Viewed by: 42378 people Comments (17) Category: Authors, Cueponcaxochitl Dianna Moreno Sandoval Tags: computer science, culturally responsive, decolonial scholarship, educational equity, indigenous epistemologies, Sustainability, technology
With me in her womb, my mother crossed the U.S.-Mexican border in the trunk of a car to unite with my father and brother in the U.S. This family history and life beginning set the tone for my schooling journey as a Xicana scholar activist. I declared a Math major during my first year at Pomona College, but when I realized that I was one of the only women in my first math class, and most yet, of Mexican ancestry, I shifted my area of focus to the history and policy of education for Mexican Americans. In the process, I nurtured my own identity and re-awakened my voice in a land scarce of cultural diversity. I began to learn more about my heritage and ground my voice through the perspective of my family, hence my research interests. As a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, I examine computer science education, from a sustainable perspective informed by indigenous peoples. I ask: How may ancestral knowledge systems inform the study of computer science? How might the melding of ancestral knowledge and computer science education lead to new understandings of how to nurture our young people’s positive identity formations and critical consciousness around computer science explorations? Responses to these questions have significant implications for promoting social and environmentally sustainable approaches to living, learning and dying. As digital media inextricably influences our lives, my work disrupts the common assumption that computer science alone could be a solution to most any complex problem in society. I received my Doctoral Degree in Urban Schooling from the University of California Los Angeles, where I conducted research on culturally responsive computer science education with the support of the National Science Foundation. I am the recipient of a grant awarded to a team of educational activists to “Mobilize Ancestral Knowledge, Computer Science and Student Inquiry for Health in the Schooling Community of El Sereno,” funded by UCLA Center X. I have published with Psychnology, Learning, Media and Technology, ACM Inroads, Power and Education, Theory, Culture and Society and SAGE Reference Publications. I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, river tubing and biking with my four-legged companion, Canela.
I had never seen my Pa cry more tears of joy than the day my parents surprised us with our first PC. With a combined annual income of $20,000 for a family of five, my Mexican immigrant parents sacrificed so much to give us the best chance at an academically successful future. Shooting stars darted above us with excitement as we unpacked the computer system from the back of my father’s 1978 Chevy truck. My older brother took the lead in setting up the mysterious digital box. We all watched as he wrote the first command on the MS-DOS screen. Fast-forward two decades. My brother is a computing professional. Somewhere along the way, my sister and I developed the fear of breaking the computer if we were to punch in the wrong code or click on the wrong application, so we resorted to word processing, practicing our typing skills and playing solitaire.
Our gendered differences with the computer are not uncommon. In 2012, males represented 75 percent of the computing workforce and only 25 percent were female. The males delineated European and Asian ancestry, mostly. My brother was and is an exception. In stark contrast, only 1 percent of the females represented the cultural heritage of the Western Hemisphere. In 2013, no females took the AP Computer Science high school exam in three states: Mississippi, Montana and Wyoming.
In addition to the striking segregation of computer science, our consumerist society is addicted to digital advancement for capital gain, without considering the impacts on the environment. We are surrounded by computing technologies and marketing techniques that urge us to have the latest version of digitals. Our consumption of these technological advancements easily come without the critical consciousness about the effects of computing on our environment. The real price of our love affair with faster and more ‘efficient’ technologies is the unintended consequences of pernicious mountains of electronic waste (e-waste). Studies show that e-waste is very toxic, especially when burned or recycled in uncontrolled environments. In 2009, 2.37 million short tons (or 4,740,000,000 pounds) of e-waste were discarded into landfills.
Diversity matters. Not just to meet statistical quota, diversity of cultural worldviews matters. The complexity of the problems we face as a society require a collective approach to theory and experimentation for solving dilemmas. The movement to resolving today’s serious problems cannot rest in the hands of one cultural group, nor can our decisions be motivated by our fascination with the advancement of these tools at the cost of our environment. We must expand our collective participation in computing and responsibly address the multi-faceted problems we face by nourishing a multiplicity of worldviews in education.
In order to broaden participation in computing, we must be culturally responsive and environmentally responsible. Ancestral computing for sustainability may provide some insights, each participant with their own set of experiences and historically cultural worldviews, into collectively and responsibly addressing complex global problems.
Ancestral computing was born out of a three year research study conducted in Los Angeles. The central focus of ancestral computing is a culturally situated approach to computer science education. This approach involves establishing a relationship with the Earth through ancestral knowledge systems together with learning the multiple facets of computer science. During my three year study focused on the interdisciplinary work of computer science and MEChA in a Los Angeles high school, I found that when students made connections between their familial ancestral knowledge systems and computer science, students increased a positive sense of self as an academic contributor to knowledge production in an otherwise segregated field. In addition, motivation and academic success increased, especially among Mexican-descent females. Grounded with a critical consciousness about our positionalities over generations and our shared connections to the Earth, ancestral computing foregrounds issues of positive identity formations and responsibility to the Earth.
My parents were able to buy us a computer because of their creative problem-solving strategies. Recycling waste from the local restaurants and bars allowed for them to save their pennies to offer us a chance at engaging in advanced educational practices. In Ancient Mexico, Tlazolteotl, an effigy found in various places of Mesoamerica, is associated with eating trash, and as a result, makes the world a better place. Learning more about my ancestral knowledge practices and making a connection to my family’s behaviors around recycling, philosophy, medicines, planting and sowing, has strengthened my identity as part of a long line of creative contributors to knowledge. My passion for revealing our generational knowledges was recognized by a student-led organization, MEChA, at the high school where I was conducting research in computer science. The organization’s leaders asked me to sponsor their after-school club. My formal position at their high school was an educational researcher in the Exploring Computer Science class while my informal position was as a MEChA sponsor. My participation in both worlds led to a research study in which I asked: How might ancestral knowledge systems and computer science co-construct inquiry for environmental sustainability?
As we consider the ways in which underserved populations learn computing, we must build from a culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy. Both of these privilege academic success, critical consciousness and cultural sustainability. For example, students may be taught how to code, but they are rarely taught how to think about the effects computer production has on the overall well-being of our planet. This may help students make a connection to well-established though often overlooked historical practices of computational thinking. And in doing so, may help preserve ancestral cultural ways such as growing cacao in Mexico.
By turning to ancestral knowledges as a way to ground our observations with our local contexts, connect to the Earth, and consider long-term effects of our behaviors, we may expand our creativity so as to produce technology responsibly.
Using ancestral computing as a sustainable approach to broaden participation in computer science education feeds three birds with one hand:
Critical thinking around ancestral computing brings up questions like:
Our first responsibility is to the Earth, an entity that directly gives us life. Ancestral knowledge systems from all over the world generally focus on local, environmental considerations that connect our bodies to the Earth beneath us and around us, spiritually and physically. These are teachings that transcend time and space and that derive from documented ancient civilizations across the globe. Having systems of accountability for businesses and individuals about nurturing the health of the planet is crucial to the continued production of technological tools. These accountability systems account for multiple points of view as well as provide practical tools to re-establish our connections to the immediate environment we inhabit, particularly in urban settings. Educational settings provide fertile ground for ancestral computing practices to flourish and spill over to areas such as entrepreneurship, production and consumerism in a responsible and dignified manner.