#SatChat: Shattering the Glass Ceiling in Tech

on February 14, 2017 in EdTech

Recently on #SatChat, ReigningIt co-founders Angela Cleveland and Saqi Mehta  guest co-moderated a discussion about engaging students, especially girls, in tech. ReigningIt’s story-sharing platform offers a unique opportunity to identify challenges, celebrate accomplishments, and rally together to make the path to STEM more accessible for the next generation.

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Did you miss out on the Twitter convo? No problem! You can access the Participate transcript to see what the 300+ contributors shared, including resources you can easily and immediately implement in any classroom.

Why is the conversation about engaging students, especially girls so critical? First, computer science is changing everything! CS skills are not limited to those working in the tech industry; they are infused into every career path. Employees with CS skills are in demand. Not only are jobs in CS projected to grow at twice the rate of other jobs, but these careers are the #1 source of new wages in the US (source: code.org).  What’s more is students who major in computer science earn 40% more than the college average.

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We can see the value in the outcome, but how do we get there? Where do we being? One big step, as Carol Varsalona pointed out, is “Adults need to also be immersed in this new language.” Learning more about the value of CS, the distinction between the STEM fields, and how tech integrates into every industry is the first step educators can take in engaging students, colleagues, and families.

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Not feeling ready to start a convo about CS? That’s okay because one of the most effective ways to engage in meaningful dialogue is to start with the students’ interests and then talk about how CS integrates with that area of interest. This concept is called “CS + X,” and it is highlighted throughout the free, downloadable Careers with Code magazine. Read profiles about how young people are combining CS with art, social justice, business, sports, any area of interest! CS is not a stand-alone industry and most tech jobs will not be at tech companies. Learning how CS fits into every industry is key.

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How can we can make our conversations about CS more than a one-shot deal? Nate Balcom points that educators must “model ourselves as learners and innovators.”

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Many educators and Edtech leaders have the perception that they have to be the “expert” before they roll out any coding integration project or try a new tech tool to enhance learning. It’s perfectly okay and encouraged to share with students and staff the value of the initiative or tech tool and acknowledge that there WILL be bumps  (aka “learning opportunities”) along the way. As Kyle Laker put it, “Fail Forward!” He posted a great list of “21 Ideas to Make Room for Failure in your Classroom.”

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How does your school celebrate failure? Once we accept that the Growth Mindset we encourage in our students must also be fostered within ourselves, we are more willing to take risks with technology integration in our classrooms and schools.

Infusing technology into every content area, models for students that computer science isn’t something we talk about one week out of the year. It’s not just a related arts class. Kellyanne Burbage points out that we need to help “teachers see ways to blend tech into the classroom, not see it as stand-alone content.”

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The SatChat convo was an engaging dialogue amongst dedicated educators and also a call to action. According to research from Code.org, “There are fewer students graduating with a degree in computer science than there were 10 years ago... The number of women graduating with computer science degrees is half of what it was in 2003.”

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How can we engage more girls? Your SatChat PLN shared lots of great ideas! Check the Participate transcript for the full list. Several people pointed out the subtle stereotypes about who tech is “right” for can be relayed in who we point to as role models in the industry. If we only highlight a limited demographic of roles models in CS, this is a disservice to all students. Marian Wright Edelman, activist and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, said, “ You can’t be what you can’t see.”

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Several participants reflected on their current classroom resources and language they use and pointed out strategies to expand students’ views. Susan Zanti shared the idea of “coding clubs, community nights of code, parents in the classroom as tech partners….” Engaging the community is a great idea!  Beth Topinka shared the idea of bringing “tech professional women into school for Lunch & Learn conversations.” Others added that if there are geographic limitations or other challenges, teachers can easily skype or host a Google Hangout with tech allies.

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Some students and educators point to big tech success stories as outside the typical journey. What does the average story sound like? How can students find role models in tech who are mirror their own backgrounds? ReigningIt features stories from a diverse group of women representing inclusive of a variety of backgrounds. Many schools use the features as a conversation piece to foster connections. For example, 16-year-old Natalie Hampton didn’t set out to create an app. She was dealing with a serious problem and technology was the avenue by which she addressed it:

“At my old school, I was pretty severely bullied. I was cyberbullied, verbally bullied, physically attacked four separate times, and sat alone at lunch every day. I felt awful about myself during that time and was always so afraid to go to school because I never knew if I was going to be hurt again. However, once I was able to transfer schools, I made it my duty to always invite kids sitting alone to my table. This small action really made a huge difference in their lives and some of those kids are now my closest friends. This experience inspired me to create my app, Sit With Us, because I wanted to bring people together and help prevent bullying on a larger scale.” - Natalie Hampton

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Schools have the ability to provide students with the opportunities to see the value of CS at every grade level.  Yes, even pre-school! Jill Peters is fostering exploration and an innovator mindset using Cubetto Robots from Primo Toys. “Coding with no screen time!!!” she said.

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Research shows that families want their children to study computer science. The question isn’t if we should integrate CS into the classroom but how. How will you start the process or continue it?

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We recommend getting your free copy of Careers With Code today.

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Also, if you like the infographics in this article, you can download the entire presentation for free at Code.org.

Lastly, continue the conversation on #SatChat and with your other PLN’s. Reach out to us at ReigningIt, check out our blog, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or email us at info@reigningit.com.  We are working to close the equity and gender gap and encourage equal access to STEM.

About Saqi Mehta

Saqi Mehta received a BA from Boston University and an MSEd from the University of Pennsylvania. After starting her career doing research at Harvard University, she found her true calling in Career Counseling at MIT and Harvard Business School.  She then transitioned to University Recruiting in tech and worked at VMWare and The Walt Disney Company.

Saqi now leads the University Recruiting team at Square, visiting schools around the country to bring the next generation of talent to the company. She is passionate about all things education, specifically women in tech. Saqi serves on the board of National Tech Diversity Magazine and 500 Miles.  As an avid writer she is a contributing author for The Huffington Post, Daily Muse and Blavity amongst others.  In any non-typing free time she is an art, interior design, and travel enthusiast.

About Angela Cleveland

Angela Cleveland is a professional school counselor/Google Certified Educator. She advocates for equal access to STEM, emphasizing the critical need to empower and support girls and minorities to access CS opportunities. Angela consults with Counselors for Computing/NCWIT, is a member of White House initiative United State of Women, and is an Executive Board Member/Webmaster for NJSCA.  Angela is honored to be co-founder of ReigningIt. She is extremely passionate about providing a platform for women to share their experiences in CS and advocate for closing the gender gap in STEM.

Angela is a technology contributor to national publications, such as Edutopia, and she presents on a national level about computer science and technology. Angela’s advocacy has earned her several recognitions, most recently the “2016 Somerset County School Counselor of the Year” award. Angela has BA from William Paterson University, MSEd from the University of Pennsylvania, MA from Rider University, and MEd from The College of New Jersey. In her free time, Angela enjoys writing and is the author of several therapeutic children’s books. Learn more about Angela: www.angelacleveland.com.

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