CURSOR Computing Lab
The CUltuRally & SOcially Relevant Computing (CURSOR) Lab's vision is to design and implement technologies that both meet the cultural and social needs as well as leverage the expertise of end users. Our work focuses on engaging end users in the participatory design (i.e. co-creation) of technologies to meet their needs as well as exploring the development of complex cognitive skills and capabilities as a result. The CURSOR Computing Lab is also committed to broadening the participation of under-represented groups in Computer Science, especially Black women and girls, through approaches that honor and elevate the intersectional and culturally-rich experiences of these groups.
While the definition of computational thinking is still in great debate, it is a fundamental skill involved in analytical thinking , is used by everyone, and is essential to every discipline. SCAT makes explicit a critical aspect of computational thinking through its focus: the design, development, and implementation of algorithms to solve problems, where an algorithm is defined as “a well-ordered collection of unambiguous and effectively computable operations that, when executed, produces a result and halts in a finite amount of time”. Computational algorithmic thinking is the ability to design, implement, and assess the implementation of algorithms to solve a range of problems (with or without the computer).
There is a scarcity of research that focuses on understanding and describing how the development of computational thinking, and therefore CAT, happens over time (longitudinally) as a complex cognitive capability. Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT) is both a free enrichment program as well as a longitudinal between-subjects research effort designed to both expose African-American middle-school girls to game design as well as explore how these girls’ (called SCAT Scholars) CAT capabilities develop over time in the context of game design. The SCAT program spans three years, and each year, participants develop their CAT capabilities and problemsolving skills as they design more and more complex games for social change by: designing novel games that address some local, regional, national or global issue affecting the Scholars during a two-week summer experience, implementing their games during twelve workshops in preparation for submission to national game design competitions, and learning about the applications of CAT in a number of industries and careers through field trips.
Regions in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean (namely, Haiti and the Dominican Republic) face many challenges around adequate healthcare services for their populations. One particular problem is the high mortality rate of mothers who live in rural areas in these regions. Large numbers of maternal deaths occur during labor & delivery and the immediate post-partum period in these regions due to: a) lack of professional healthcare providers in rural areas, b) lack of just-in-time pre- and post-natal information, c) lack of technology designed specifically with these indigenous populations’ cultural practices in mind, and 4) populations with low literacy rates . This project engages women in these regions in the participatory design of a mobile app, called MTOTO-BEBE, for pregnant women and new mothers living in the rural town of Laare, Kenya, Carrefour, Port au Prince, Haiti as well as those who travel into rural areas of the Dominican Republic from Haiti to deliver their babies. MTOTO is Swahili for “baby”, and BEBE is Haitian Creole for “baby”).
The long-term goals of this research are to: 1) impact the number of maternal deaths that occur during delivery and the immediate post-partum period due to common manageable complications resulting from a lack of access to skilled birth attendants, 2) increase access to pre- and post-natal information and related healthcare services for women living in these rural developing economies; and 3) develop a design framework for engaging under-served populations in rural developing economies as co-designers of tools and technologies used to support and provide greater access to healthcare information and services
It's All In The Mix
African American women comprised only 6% of all the Bachelor’s Degrees awarded in CS in the United States, casting a bright light on the vast under-representation of this population in Computer Science (CS). The literature reveals a number of efforts focused on pedagogical strategies designed to engage and impact the persistence of African-Americans and women in CS from K – 16, including the use of gaming, robotics, computational textiles, and intergenerational collaboration. However, in spite of these efforts, too few African-American women choose CS as a major and graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in CS. Often, African-American women who choose to declare CS as a major have little experience with CS prior to college. However, one context in which people have a great deal of experience and expertise engaging in the design, implementation, and assessment of algorithms is food. Food touches the lives of every individual in every culture and from every walk of life. Food serves as a bridge to CS because cooking, eating, and engaging with food are common experiences that cut across culture, race, age, and socio-economic status. Cooking requires creativity, something that students often mistakenly think is not valued in CS. Finally, cooking involves CAT, as a recipe is an example of an algorithm, representing a well-ordered collection of ingredients and steps that produce a dish in a finite amount of time.
