Cassidy Puckett

Aug 25, 2022

Redefining Geek

Bias and the Five Hidden Habits of Tech-Savvy Teens

University of Chicago Press 2022

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Picture a typical computer geek. Likely white, male, and someone you’d say has a “natural instinct” for technology. Yet, after six years teaching technology classes to first-generation, low-income middle school students in Oakland, California, Cassidy Puckett has seen firsthand that being good with technology is not something people are born with—it’s something they learn. In Redefining Geek: Bias and the Five Hidden Habits of Tech-Savvy Teens (U Chicago Press, 2022), she overturns the stereotypes around the digitally savvy and identifies the habits that can help everyone cultivate their inner geek.

Drawing on observations and interviews with a diverse group of students around the country, Puckett zeroes in on five technology learning habits that enable tech-savvy teens to learn new technologies: a willingness to try and fail, management of frustration and boredom, use of models, and the abilities to use design logic and identify efficiencies. In Redefining Geek, she shows how to measure and build these habits, and she demonstrates how many teens historically marginalized in STEM are already using these habits and would benefit from recognition for their talent, access to further learning opportunities, and support in career pathways. She argues that if we can develop, recognize, and reward these technological learning habits in all kids—especially girls and historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups—we can address many educational inequities and disparities in STEM.

Revealing how being good with technology is not about natural ability but habit and persistence, Redefining Geek speaks to the ongoing conversation on equity in technology education and argues for a more inclusive technology learning experience for all students.

Joao Souto-Maior is PhD Candidate in Sociology of Education at the New York University. 

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Joao Souto-Maior is a PhD Student in Sociology of Education at the New York University.

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