Tag Archives: gender

Girls & STEM: Making It Happen – resources

Resources for my ISTE 2015 presentation:

Girls & STEM: Making it Happen Tuesday, June 30, 4:00–5:00 pm Sylvia Martinez PCC Ballroom B

July 2, 2015 – Updated with slides!

Other ISTE events

Citations and other resources mentioned in this presentation


Invent To Learn

MakeHers: Engaging Girls and Women in Technology through Making, Creating, and Inventing (Intel infographic)

Power, Access, Status: The Discourse of Race, Gender, and Class in the Maker Movement

Leah Buechley – Gender, Making, and the Maker Movement (video from FabLearn 2013)


National Girls Collaborative Project (links to many others)

National Council of Women and Informational Technology

American Association of University Women

Unesco International Bureau of Education (IBE)  – Multiple resources such as: Strengthening STEM curricula for girls in Africa, Asia and the Pacific10 Facts about Girls and Women in STEM in Asia

WISE (UK) – campaign to promote women in science, technology, and engineering

My posts about gender issues, stereotype threat, and other topics mentioned in this session

Stereotype Threat – Why it matters

Inclusive Makerspaces (article for EdSurge)

What a Girl Wants: Self-direction, technology, and gender

Self-esteem and me (a girl) becoming an engineer


Securing Australia’s Future STEM: Country Comparisons – Australian Council of Learned Academies

Generation STEM:  What girls say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – Girl Scouts of the USA (2012) (Girls 14-17)

Effective STEM Programs for Adolescent Girls: Three Approaches and Many Lessons Learned

Women’s underrepresentation in science: Sociocultural and biological considerations. (2009)

Gresham, Gina. “A study of mathematics anxiety in pre-service teachers.” Early Childhood Education Journal 35.2 (2007): 181-188.

Beilock, Sian L., et al. “Female teachers’ math anxiety affects girls’ math achievement.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.5 (2010): 1860-1863.

Teachers’ Spatial Anxiety Relates to 1st- and 2nd-Graders’ Spatial Learning


National Center for Educational Statistics

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

White girls can’t do math, teachers say

From NCWIT (National Council of Women in IT) –

Did you know that a recent study using data on 15,000 students from the National Center of Education Statistics found that teachers consistently rate girls as less good at math than boys, even with similar grades and test scores? Researchers in the study found that while on average teachers rate minority students lower than their white male counterparts, these differences disappear once grades are taken into account. However, they found patterns of bias against white girls that can’t be explained by their academic performance. According to one of the study’s authors, the misconception that white girls can’t handle math persists “Because the idea that men and women are different in this regard is considered natural, and not discriminatory.” At the same time, teachers may be more aware of race and ethnicity – and the problems of racial discrimination – than they are when it comes to gender.

Why are High School Teachers Convinced that White Girls Can’t Do Math? – Forbes.com

The research (the abstract is free at least) – Exploring Bias in Math Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Ability by Gender and Race/Ethnicity – University of Texas at Austin

Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

The Girl Scout Research Institute has released Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (2012).

Generation STEM is a national research report investigating girls’ perceptions, attitudes, and interests in the subjects and general field of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from the voices of girls themselves. The report consists of a literature review, as well as qualitative (focus group) and quantitative (survey) research with 1,000 girls across the United States.

The study finds that girls are interested in STEM and aspire to STEM careers, but need further exposure and education about what STEM careers can offer, and how STEM can help girls make a difference in the world.

Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (2012). Check out this page for the free download, a place to order a print copy, and a nice PDF summary of the full report. The summary would make a great topic of conversation with teachers, school board members, or a parent group!


Stereotype Threat – why it matters

Recently I attending the National Council of Women in IT (NCWIT) Summit on Women and IT: practices and ideas to revolutionize computing (I wrote about my session presentation here – Tinkering and STEM – good for girls, good for all.)

