Power On!

Illustrated by Charis JB
A diverse group of teenage friends learn how computing can be personally and politically empowering and why all students need access to computer science education.

This lively graphic novel follows a diverse group of teenage friends as they discover that computing can be fun, creative, and empowering. Taylor, Christine, Antonio, and Jon seem like typical young teens—they communicate via endless texting, they share jokes, they worry about starting high school, and they have each other’s backs. But when a racially-biased artificial intelligence system causes harm in their neighborhood, they suddenly realize that tech isn’t as neutral as they thought it was. But can an algorithm be racist? And what is an algorithm, anyway?

In school, they decide to explore computing classes, with mixed results. One class is only about typing. The class that Christine wants to join is full, and the school counselor suggests that she take a class in “Tourism and Hospitality” instead. (Really??) But Antonio’s class seems legit, Christine finds an after-school program, and they decide to teach the others what they learn. By summer vacation, all four have discovered that computing is both personally and politically empowering.

Interspersed through the narrative are text boxes with computer science explainers and inspirational profiles of people of color and women in the field (including Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures fame). Power On! is an essential read for young adults, general readers, educators, and anyone interested in the power of computing, how computing can do good or cause harm, and why addressing underrepresentation in computing needs to be a top priority.

From the authors of Power On!

In today’s world, technology is impacting every aspect of our lives. We wrote Power On! to fill a gap in current computer science classrooms and out-of-school programs by providing an accessible educational tool for discussing pressing issues of equity and ethics in tech, while motivating all youth to learn about computer science, regardless of their career path. Our hope is that this graphic novel can serve as an engaging way to learn about current research in computer science and computing education.

We also hope this book can spark conversation, introducing a wide range of topics for people to pick up, discuss, and learn more about together. The book will be published with a free educator guide available at www.poweronbook.com, providing discussion questions such as:

· What are ways that technology is creating social good as well as harm in today’s world?
· Can robots be racist?
· Why does underrepresentation of students of color and females matter?
· What can be done to change this underrepresentation?
· What ideas do you have for a technological innovation that could address a social problem you care about?
· How can we help support all students in getting the education they deserve and need?
Jane Margolis is a UCLA educational researcher and author who has been a longtime advocate for ending inequality and segregation in computer science education, for which she won the 2016 White House Champion of Change award. She is the coauthor of Unlocking the Clubhouse and Stuck in the Shallow End, both published by the MIT Press.
Jean J. Ryoo (she/her) is an avid reader of manga and manhwa, as well as an educational researcher/writer committed to ensuring that all students experience meaningful and empowering learning, both in and out of school.
1 This Is Messed Up 1
2 Summertime 15
3 High School Begins 27
4 Why Do We Need to Learn Computer Science? 52
5 Someone Like Me 70
6 We Are the Change We Want 83
7 Students Take Lead: Computer Science for All 99
Authors' Statement 123
Acknowledgments 125
Notes 127
  • WINNER | 2023
    Texas Little Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List
“Ryoo and Margolis have created a fun and engaging story that explores the importance of computing and data education, biases in education, issues in equity and ethics in tech, and much more. Braiding together the stories of these friends with explainers on computer science and profiles of people of color and women in tech, this book is highly informative for young people wanting an accessible intro to computer science and tech.”
—American Scientist

"Informative, impactful. . . . The authors deftly weave factual information . . . in with the computer science narrative, and the texture of teenage life in the early 2020s: quizzes, parental pressure, Black Lives Matter protests, bullying, family strife, a Juneteenth barbecue, crushes, and frustrations. They come to know, and show the reader, the importance of diversity in the computer science field, and the empowerment involved in not only understanding it but moving the field forward."
Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe

"Power On! is a fresh read from the otherwise superhero, fantasy, and science fiction stories that majorly fill this [comic book and graphic novel] space. In fact, the writers have created a group of heroes in their own right, just without all the multi-million-pound gadgets and special powers, that could hopefully inspire potential young readers… It’s about time that things begin to change, and graphic novels like these are a step in the right direction."
—E&T Magazine

“What a cool concept: This new graphic novel follows four friends who use computer science to make the tech world—and the world more broadly—a fairer, more equitable place. Make sure to share it with a young person in your life.”
—Melinda French Gates

Power On! by Jean J. Ryoo & Jane Margolis - Official Trailer

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About

A diverse group of teenage friends learn how computing can be personally and politically empowering and why all students need access to computer science education.

