Interview with Eboni Zook
CSTA Equity Fellow.
- How did you first get interested in computer science?
In middle school, I attended a program to introduce girls to engineering careers with the Society of Women Engineers that took place on the campus of the University of MD, College Park. Then, I attended a Science and Technology High School, Oxon Hill Science and Technology Program, and was an Engineering major. There are many similarities between Engineering and Computer Science, so it was not too difficult to make the transition.
- Did anyone encourage or discourage you?
I felt very encouraged by my high school to pursue STEM, in general. Computer Science wasn't a big field when I was in high school back in the 1900's as my children call it! I was certainly encouraged to learn about computers and technology, but I wasn't particularly encouraged or discouraged from Computer Science.
- How did you build your ability and confidence?
I attended workshops from Code.org and MCCE that provided me with more content-knowledge. I also sought out my own professional development opportunities. The coolest professional development was attending the Scratch 2.0 Conference Europe at Cambridge University, U.K. I learned about Scratch and other CS programs and tools, such as Ed Bot. I also met many amazing CS teachers from all over Europe and a few other continents!
- Why do you think that students in your district should have the opportunity to learn CS?
Students in my district should have the opportunity to learn CS because that is the future of the working world. Eventually, every professional will need some knowledge of computer science. Baltimore is quickly becoming a tech hub on the East Coast. Students in my district should have the opportunity to participate in the tech economy in Baltimore, the US and throughout the world.
- What barriers do you think keep students away?
Students of color and women are continually underrepresented in the field of CS. This leads to a lack of confidence in students concerning their ability to believe that they can learn CS. Underrepresentation also can create hostile environments in CS workplaces because the people there are not accustomed to diversity and may doubt the ability of diverse co-workers. I read an article from several years ago that women leave the tech industry at twice the rate of men, mostly due to a hostile work environment. This should not happen. We need to encourage diverse students to pursue CS majors and careers, and the tech companies need to fund more diversity initiatives for recruitment and to train the workers that they have in cultural and gender equity practices and principles.
- Describe something you can imagine in the future of CS education
Now that most teachers have ventured into distance-learning, I believe that more CS classes will be taught virtually by teachers or professors to address the lack of trained CS teachers. This could provide more access to students in districts where there are just not enough CS teachers to meet the need. We'll see!