The summit kicked off with a wonderful keynote by Joshua Aronson who is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Education at New York University (NYU). Aronson studies stereotypes, self-esteem, motivation, and attitudes. He showed some remarkable research results that showed that when people are reminded of their race or gender in a testing situation where there is a negative stereotype, they do worse on the test.

This is called Stereotype Threat – which he defined as being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s group. The threat causes anxiety, and all kinds of measurable changes – from the brain to heart rate, and also greatly impacts test results.

Simply putting a box to mark gender, for example, at the front of a math test significantly changed test scores – for both men and women. Compared to a test where gender was not asked for, if gender was asked for at the beginning of a test, boy’s scores went up, girls’ scores went down. If gender was asked at the end, boys’ scores went down, girls’ scores went up.

Seriously, that was the only difference – there was no mention of the stereotype (boys are good at math, girls are not). The only change was the position of the request for gender identification.

The implication that such a casual, seemingly inconsequential reminder of a possible stereotype  had a HUGE impact says that there is much we do not know about testing.

It implies that assessing human knowledge is not that well understood. It also implies that much of what we think we are testing may be a false reflection. It may have a lot more to do with the context of the individual and the environment than a true assessment of learning.

And it’s not just about knowledge either. He shared a study where white college students increased their jump height over several attempts when tested by a white test monitor – but when a black test monitor gave the same tests, the stereotype “white men can’t jump” became real. The racial/gender makeup of the classroom, the test giver, or even the environmental clues can change everything.

This wasn’t just one research study, either. Aronson showed slide after slide of research that perceptions matter, and matter a lot. Some of this research is on his faculty bio page, lots more in the links below, and a good intro to his work is an ASCD Educational Leadership article – The Threat of Stereotype.

This article also has some great suggestions for reducing stereotype threat.

  • Talk about stereotype threat with students. This reduces anxiety that students may feel by acknowledging they are not alone in worrying about these things.
  • Teach students that intelligence and ability is not inborn and that they can work to do better. They are not limited by stereotypes that restrict what they can do. Talk openly about stereotypes and show that they aren’t true.
  • Build a cooperative classroom environment, not a competitive one. “…cooperative classroom structures in which students work interdependently typically produce immediate and dramatic gains in minority students’ grades, test scores, and engagement because such environments reduce competition, distrust, and stereotyping among students.” – The Threat of Stereotype

Further reading:


PS The best thing he said in the keynote was something like, “The number one predictor of academic success is a student’s answer to the question – does your teacher like you?” Would love to find a real quote!

Tinkering and STEM – good for girls, good for all

I’m excited to be an invited panelist at the National Council of Women in IT (NCWIT) Summit on Women and IT: practices and ideas to revolutionize computing next week in New York City. The topic is Tinkering: How Might ‘Making Stuff’ Influence Girls’ Interest in STEM and Computing?… and I’m the “K-12” voice on the panel.

We were each asked to do an introductory 5 minutes to establish our point of view about these issues. I started with a slide deck I use about tinkering and technology literacy and managed to cut it down to about 20 minutes when I thought – why not share this version on Slideshare! So here it is.

School only honors one type of design and problem-solving methodology, the traditional analytical step-by-step model. It ignores other problem-solving styles that are more non-linear, more collaborative, more artistic, etc. These styles are seen as “messy” or “soft” with the implication that they are not reliable. However, who do we lose when we ignore, or worse, denigrate alternative styles of problem-solving. I think one answer may be “girls” but honestly, it’s broader than that. We lose all kinds of people who are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. And these are exactly the people I want solving the problems we face in the 21st century.

Teaching a tinkering model of problem-solving is good for girls because it’s good for everyone.


Tinkering and Technology

Before this all slips my mind, I wanted to post some thoughts about the conversation I led at Educon 2.2 last weekend called Tinkering Towards Technology Fluency. I had a few slides prepared, and a general list of things I thought would be interesting to discuss, and some questions in case there was a lot of deadly silence. Well, that didn’t happen! What happened was that we had a really interesting conversation, which wandered a bit but no one seemed to mind. That’s the cool part about Educon, the conversations are the point. I learned as much from everyone there as I hope they learned from some of the things I shared.