This lively graphic novel follows a diverse group of teenage friends as they discover that computing can be fun, creative, and empowering. Taylor, Christine, Antonio, and Jon seem like typical young teens—they communicate via endless texting, they share jokes, they worry about starting high school, and they have each other’s backs. But when a racially-biased artificial intelligence system causes harm in their neighborhood, they suddenly realize that tech isn’t as neutral as they thought it was. But can an algorithm be racist? And what is an algorithm, anyway?

In school, they decide to explore computing classes, with mixed results. One class is only about typing. The class that Christine wants to join is full, and the school counselor suggests that she take a class in “Tourism and Hospitality” instead. (Really??) But Antonio’s class seems legit, Christine finds an after-school program, and they decide to teach the others what they learn. By summer vacation, all four have discovered that computing is both personally and politically empowering.

Interspersed through the narrative are text boxes with computer science explainers and inspirational profiles of people of color and women in the field (including Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures fame). Power On! is an essential read for young adults, general readers, educators, and anyone interested in the power of computing, how computing can do good or cause harm, and why addressing underrepresentation in computing needs to be a top priority.

From the authors of Power On!

In today’s world, technology is impacting every aspect of our lives. We wrote Power On! to fill a gap in current computer science classrooms and out-of-school programs by providing an accessible educational tool for discussing pressing issues of equity and ethics in tech, while motivating all youth to learn about computer science, regardless of their career path. Our hope is that this graphic novel can serve as an engaging way to learn about current research in computer science and computing education.

We also hope this book can spark conversation, introducing a wide range of topics for people to pick up, discuss, and learn more about together. The book will be published with a free educator guide available at www.poweronbook.com, providing discussion questions such as:

· What are ways that technology is creating social good as well as harm in today’s world?
· Can robots be racist?
· Why does underrepresentation of students of color and females matter?
· What can be done to change this underrepresentation?
· What ideas do you have for a technological innovation that could address a social problem you care about?
· How can we help support all students in getting the education they deserve and need?

Author

Jane Margolis is a UCLA educational researcher and author who has been a longtime advocate for ending inequality and segregation in computer science education, for which she won the 2016 White House Champion of Change award. She is the coauthor of Unlocking the Clubhouse and Stuck in the Shallow End, both published by the MIT Press.
Jean J. Ryoo (she/her) is an avid reader of manga and manhwa, as well as an educational researcher/writer committed to ensuring that all students experience meaningful and empowering learning, both in and out of school.

Table of Contents

1 This Is Messed Up 1
2 Summertime 15
3 High School Begins 27
4 Why Do We Need to Learn Computer Science? 52
5 Someone Like Me 70
6 We Are the Change We Want 83
7 Students Take Lead: Computer Science for All 99
Authors' Statement 123
Acknowledgments 125
Notes 127

Awards

  • WINNER | 2023
    Texas Little Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List

Praise

“Ryoo and Margolis have created a fun and engaging story that explores the importance of computing and data education, biases in education, issues in equity and ethics in tech, and much more. Braiding together the stories of these friends with explainers on computer science and profiles of people of color and women in tech, this book is highly informative for young people wanting an accessible intro to computer science and tech.”
—American Scientist

"Informative, impactful. . . . The authors deftly weave factual information . . . in with the computer science narrative, and the texture of teenage life in the early 2020s: quizzes, parental pressure, Black Lives Matter protests, bullying, family strife, a Juneteenth barbecue, crushes, and frustrations. They come to know, and show the reader, the importance of diversity in the computer science field, and the empowerment involved in not only understanding it but moving the field forward."
Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe

"Power On! is a fresh read from the otherwise superhero, fantasy, and science fiction stories that majorly fill this [comic book and graphic novel] space. In fact, the writers have created a group of heroes in their own right, just without all the multi-million-pound gadgets and special powers, that could hopefully inspire potential young readers… It’s about time that things begin to change, and graphic novels like these are a step in the right direction."
—E&T Magazine

“What a cool concept: This new graphic novel follows four friends who use computer science to make the tech world—and the world more broadly—a fairer, more equitable place. Make sure to share it with a young person in your life.”
—Melinda French Gates

Media

Power On! by Jean J. Ryoo & Jane Margolis - Official Trailer

Photos

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