Friday, May 26, 2023
Amanda Glunz, the lead teacher for computer science at Audubon Technology and Communication High School, had never even considered computer science as a career while in school. At that time, “It was never aimed at female students,” she said.
“I’ve thought about all the doors that could have opened to me as a student,” she said.
Now, she’s working to change that, making computer sciences a more inclusive field to students, both for study and for work. As a result, the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s Wisconsin affiliate has recognized Glunz’s efforts with an Aspirations in Computing Educator Award, one of only two given in Wisconsin. The award recognizes educators for efforts to promote gender equity in computing.
“We really want to provide these opportunities for all these students,” Glunz said.
It’s not just that the opportunities are good for the students themselves, she noted. It’s good for fields that employ computer science and information technology professionals to bring in diverse perspectives, which can counteract biases.
Students at Audubon, who learn how to create their own video games, see how biases or beliefs are reflected in existing video games.
“History has been written without the inclusion of diverse voices,” Glunz said. “Data collected through the use of technology is our new collective history, and we must learn to include the perspectives of all who the data represents in order to begin disrupting the oppressive structures.”
Glunz is part of a team that brought computer science programming to Audubon Middle and High Schools in 2020-21, after surveying students to see which careers they were most interested in and what courses Audubon could offer that aligned with their interests.
Many students were interested in information technology careers, so the school began offering courses as part of the NAF Academy of Information Technology.
“That’s the whole driver of the whole team — we wanted to make sure everybody had equitable access to this type of education,” Glunz said.
The number of computer science classes is expanding since the launch several years ago. Next school year, Audubon will add a cybersecurity course and Advanced Placement (AP) computer science.
Every student at Audubon takes a basic Introduction to Computer Science class. “We think exposure… increases the likelihood of pursuing it,” Glunz said.
Many students didn’t have experience with computer science before taking the introductory class. Once they took the class, Glunz said, “A lot of our students realized, ‘Hey, this is something I can do.’ ”
Glunz and other Audubon staff began having the students use the Python program with the EarSketch digital audio workstation to remix music — they use code to create their own beats and songs.
“They’re getting that immediate result and still learning the concepts we want them to learn,” Glunz said. “Our students responded really well to that.”
Students also make visits to diverse sites and hear from guest speakers who mirror the student body, or who speak their languages.
Audubon also has after-school activities and clubs where students can explore computer science without feeling the pressures of academics, Glunz said. She coaches FIRST Robotics teams called DreaMKEepers at Audubon, a LEGO team at the middle school level, and the first-year Tech Challenge team in the high school. That’s in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.
Awards for students
NCWIT honored 10 MPS students with Aspirations in Computing awards. The awards, given to girls, genderqueer, or nonbinary students in grades 9 to 12, are based on aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing. NCWIT considers students’ computing experience, computing-related activities, leadership experience, tenacity in the face of barriers to access, and their plans in the field.
Audubon Middle and High Schools
- Katin Ekins — Rising Star
- Isadora Montes — Rising Star
- Theresa Schweizer — Rising Star
- Liam Aponte — Honorable Mention
- Dolina Salazar — Honorable Mention
Hmong American Peace Academy (HAPA)
- Edyn Lee — Honorable Mention
Milwaukee High School of the Arts
Reagan High School
- Jillian Borchert — Winner
- Viannys Colon— Winner
- Elise Mucker — Winner