If you would have told me two years ago that I would be decorating a classroom in the IT/Networking wing at Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center I would have laughed at you. (First I probably would have looked beside me, behind me and above me to see who you were actually talking to.) Before I update you, let me give you a quick history.
I am a Middle Grades Education graduate of Western Kentucky University. I (puffy pink heart) LOVE social studies and I’m basically obsessed with Abraham Lincoln (I even have a giant penny key ring. #likeaboss). In 2011 I wrote a grant for a class set of iPads…then another grant and another grant until I finally got my iPads. At the time I was working on my MAE at WKU in Middle Grades Education w/Instructional Technology endorsement. Gradually I moved past the frustration of using technology with students and began to see the level of engagement, authenticity and EXCITEMENT these devices brought them. My students and I began to learn together and my teaching (and professional career) were completely transformed.
As I moved into a new teaching role (Technology Education at the middle school) I began to dabble in computer science. I had zero background and zero experience and was known to call the computer technician when I accidentally hit F12. So why did I start exploring? Because my students asked me to. I gave them a survey at the beginning of each quarter asking them what they wanted out of Tech Ed. I’ll never forget the first stinking survey I read. “I want to make video games.” Another one read: “I want to know how computers work.” Ya’ll. All the hives. They wanted it. It was their education. I made it my responsibility to learn it and offer it.
I’ll never forget my first time walking into a session on Scratch at a conference. It was geared towards elementary school teachers. Ya hear that?! ELEMENTARY teachers. The presenter was showcasing work her FOURTH GRADERS were doing. I ran out, sweaty, and full of doubt and anxiety. A lady followed me out. I didn’t know her. I wish I had gotten her name so that I could hug her and thank her for what she did that day. She sat me down, got me started and cheered for me while I made my little Scratch sprite dance around the screen. You GUYS. I felt like a rock star. I mean, I think I even asked her if she wanted my autograph after. It was my turning point. As I dabbled, I got braver. I experimented with code.org then graduated to codecademy. I fell in love with something I never knew existed. Our amazing Director of Technology believed in me and bought my classroom Raspberry Pi computers. During “KPREP testing” (after they finished the test) we declared the lab “Minecraft Pi week” and coded and hacked Minecraft to death on those little babies. As we grew in our knowledge and computer science became a regular piece of our content in Tech Ed, I grew increasingly aware of a disturbing trend throughout ALL of my classes (6th-8th grade).
There was HUGE confidence differential between my girl students and my boy students. My boys were saying things like “Give me that, let me try” while my girls were saying “what if I break it?” Why was this happening? I grew curious. I started browsing research compiled by the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Did you know that in 2014, women held only 26% of computing occupations? The worst part is that number is DOWN from 1991.¹ I began to realize that what I was seeing, first hand in my own classroom, was not just a problem in Glendale Kentucky. Even more alarming was the lack of females in the IT suite AT ALL in our three high schools. We have an enrollment of nearly 6,000 or so between all of our high schools and we can use one or two hands to count the girls in our IT programs?! WHAT?! I’m going to share my light bulb moment with you, friends:
According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, research shows that our so-called “choices” are constrained by the available options. When more options are made available, people can and do make different choices. ² Did you just get cold chills?! BECAUSE I DID! I firmly believe that the answer to this problem is to provide appropriate opportunities for our young ladies. These opportunities should be designed to encourage, uplift and excite them. Unlike me, they should know their options. How different my life would have been had I known how much I loved computer science!
Thanks to the amazing Laura Raganas, Digital Learning Coach at the Kentucky Department of Education, we were able to officially offer the Girls Who Code curriculum as part of the Programming pathway at our Early College and Career Center. This curriculum is project based, self-paced and designed to encourage our girls in computer science. What a BEAUTIFUL thing! Thanks to this curriculum, Dan Robbins (principal HCSEC3), Edwin Allin (IT Instructor HCSEC3) and all of our wonderful high school counselors we currently have about 17 girls enrolled in this class for the 2016-2017 school year. I’m sorry but CAN YOU EVEN!?!?!?!
Get ready, these ladies are already #worldchangers and they haven’t even started yet!
Check out the full infographic by the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Full study can be found at ncwit.org.
¹Women in IT: The Facts Infographic [2015 Update] “Women In IT: The Facts Infographic [2015 Update]”. National Center for Women & Information Technology. N. p., 2016. Web. 9 Aug. 2016.
²Women in IT: The Facts Infographic [2015 Update] “Women In IT: The Facts Infographic [2015 Update]”. National Center for Women & Information Technology. N. p., 2016. Web. 9 Aug. 2016.