The goals of this research effort are to: 1) explore and bridge the gap between undergraduate students’ enactment of CAT in everyday settings and CAT in formal undergraduate learning environments, 2) leverage the everyday experiences with food and cooking as an anchoring experience for undergraduates to explore algorithms in Computer Science, and 3) increase the number of African-American women who persist as Computer Science majors. Like SCAT, an additional long-term goal of this effort is to describe and understand CAT as a complex cognitive capability in such a way that it informs the field’s theoretical and practical understanding of computational thinking, including not only describing how it develops over time, but also how to best support it in different types of contexts and learning environments.
Bedside Manner Experience Development (BedMED)
In the United States, there are more than 2.7 million nurses practicing in the healthcare field, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that the projected job growth for registered nurses (RNs) will increase 19% by 2022 . Nurses interact with patients in a number of different ways, from checking vital signs, to administering medications, to taking care of the hygienic needs of patients, especially if they are admitted into the hospital. All of these touch points with patients require well-developed interpersonal skills as patients are constantly re-assessing their healthcare experience and the level of service they are being provided. In other words, nurses must have extremely good “bedside manner.” However, nurses receive very little, if any, education around acquiring and developing bedside manner while in nursing school, and the hectic environment and increased use of technology and patientload often make it difficult for them to develop those practices once on the job. Bedside Manner Experience Development (BedMED) is an online game designed to develop and improve the bedside manner capabilities and practices of pre-service nursing students by simulating the patient care experience so that pre-service nurses can acquire, understand, reflect on, and develop their ability to engage with patients in more caring and meaningful ways in a low stakes game environment.
The goals of this research project are to: 1) better understand and describe the skills and capabilities that inform bedside manner practice 2) augment the pre-service nursing curriculum of colleges and universities to better support the development and acquisition of bedside manner capabilities and practices among pre-service nursing students and 3) improve the inter-personal care that nurses provide as they are delivering care to patients in various healthcare settings.
Intersectional Computing is sub-area of Computing whose goal is to create and support a more complex understanding of the experiences of marginalized groups in computing who live at various intersections of racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, heterosexism, ableism, etc. Providing language, tools, instruments, etc. that can help the field better understand, assess, and articulate intersectional epistemologies and approaches in service to breaking down barriers and creating actionable change toward broadening sustained engagement in Computing for everyone, no matter how they come to or move through Computer Science, should result in the needle beginning to move for Black, Latina, and Native American women in CS and for better, more inclusive and equitable experiences for these groups in CS, and by extension, for all people, as that needle begins to move.
The contributions of this research stem from the need to increase the diversity of ideas and perspectives in Computing particularly through the intersectional lens of Black women, examine the role that power plays in the experiences of Black women in Computing, as well as to broaden the literature base of empirical research that centers the exploration of those intersectional experiences. This research will go
beyond simply adding to the discourse for the need to increase diversity in the discipline by:
(1) actively leveraging intersectional and black feminist epistemologies to differentiate the experiences of Black women other groups in computing,
(2) providing a critical analysis of the conditions under which Black women engage with and move through CS educational spaces as well as how they persist as they resist the intersecting oppressions and matrix of domination in computer science education,
(3) actively investigating and examining the role of power within Computing and its impact on the trajectories of Black women within the field, and
(4) engaging Black women to share their experiences to articulate a Black women's standpoint.
The results of this research will not only inform the national dialogue in support of an inclusive technology workforce as well as broadening participation in Computing, but it will also establish and examine one plan of action that centers
Black women and does not simply leverage them as a group of comparison to white women or other underrepresented groups.
This research also aims to increase the scope of discussion and action around the marginalization of women of color in Computing more broadly by engaging Black, Latina, and Native American women, and recognizing their experiences and knowledge as expert insider knowledge instead of marginal, outlier perspectives. This research also has the potential to be leveraged to examine the experiences of Black women and how they enter into and navigate through the Computer
Science education ecosystem in contexts outside of the United States.