Report: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in 2019-2020
Authored by the Teach LA community, with significant contributions from Arjun Subramonian, Sophie Schoenmeyer, Leo Krashanoff, Nikhil Kumar, and Matthew Wang.
Date published: Jul 21, 2020. Subscribe to RSS feed for reports
Overview and Table of Contents
ACM Teach LA is an organization dedicated to the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). This brief report is the first of its kind, reflecting on Teach LA’s progress within the scope of EDI, and our next steps moving forward.
Socioeconomic Barriers and Access to Education
The core of Teach LA’s mission is to improve access to education. We primarily collaborate with Title I schools, where a majority of students are from low-income families. Within these schools, we strive to serve low-income and underrepresented students who would not otherwise have accessible resources for computer science education. We recognize the value in reaching out to individuals at a young age: inspiring their passion for technology early on allows them more time to explore their interests and build their self-confidence in their ability to use computers.
Our most mature program consists of supplemental or extracurricular computer science classes, led by our student instructors. They instill the values of confidence, creativity, having fun, and inclusion into our students to offset the detrimental impacts of socioeconomic barriers and underrepresentation. We have created a strong foundational CS curriculum that tailors to each students individual needs, regardless of their previous experience with technology. By creating a low teacher-to-student ratio, we ensure that every student has the attention they need so they can learn in a collaborative environment.
Teach LA has also pursued other avenues to make computer science education more accessible. Our internal dev team has continued to maintain our online code editor, which mitigates an obstacle for students who do not have consistent access to computers at home, and lowers the barrier of installing libraries and interacting with code.
We recognize that English is not a first language for many of our students or parents. At Brockton Elementary School, we provide information about our program to students’ in English and Spanish: this ensures that parents clearly understand what Teach LA does, and the impact that early computer science education has on their child.
In the upcoming school year, we plan on continuing to distribute program resources in English and Spanish, whenever relevant. In addition, we reaffirm our commitment to creating language-accessible resources, which includes active discussions with students, teachers, and parents on what language best suits them.
Our internal development team is in the process of creating Spanish-language pages on our website, with the goal of providing more information to our Spanish-speaking students, parents, and educators. We aim to create all relevant web pages before the beginning of our academic year.
While our primary program involves year-long computer science classes, this is not always logistically possible. Another way in which we connect with students at schools at which we do not physically teach is by hosting one-off external speaker series events at these schools. In these speaker series, Teach LA instructors physically (or digital) visit these schools, introduce themselves, and engage in discussions with students on what computer science is, college life, and anything else that interests them. In contrast to our classes, speaker series events are less technical, and more focused on inspiring students to explore their interests in CS and pursue CS in whatever capacity possible.
On the other hand, internal speaker series are events at UCLA in which we bring students to campus and allow them to participate in cool CS activities, demos, and workshops, and experience the life of a UCLA student! We hope this makes them excited to be a CS student in college, and grants them exposure to the environment. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we were unable to have any internal speaker series events this year.
In the upcoming year, we would like to organize more EDI-focused and non-technical external speaker series events, utilizing the unique nature of the speaker series (opposed to regular classes) to touch on otherwise infrequent topics.
In addition, we would like to expand the set of schools that we perform speaker series at, ensuring that we reach students from a broad set of backgrounds. Given the likely digital nature of our outreach, we can look to provide speaker series at schools where transportation or geography was previously a barrier.
EDI in Curriculum
We believe that equity, diversity, and inclusion should also underpin elements of our existing curriculum. At Brockton Elementary school, we have led discussions on the importance of diversity when building products that everybody uses. In past speaker series events, we have engaged in group discussions about representation and inclusion, especially through the lens of technology.
In our collaboration with ACM AI Outreach at North Hollywood High School, we have ensured that EDI is especially emphasized in our curriculum. We have frequently mentioned the ethical implications and problems of AI techniques that we teach to students. ACM AI Outreach also kickstarted the “You Belong in AI!” podcast, which interviews exemplary role models in AI to inspire students of all backgrounds to pursue AI opportunities, and to discuss AI ethics issues in depth.
