2013 NCWIT Summit - Flashtalk, "Empowering Latinos in Computing" by Idit Harel Caperton and Jennifer Aguayo

August 14, 2013


Jeffrey Forbes:  We're going to go through each of our speakers. As I invite each of the speakers up to the stage, please hold your applause until his or her talk is completed. First up, we're going to have "Empowering Latinos in Computing." That's by Idit Harel Caperton, who's the founder and president of Globaloria and the World Wide Workshop. Also, Jennifer Argüello, who's the executive director of Latino2.


Idit Harel Caperton:  [laughs] Hey, my name's Idit. I'm the president and founder of the World Wide Workshop. You can tweet your questions to me @Idit.

Jennifer Argüello:  Hi. I'm Jennifer. I'm the executive director of Latino2 and the chair of the advisory board of Globaloria in Silicon Valley. You can tweet me @engijen.

Idit:  Through my partnership with Juan Sanchez, who's the CEO of Southwest Key, the largest non‑profit in Texas, and through my work with his faculty at EAPrep, I became familiar in the last four years with some of the pressing issues of Latino kids and what they're facing throughout the nation. Through our work in East Austin, Texas, and also in San Jose, California, in the last two years, I became familiar with a huge opportunity gap that exists in those two low‑income, economically and technologically underserved communities for Latino kids and youth. All youth in the nation actually have computing education crisis, but I've recently learned from my friend, Jennifer, here that Latino population, which is rapidly growing, still remains underrepresented in the STEM workforce and computing in particular.

Jennifer:  In the Silicon Valley, 25 percent of the working population is Hispanic, but only 5 percent is part of the actual computer workforce. This is scary, because I grew up there, so I saw it. Similar disparity is also in many of the communities around the United States, and it's only going to get worse, because the Hispanic population is growing. Today, it's 17 percent, and in 2015, it's projected to be 26 percent of the population.

Idit:  But Latinos only make up eight percent of the STEM professionals. Our little non‑profit, the World Wide Workshop, has been working in schools, after‑schools, summer camps, and different programs in California, in New York, and in Texas, racing to figure out best solutions for computing education to this largest, exciting, youngest, fastest growing community. Because if you want to remain competitive global leaders in technology and computing, we have to really make sure that we service these Latino kids, because there will be two or three jobs available upon graduation, and it's going to double in the next 10 years. What do we need to do to empower Latinos and Latinas in computing?

Jennifer was just one of two undergrads in UCSC in computer science, and this is really silly, because we know girls can really do all that stuff.

Jennifer:  What are the barriers? There's limited access to technology and good STEM curriculum, there is negative perception of STEM fields ‑‑ it's just not cool ‑‑ and there's an absence of role models and mentors. Can we solve this problem?

Idit:  Yeah. I believe we can solve it. We actually developed Globaloria as an alternative solution. We have found that availability of engaging STEM and computing education starting young is key to preparing these youths to high‑quality STEM jobs. We have seen that empowering these communities by making games and coding games, working in teams, providing cutting‑edge STEM learning system can really work. We also found it to be very effective for English language learners.

Jennifer:  Students get into STEM by creating educational games on topics that are important in their community. Teachers can use Globaloria in core or enrichment courses and align with common core, [inaudible 04:07] nets, and next generation science standards. Other organizations working in this area are the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Latinos in Computing, Level Playing Field Institute, just to name a few.

Idit:  All these organizations and all these programs really empower access and opportunity and they're core to empowering these Latina girls in STEM. We need to give them a chance to see that they can succeed, they can transform their own self‑perception about their interests and their abilities. Here is a great example. We are stuck. Here is a great example.

Jennifer:  Here comes a great example of a game that was built by an all‑girls team in a high school that is 80‑percent Latino. They did this as part of their English language learning arts class. They were in a low‑income school in San Jose. The next scene that you're going to see is built by an all‑boy middle school team, where they are from a population...Yes, [laughs] there is a little gender disparity in terms of types of games. It's 82 percent Latino in their school and 64 percent English language learning, but what I love about this is that you see both girls and boys in Globaloria classes, so you see that gender parity happening.

Idit:  But it's not just about how the students progress and perform in computing. It's also about their teachers. An empowered teacher is part of our success equation. We must provide training and mentoring to teachers to master blended learning. A typical Globaloria team page allows progress, tracking, and dashboards for both teachers and students. We know that Latino kids are facing serious challenges and a lot of issues when it comes to computer education, but we need to give quality access to quality courses. We have data to show that certain programs work well to increase their participation, their passion, and their skills.

Thank you, National Center for Women in IT to give us an opportunity to present our programs, and...


Jennifer:  Coming from someone that learned how to program at six, it really works when you start young. [laughter]

Idit:  Starting young. [applause]

Idit:  Thank you.


Transcription by CastingWords