responsive Computing (CRC), its historical context and need, educational use computer software design, and “The Digital Divide” in order to propose the creation of an experimental classroom use software that flexibly responds to its users, reconnects fragmented curriculum, and counters traditional industrial-age schooling frameworks. The title “STEAMHAMLET” comes from a desire to integrate all disparate subject areas and use the STEAM curricula ideation plus a similarly integrated approach to the humanities. Note that Art appears twice.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics, History, Art, Music, Language, English, Theater = STEAMHAMLET.

Instead of focusing on external goals and expectations determined by dominant culture norms, the heart of this software design and use is to explore alternative learning mechanisms in search of a more socially just world.

To be clear, it is sometimes in the interest of students to engage with rote learning educational software, and the purpose of this study is not to suggest otherwise, however, the goal of this study is to look for an intersection of critical theory, social justice, educational computing, innovation, cultural responsiveness, and liberatory education. As a result, I recommend a series of questions that each school should engage with as they embark upon a big purchase of computing hardware and software: In what ways does the technology help traditionally disenfranchised students? In what ways does the technology shift how students and teachers think about learning? What advantages does the technology provide over not not having it at all? Will the school allow time and space for students to experiment and explore the technology? Will the school be open to structural and pedagogical changes that may be inspired by the technology? Will the school be able to afford ongoing training for students and teachers, as well as ongoing upgrade costs for the proposed technology purchase?

Furthermore, based on my analysis I recommend that all schools reinvigorate their computer science departments, create hands-on STEAM laboratories (even small ones) for open tinkering to occur, integrate as many traditionally disparate subject areas as possible (don’t forget HAMLET), and to consider open-ended-ness as a goal over grades and matriculation. Student engagement largely determines their motivation and perseverance, which often translates into “good grades” anyhow.

The limitations of my work are mostly tied to a historical lack of resources in disenfranchised populations, and while my proposed software design project will certainly address this within the software itself in a culturally responsive, critically conscious way with historicity as an important feature of study, it is fair to wonder how STEAMHAMLET and this dissertation will truly impact the opportunity gap. I hope to make a difference in this regard and will find an appropriate way to scale this project to serve people in need.

To help this work along, further research is needed on the demographic makeup of students concurrently online during school hours on school networks. This information would allow for STEAMHAMLET to address the digital divide and be part of increasing equity and access in existing school sites that are online. Additionally, research on the “Internet deserts” would allow for more targeted infrastructural improvements that could be a part of STEAMHAMLET from another social justice angle to address bringing communities to a broadband network.

Studies have been completed already to inform us about the 500,000 jobs in computing that are unfilled in the year 2016. ( Expanding our school programs to return to the computer science coursework that were once standard practice would help prepare students to obtain jobs that they may not even know they were interested in, and furthermore could bring about a new innovation that might assist human society in saving itself from any number of manmade or natural disasters.

The STEAMHAMLET project will need an initial burst of capital (estimated 5 million dollars) to begin the work and will invest in hiring a number of teams: Coding, Graphics, Diversity, Educational, Advertisement, Legal, Conceptual, Experimental, and Research. The project will primarily serve students from historically disenfranchised communities in historically disadvantaged schools.