In general, we plan on continuing to actively integrate EDI into our curriculum. Following the lead from Brockton Elementary and North Hollywood High, we plan on creating more lesson plans centred on EDI and how it relates to our students. As previously mentioned, we believe that EDI-focused speaker series are another important program that we plan to expand.
Our collaboration with ACM AI Outreach continues to link AI and ethics to EDI. Next year, we plan on producing a video series that explores AI on a conceptual level. Without delving into the math, the series would explore AI through the context of fairness, bias, and ethics, and the role it plays into society. We intend to make this AI education as accessible as possible, so it can reach underserved and underrepresented students: the very same students who are most susceptible to being adversely affected by bias in AI systems (e.g. facial recognition technology). We want to empower these students with a solid understanding of fairness and bias in AI so that they can call out societal injustices in AI, and look to fix them themselves.
EDI is a set of principles that extend beyond our classroom: it’s equally as important, if not more important, in how we run our organization.
We try to emphasize diversity and inclusion through many lenses, most obviously through recruiting and member makeup. We strongly believe that students learning from and working with successful UCLA students who represent their identity and interests makes them more likely to pursue CS in the future. To accurately represent diversity of interest, we focus on including and showcasing non-CS majors in our club: our major pool includes applied math, cognitive science, electrical engineering, statistics, linguistics, civil engineering, bioengineering, and film. In our 2019-2020 board, every single member had a unique major/minor combination.
In our recruitment process, we emphasize that prior experience in the field is not required, and that we champion EDI in our organization. We believe this lowers the barrier of entry to our organization, and creates a welcoming and inclusive culture. In retrospect, we are particularly proud of our well-balanced gender ratio, our steps towards making Teach LA welcoming for LGBTQIA members, and our beginner-friendly dev team.
Internally, we emphasize the importance of EDI in our meetings: through discussion about current events, integrating accessibility into our curriculum, and in ACM-wide discussions such as our All Hands. We frequently co-sponsor and partner with EDI-focused organizations, such as ACM-W, the Society of Women Engineers, and QWERHacks.
Although we already have an incredible group of instructors from many different backgrounds, we plan to actively work towards furthering the diversity of our team this coming school year by recruiting more BIPOC and non-CS majors, as well as neurodiverse and gender diverse individuals. Members of these groups have been historically under-represented in the technology field and otherwise made to believe that a career in computer science is an unattainable goal. By pivoting our recruiting efforts towards our peers in introductory and non-major computer science courses, we hope to make computer science more accessible to all!
In addition, we would like to collaborate more with non-CS and non-engineering organisations. We believe that technology literacy and computer science are useful skills for all children (and really, for everyone) - not just those who participate in STEM classes or afterschool programs. Collaboration would not only diversify the groups of students that we teach, but also the types of conversations and ideas that we have internally within our club.
Finally, we want to further emphasize EDI through our organization. Initiatives like this report are the first step, but there are many more: EDI-focused pedagogy sessions, active reflections and discussions within our organization, and looking for avenues for social advocacy are all reasonable next steps that we can take.
In general, we are proud of the values that underpin ACM Teach LA, and the fact that Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion are core to the identity of our organization. We believe that we have taken active steps to ensure that EDI is upheld in everything that our club does. We have outlined how EDI exists in everything we do: our outreach, curriculum, and internal operations. We strive to continue this level of awareness and action in our future.
At the same time, we understand that there is always room to improve. As we have outlined in this document, there are actionable steps that we can take to further improve EDI in all of our actions. We believe that publishing this report is the first step, but accountability cannot stop there - we will continue to reflect, identify, and iterate on our strengths and weaknesses with regard to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
We also value input from our community at large. If you would like to contact us about the content of this report, we’d love to hear what you have to say: send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading this report, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in 2019-2020. It was authored by the Teach LA community, with significant contributions from Arjun Subramonian, Sophie Schoenmeyer, Leo Krashanoff, Nikhil Kumar, and Matthew Wang.