During #dLRN15 mothers, fathers and daughters was a theme for me-although my amazing daughters were not with me. Catherine Cronin, Kate Bowles, Bonnie Stewart & Dave Cormier, Whitney Kilgore (brought her daughter virtually via Facetime) and Andy Saltarelli all gave their daughters an amazing gift by bringing them to the conference. These daughters were surrounded by role models, and had experiences that I expect will change the narrative of their lives. In my previous job my youngest daughter Rosie traveled to Panama with me five times before she left elementary school. While there she attended college classes taught by the other faculty and (mine were too “boring”) participated in class discussions and activities with the students. Each of the students in my classes, and the faculty with whom I taught, became a part of my daughter’s story-they shaped her narrative.To this day, things she learned in those classes have had a lasting impact on the woman she has become. My older daughter Anjelica traveled with me to Panama as well. Her experiences there witnessing the extreme gap between wealth and poverty had a lasting impact on her story. She is currently a Biomedical engineering major hoping to someday bring medical care to developing countries.
Throughout their childhood, girls develop beliefs about their abilities, what it takes to complete particular tasks, and what the possible “outcomes” for them are. Their perceptions of what they can achieve are significantly impacted by social interactions with peers and adults. It is through these interactions girls learn about gender roles, stereo-types, and what others expect of them. As girls grow up it is these vicarious experiences that influence the choices they make and ultimately the story they tell.
Privilege has given our daughters opportunities many don’t have. From the time before our daughters are born we begin to shape the narrative of our daughter’s lives. What happens to those girls who don’t have mothers and fathers to provide them with the role models, experiences and words of encouragement needed to build their efficacy and shape their goals and dreams? How can the digitization of education provide access to role models and experiences for girls across the globe and socio-economic levels? What can we do to change the ending of the story?
Today I am presenting at an AAUW conference on engaging girls in STEM. This presentation will build on one Whitney and I did at #OLC15 with a goal of gaining a better understanding of how we can use digital content such as MOOCs to create on ramps for girls into STEM.
At #et4online Whitney Kilgore and I connected with a common interest in MOOCs and engaging women in STEM. This led to Google Docs, every other Saturday morning Hangouts, and eventually a Human Centered Design Thinking (HCDT) MOOC. We began our journey thinking we knew what the problem was. Lots of people were creating STEM MOOCs with the idea of engaging girls in STEM. We wanted to go one step beyond and create a MOOC that would enable girls to make connections with women in the field and gain an understanding of all the opportunities a STEM degree can provide. We wanted to develop a learning community that would live beyond the MOOC. Through conversations with others this idea grew into a need for k-12 professional development that aligns with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) and a specific focus on CS (computer science) and engineering. In realizing that a high percentage of MOOC enrollees are teachers we thought, why not design a MOOC specifically for teachers. Again, we thought we knew what the problem was. As we began to speak with teachers and people doing research in this area we quickly realized we were designing a solution for the wrong problem. We didn’t really understand our users. How do they experience professional development? What are the barriers and challenges they face? How do we gain an understanding of what teachers want, need and desire? What is their story?
Our work in the HCDT MOOC helped us find our way to answering these questions. We recruited a few other participants on our team and began digging in. We brought this work to #OLC15 and a group of 16 eager participants. We arrived with interview questions we developed in the MOOC and our “speed design thinking” templates. Little time was spent with us talking and power points. This was about facilitating a discussion and gaining a deeper understanding of what the problem is and ideating possible solutions. It was about gaining empathy and hearing their story. There were deep discussions, sticky notes and in the end exchanging of business cards and plans to bring this back to their offices, classrooms and universities.
How many times have we heard a teacher say, “professional development is a waste of our time”, “they don’t really understand what we need or the problems we are facing”. We would like to do more than just hear what you are saying, we would like to listen to your story and think thoughtfully and intentionally about a solution.
Over the last 6 months we’ve taken apart and deconstructed our understanding as we had known it to build a new understanding together. We are still in the “understanding” phase.
What is your:
Professional development story?
How might we create professional development that is replicable and scalable around helping girls develop a STEM identity?
I had the privilege of meeting several #TechSavvy girls at the #AAUW event in Cortland, NY on Saturday. I left with only one thought, “watch out world.”
I asked these young ladies what impact they wanted to have on the world and heard “A big one,” “I want to make a difference,” and “I want to help people.” When asked who inspired them, I heard stories of teachers, families and books. Neither of these is surprising or new. Evidence supports that we are doing a good job encouraging young girls, and promoting STEM fields. Yet, hearing some of the comments these young ladies made you might not think it was 2015. For all the support and encouragement they are receiving from the media, family, teachers and elsewhere they are still being pushed down within the walls of their schools. They told story after story of how boys told them they weren’t as good as them or couldn’t do a job as well as a male.
Comments such as these are not stopping women from enrolling in STEM majors in record numbers, however they are not persisting. What is not happening at our colleges and universities and beyond? Part of the problem may be that while we are telling girls they can be a coder, or an astronaut or anything they want to be, we aren’t telling them what they can do. It was clear to me these girls want to lead the way to a better world. We often ask, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” We frequently fail to help girls understand how a STEM degree will enable them to do things they are passionate about, that are meaningful to them. They arrive at the university ready to change the world only to find themselves disillusioned and without a support system or someone to guide the way.
We need to starting thinking about what we can do to maintain the passion, strength and determination these girls exhibited. A simple way to start may be by not stopping at telling girls they can do anything, but helping them understand what that “anything” is and how it will enable them to attain their goals.
What will you do today to have an impact?
A special thank you to @Bali_Maha, @keesav, and @TracyClark08!