Prepare for a Journey
As CS for All grows as a national initiative, teachers may find themselves wondering how to reach bi/multilingual learners.
The activities on this page will help you prepare for a learning journey around this question.
- You'll first recognize the many ways you communicate, and the richness and diversity of people's "language repertoires"
- Then, you'll consider how language injustice contributes to the inequities in CS education that many learners - especially our bi/multilinguals - face.
- You'll learn about a theory, translanguaging, which many teachers have used to help counter language injustice in their pedagogy and practice.
Becoming a force for equity means not just learning techniques to do with your students, but reflecting on your own experiences and relationship to complex and challenging systems of language and power.
We think by engaging in these reflections you'll be able to better...
- perceive and build on your students' strengths as communicators, not just evaluate them against external standards
- notice and dismantle the barriers that systems (classroom and school policies, routines, curricula) have set up for your students to jump over
- get to the root of problems of practice by questionning your own assumptions about them
- navigate moments of conflict or tension with diverse stakeholders
Let's Get Started!
The video below calls out the systems that prevent multilingual learners from reaching their full potential. It also introduces the Participating in Literacies and-Computer Science (PiLa-CS) research-practice partnership project, which has worked with the NYCDOE to promote these learners' participation in CSforAll.
One way that our systems keep learners from achieving to their full potential is by perpetuating damaging language ideologies. Language ideologies are ideas, values, and assumptions about languages and language speakers that link language to broader social and political systems. For example in the US, the language practices of white upper and middle class English speakers are associated with intelligence, which can lead these speakers to feel pride in how they speak and others who speak differently to feel shame.
These kinds of ideologies get taken up by institutions like school systems, and the technology industry, leading to linguistic injustice (the systematic denial of people’s rights to use the language practices of their families, cultures, and communities, or the systematic privileging of certain groups’ language practices over others’).
Deficit-based language ideologies are pervasive in the American school system, framing school as the place that needs to “fix” students and families that speak languages other than standard English. These ideologies marginalize some students and maintain standard English linguistic supremacy. For example, labeling bi/multilingual students as "English Language Learners" (ELLs) frames these students as not knowing English rather than already being fluent in vast and complex language practices. A common education practice for students labeled as ELLs is to educate them in "English only" contexts, which amplifies the idea that they are deficit, and tie their intelligence to their achievement of English proficiency.
We encourage teachers to resist deficit ideologies by identifying changes that need to happen in systems in order to support students, rather than trying to change students themselves. In particular, the ideologies we draw on position bi/multilingual learners’ linguistic and cultural resources as generative assets for their learning as individuals and members of diverse communities.
Going on a journey to incorporate translanguaging practices in your classroom means you will start to ask questions that resist dominant deficit linguistic ideologies such as:
- Why do there exist “standard” languages in the first place? Who decides what the “standard” is?
- Why are certain kinds of language (e.g. Spanglish, Black English) seen as more/less “proper” or “academic”?
- How can we elevate speakers of varieties of language typically de-valued in schools?
- How can we notice and learn more about ALL of the ways students communicate?
In the following video, "Afro-Latina", the poet Elizabeth Acevedo relays her pride around her identity and unique language practices, as well as her experiences navigating a society that does not value her and her families' ways of being and communicating.
- What stands out to you about these videos? Why?
- What are some different kinds of language (spoken, written, embodied, other ways of expression) that you use in and across the different communities you are a part of?
- Have you ever been judged and/or privileged for the way you've used language? Have you ever been labeled for your language? How and when? If not, why not?
Going on a Journey
We hope that this section has prompted you to reflect on how your lived experiences are entangled in systems of linguistic injustice and ideological terrain.
In the following sections you will come across examples of linguistic injustices in CS and CSed, and then dive deep into translanguaging as theory and pedagogical practice. These sections should continue to support reflections and new understandings about how changing your own relationship to language can open new horizons for yourself and your students in CS.
- Multilingual Learners in CS Education Strengths Inventory