Computing Education for the People: Broadening Participation through Sociotechnical Awareness in Secondary English Language Arts and Civics Classrooms
Jennifer Higgs

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Davis

Primary Discipline

While more researchers are calling for inclusion of sociopolitical issues in K-12 computing education, these explorations have been marked primarily for students enrolled in CS coursework. However, as multiple levels of society increasingly rely on computational technologies, the ability to critically examine their often undeclared power and confront questions they raise about equity, ethics, civic participation, and social systems should be viewed as a fundamental component of education made available to all learners, not just those on CS pathways. Accordingly, there is an urgent need to reimagine not only what computing education is, but where it can take place and who has access to it. To make computing education truly accessible, it is necessary to decenter CS courses as the only contexts for meaningful computing education and adopt interdisciplinary approaches that provide all students with opportunities to develop sociotechnical awareness, a critical lens that interrogates intersections of computing technologies, power, ethics, and social hierarchies. Research is needed to examine what this work might look like in non-STEM K-12 core courses to which most students have access. This project addresses this empirical gap through a social design-based experiment that explores English and Civics classrooms as potential sites of computing education, focusing on the design of these environments to support sociotechnical awareness.
About Jennifer Higgs
Jennifer (Jenni) Higgs is an Assistant Professor of Learning and Mind Sciences and Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of California, Davis. Drawing from sociocultural learning theories and employing methodologies such as design-based research and survey research, she investigates young people's and teachers' sense-making of digital tools and ecologies that invite new forms of reading, writing, and participation; support structures that can help teachers facilitate equitable uses and understandings of digital technologies; and the spread and scale of educational innovations in our advanced digital age. These interests are informed by her years as a high school English teacher in Virginia and Illinois public schools. Dr. Higgs' research has been supported by the National Academy of Education, the Spencer Foundation (2016 Dissertation Fellow), the Berkeley Center for New Media, and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. Her work has appeared in various academic journals, including Research in the Teaching of English, Educational Researcher, Equity and Excellence in Education, and Human Development. Dr. Higgs holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. and M.S. from Northwestern University, and a B.A. from Cornell University.

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