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September 2, 2014

Education research team successfully launches innovative computer science curriculum


“Exploring Computer Science” boosts female student participation in L.A. school district to double the national average

Jane Margolis is an educator and researcher at UCLA, who has dedicated her career to democratizing computer science education and addressing under-representation in the field. Her work inspires students from diverse backgrounds to study computer science and to use their knowledge to help society. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Margolis and her team investigated why so few girls and under-represented minorities are learning computer science. They developed “Exploring Computer Science,” or ECS, to reverse the trend.

ECS is tailored to spark the interest of all kids, but especially a diverse mix of kids living in low income areas, by encouraging the students to explore through hands-on learning projects and to collaborate to solve problems. Margolis says getting kids to understand problem solving is at the heart of computer science. Teacher development is also a critical part of making ECS a success in the classroom.

Today, more than 2,000 students in the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) are learning computer science through ECS each year. Most of these students are African American and Latino. ECS is also increasing the percentage of female students taking computer science courses. At a time when the national average of female students who are participating in AP computer science is about 19 percent, the LAUSD ECS enrollment is 40 percent female twice the national average!

ECS is now being taught in schools across the U.S. Thanks to Margolis's research, this curriculum is introducing more students to the creative possibilities in computer science.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1241284, Into the Loop Alliance.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Ann Kellan, Science Nation Producer


Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.