The Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Computing: A Promising Practice for Encouraging Students To Study Computing in College

The Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Computing is an academically challenging program designed for deaf and hard of hearing students with skills in math or science who may be considering careers in computing. The program introduces students to computers and computer programming with the goal of encouraging them to consider college majors and careers in computing fields. The Summer Academy occurred annually at the University of Washington (UW) between 2007 and 2013.

Ten to fifteen students who are deaf or hard of hearing have participated each year. Students may apply any time between their sophomore year in high school and their junior year in college. Students are recruited in multiple ways, including targeted emails to educators and counselors who work with deaf and hard of hearing students. Students are required to apply for the program and admission is very competitive. During the application process, staff communicates with students to encourage them and answer questions. Students are selected to participate in the program based on an assessment of potential ability in computing and enthusiasm to participate in an intensive experience. Prior to students’ arrival, instructors participate in a “Deaf Students 101” class to learn about teaching deaf and hard of hearing students through a presentation and panel discussion with students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

While students are staying on campus, they live in dorms. Students also participate in many aspects of college life such as eating in student cafeterias, finding their way around campus, making new friends and finding time to study. Students attend classes held across campus and in the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering.

A typical student week includes a one-hour computer programming class four days a week, animation classes for two hours four days a week, and a ninety minute Academy Base class three days a week. During Academy Base classes, students meet guest mentors, hear graduate research presentations and student presentations on careers in computing, and observe demonstrations of current accessibility research. One day a week is set aside for the field trips to local computing companies. Based on students' preferences, interpreters and captionists are used throughout the summer. In addition, students and mentors are encouraged to communicate directly with each other by writing and/or typing to each other.

Based on their academic transcripts, students are placed in a computer programming class that best matches their knowledge and skills. Students may take a class in person at UW or an online class through a local community college. A certificated class in Animation is held exclusively for Summer Academy students. Students learn basic concepts of animation, including lighting, movement, shading, and storyboarding. Small teams work together to develop their own animations, providing students valuable lessons in leadership and working together.

The Academy Base is used to help students with personal and professional development. During the Base, students learn about financial aid options for deaf and hard of hearing students. Also during this time, deaf and hard of hearing computing professionals serve as mentors. For most students, this is their first professional networking experience. Finally, during the Academy Base, UW graduate students give presentations about their research. During the program, students also take weekly field trips to learn more about these employers. Students learn about career and internship opportunities and how to prepare for such opportunities.

During the summer, students join a private Facebook group to use for social networking both during and after the summer.

Students who come to the Summer Academy succeed in their computing classes and report that they enjoy the experience. In 2011, twelve out of thirteen Summer Academy students received a B or better in their computer programming courses. Three students received 4.0s. In evaluations, students report increased knowledge of computer programming, particularly those students with less programming experience. Likewise, students report increased skills in animation.

Besides computing skills, student participants reported that their Summer Academy experience helped them develop more general skills that will help them succeed in college and beyond. Likewise, parents have reported that their children had increased knowledge in computing as well as improved self-esteem, social skills, and self-advocacy skills. These last three skills are critical to the success of deaf and hard of hearing students in college and careers.

The Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Computing is a promising practice for encouraging students to study computing in college. Students who participate in the program experience college life by living in the dorms, attending classes, and forming a support community. In addition, students learn about many aspects of computing and about a variety of career paths. Such efforts can increase the participation if individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in computing fields and benefit those fields with their expertise and perspectives.

Learn more about the Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Computing in this replication package.

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