Updates: August 23 – November 4, 2021

Peppers, Mexico City, applications, “my interests”, Rise Up conference, miscellaneous other updates and links!

November 4, 2021:

We decided to move Supreme Network Global‘s website over to Shopify from WooCommerce. I feel a little conflicted about this since I am generally loyal to WordPress, but this is a circumstance where Shopify is just easier, more reliable, and depends much less on someone with specialized knowledge.

Check out these very cool SNG Varsity Sweatshirts that also benefit a good cause!

In other news, I’m working away on my PhD applications and sending emails. I’m really going to do it! After all of this is said and done, I’m sure I’ll have a bunch of other things to do, but I hope to start blogging with relative frequency again.

Oh yeah, and this is how I “describe my interests” most recently (need to update the Mission page – also this varies slightly depending on who I’m writing to):

I’m interested in researching vocational computing education for adults who are structurally excluded from the economic advantages of computing knowledge. For example, what are co-designed pathways to computing professions for incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated people who have been kept from computer and internet access during their sentences?

I have a secondary interest of investigating the gatekeeping practice of programmers categorizing programming languages as “real” and “not real”. How is this distinction engendered in computer science education and in the languages themselves?

Me, November 1, 2021

October 27, 2021:

Infrequent updates this quarter! I don’t have much to write about besides making hot sauce with more of the aforementioned extremely spicy peppers. I’m working on my school applications.

A few other things that happened in the last 20 days:

  • Submitted my application for a fellowship
  • Went to Mexico City and felt a lot of anxiety about COVID but had a great time
  • Got an IT band strap which seems to help
  • Switched a WooCommerce site to Shopify so the project is less dependent on me to manage it
  • Started volunteering for TEALS twice per week in an intro to CS class at a local high school
  • Going to get married!!!
  • Felt confused about my research ideas and interests
  • Starting to work again on a paper Felienne and I started two years ago
  • Felt like I’d love to have a fun coding side project, but acknowledged that is just unreasonable at least until after December 15

Here is a fun photo from the reptile exhibit at Xochimilco near Mexico City and a view from the apartment we stayed in (my Spanish was still much improved from last visit despite a few months of less practice!):

October 7, 2021:

I’m starting to feel that my website needs a revamp. I’m still going through a lot of change – exciting change, but difficult at times. School applications are coming along gradually, step by step. I think I’ve finally settled into a good rhythm balancing the application work, job, and socializing…but I’m sad that some things have to be sacrificed, such as writing blog posts and reading.

I’ve made some great hot sauce with these chili peppers (this is a second or third harvest after the one pictured previously):

Small bright red chilis on a cutting board

Another small update – I started using an IT Band strap for running. I think it’s helping.

I’m trying to find a new photo for the homepage of this website. It’s difficult.

September 11, 2021:

I attended a conference last week called Rise Up: A Conference to Liberate Higher Education During and After Prison. All (or almost all) of the speakers were formerly incarcerated. It was fantastic and humbling, and I will be writing more about this, perhaps a post with a big list of all of the links I saved.

I am going through a big change in direction right now. Some elements feel like they are fall into place, others feel very forced. Something my friend said recently, “If things don’t work out as I planned, that’s okay, because they will be better and different than what I could have possibly planned.”

One cool link share is the Technology and Power Curriculum from Radical AI (I learned about this from Natalie Araujo Melo of The Papaya Project). I would love to get a group together to go through this.

September 4, 2021:

In academia, everything is about your “interests” e.g. “Hi, I’m Lara. I’m interested in …”. It sometimes takes me 30 minutes to write an email that includes my interests because they are still evolving…and probably always will be. For now though, I describe my interests like this:

My research interests are in computing education for incarcerated learners who do not have access to computers and community-based participatory methods.

The “community-based participatory methods” piece is, I think, a subcategory of something called action research. Action research is research that explores solutions to a problem in the real world. The particularly problem I would like to explore is how to give people in prison access to computing education before they are released. “Computing education” is very broad, and it could mean anything from teaching vocational programming skills to the fundamentals of using computers. One (potential) research question I have is: “Does prior knowledge about computer science increase self-efficacy in use of digital tools?”.

Self-efficacy loosely translates to one’s confidence in performing a task. So, for example, if someone learns foundational concepts of computer science, will they have more confidence when navigating digital tools for the first time, even if what they are doing doesn’t directly relate to the CS concepts?

This will all probably change, but it’s the path I’m on now…and therefore appropriate for a “Now” page entry!

In other news, here’s a photo of a spicy pepper harvest:

A yellow basket full of bright red chili peppers, green jalapeños, and small cherry tomatoes

I’m a little sad I haven’t published anything besides these Now page updates on my blog for a while, but I’m going to be easy on myself about that.

August 23, 2021:

I came to San Francisco for a wedding and am currently staying in Berkeley for the week. It’s cold here, well, cold by east coast summer standards. I’ve sort-of started preparing for the GRE. Next week I will work on my application for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship which is an award that funds three years of graduate research. Usually PhD programs provide funding, but it is in exchange for working as a teaching assistant or research assistant. Coming with your own funding means you will have more freedom, so I’m going to give it a shot!