As society increasingly relies on digital technologies in many different aspects, those who lack relevant access and skills are lagging increasingly behind. Among the underserved groups disproportionately affected by the digital divide are women who are transitioning from incarceration and seeking to reenter the workforce outside the carceral system (women-in-transition). Women-in-transition rarely have been exposed to sound technology education, as they have generally been isolated from the digital environment while in incarceration. Furthermore, while women have become the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population in the United States in recent decades, prison education and reentry programs are still not well adjusted for them. Most programs are mainly designed for the dominant male population. Consequently, women-in-transition face significant post-incarceration challenges in accessing and using relevant digital technologies and thus have added difficulties in entering or reentering the workforce. Against this backdrop, our multi-disciplinary research team has conducted empirical research as part of technology education offered to women-in-transition in the Midwest. In this article, we report results from our interviews with 75 women-in-transition in the Midwest that were conducted to develop a tailored technology education program for the women. More than half of the participants in our study are women of color and face precarious housing and financial situations. Then, we discuss principles that we adopted in developing our education program for the marginalized women and participants’ feedback on the program. Our team launched in-person sessions with women-in-reentry at public libraries in February 2020 and had to move the sessions online in March due to COVID-19. Our research-informed educational program is designed primarily to support the women in enhancing their knowledge and comfort with technology and nurturing computational thinking. Our study shows that low self-efficacy and mental health challenges, as well as lack of resources for technology access and use, are some of the major issues that need to be addressed in supporting technology learning among women-in-transition. This research offers scholarly and practical implications for computing education for women-in-transition and other marginalized populations.
ACM Transactions on Computing Education (TOCE) – Association for Computing Machinery
Published: May 13, 2021
Keywords: Informal technology education