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The latest Alan Turing heroine.

Though my computing classes tend more towards the non-techie end of business technology, I’ve always found that any optional courses I run are always male dominated. By and large, females just don’t think that technology is for them. It has a nerdiness that they find difficult to relate to.

A possible contributing problem is the lack of female role models in computing for girls to look up to.  A notable exception is Barbara Liskov. Back in 1968 she was the first female in the USA to obtain a phd in computer science. In a field that is still dominated by men, one can only imagine the obstacles faced by a woman in the field 30 years ago.

Now, she’s in the world news again. This time she has won the prestigous Turing Award. The award is not to be sneezed at coming with a prize of €250,000. Money apart, it’s considered to be the Nobel Prize of computing. Winners are a who’s who of the biggest names of the computing industry.

I’m not a technology expert and so won’t go into Barbara Liskov’s work. You can read all about it here.

We all know that high technology skills are in short supply, even in these recessionary times. We simply need more talented graduates. There are now more females than males in our universities but not in science and technology domains where girls are still reluctant to get involved. If school girls can see women enjoying and doing well in what has traditionally been a male area then perhaps the position can be reversed.

Female role models in computing are far and few between but we hope that the achievements of Barbara Liskov will be an inspiration and cause a change of mind about working in technology.


(Un)Constructive Learning

Now, here’s an interesting guy
Some Quotes from Stephen Heppell –

“It is a stumbling block that we are still building 19th century schools for the 21st century. We have to ask the hard questions. Why do we ring a bell and expect 1000 children to be hungry all at the same time? Because it is convenient”.

and another –
We need to let go of the productivity definition of education. When we do let go, we see huge leaps in engagement and learning but acknowledges it is difficult to get people to let go. He thinks we need to find excuses to do it just now, but when people experience it working, they don’t want to go back. Agility is the key.

So there!

On the one hand, I completely agree. Couldnt agree more. We force learners into our definition of learning, we expect them to show their learning through daft outcomes such as writing essays at the e-x-a-m-i-n-a-t-i-o-n and woe betide them if they dont get the 40%. And what does it all mean anyhow? What are we measuring? What are we looking for? It’s at this time of the year that I feel guilty looking at rows and rows of students in their isolation bubbles writing essays in a very unconstructive way. How realistic is it to ask students to put away their books and computers and phones and gadgets etc, write an essay on an unseen topic with nothing but a pencil and blank paper? And then, to repeat myself – why? Are our assessment methods killing off joy of learning?

Back to Stephen Heppell – “How do you measure creativity? What is the equivalent of a 1500 word essay? Managing an online discussion for a week? Creating a 10 second video? Posting a podcast?”.