What I’d like to do here is provide a short skim through the topics I brought to the session. I think many of them either support themes I’ve posted about before, or will in the future. I plan to return to them in the future and explore each one in depth.

This is such a rich area for two main reasons:

  1. Unstructured time is undervalued by School.
  2. Tinkering supports technology and technology supports tinkering.

Random thoughts in no particular order:

Humans yearn for tinkering and playful activity
The popularity of the Food Network, HGTV, and shows like Monster Garage  illustrate how people want to learn from watching others DO things they love. Work is interesting when you can see it happen, and people are interesting when they work. Make magazine is awesome.

Tinkering is social
Yes, there is the stereotype of the lone tinkerer in his basement. But more often, tinkering is a shared, social experience. Social learning with no structure or single, all-knowing teacher can happen! Leveraging the power of social learning seems like something we should be thinking about in this day and age.

French for tinkering, using found objects, playfulness in creation. (Wikipedia)

Tinkering/bricolage vs. the scientific method/analytical design
Seymour Papert, the father of educational technology, defined two styles of problem solving: analytical and bricolage. School only honors one style. What are we losing? (Who are we losing?)

“The bricoleur resembles the painter who stands back between brushstrokes, looks at the canvas, and only after this contemplation, decides what to do next.” Sherry Turkle

Tinkering and gender
The book by Sherry Turkle that I couldn’t remember in the session was “The Second Self”. I also forgot to mention this crucial connection to tinkering and gender issues in technology. Turkle says that tinkering is a “female” approach to technology, calling it “soft mastery” (as opposed to the “hard mastery” of linear, step by step problem solving, flowcharting, and analytical design). However, these “hard” styles are often taught as being superior, with “soft mastery” styles deemed messy or unprofessional. Again, who and what are we losing by ignoring (and denigrating) alternative learning and problem-solving styles?

Tinkering requires similar conditions to project-based learning and games in the classroom. Implementation brings up similar questions
Teachers who are looking at project-based learning or games are struggling with the same issues that arise with tinkering. Time, space, overwhelming curriculum requirements, tests, etc. These all need to be solved in similar ways, and teachers are doing this all around the world. Sharing is important.

More connections with games
James Paul Gee (What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy) says that we should examine the attributes of gaming such as identity and agency and how to bring those to the classroom. We are being too literal with “games in the classroom.” The attributes of tinkering are similar. We have to be willing to give students agency and allow them to develop their own identities as problem-solvers and learners.

Why is tinkering learning?
Tinkering is a uniquely human activity, combining social and creative forces that encompass play and learning.

The problem with the scientific method
A pet peeve of mine is this structured monstrosity called “the scientific method.” We teach it to children like it came down on stone tablets. It’s not how science really works. Science is about wonder and risk and imagination, not checklists.

Risk and design – what happened in engineering in the 80s
When I went to engineering school, they taught us to use the “waterfall” design methodology. Every stage was planned and went in order. Then in the 80s everything changed.

What happened? Computers. Digital design and modeling decreased the cost of making mistakes. You could try things out with little risk or cost. It’s called the spiral design method, or rapid prototyping, sort of like tinkering with an audience. It’s why Google is always in “beta”. Of course it doesn’t work for everything, you can’t release a “beta” skyscraper or tinker a space shuttle, but for digital products, what’s the harm?

The problem is that school hasn’t caught on to this design methodology. What do we need to do to get school design courses to catch up to the real world?

What can we learn from other unstructured (but successful) school activities?
This also connects back to a post I wrote called Technology Literacy and Sustained Tinkering Time which connected the ideas of Sustained Silent Reading to using technology in less structured ways. Schools have embraced Sustained Silent Reading in the face of scripted curriculum and standardized testing – what can advocates for constructivist education learn from this?

Technology literacy without tinkering time is hard to fathom
Maybe we should be talking about technology fluency anyway. Literacy is such a low bar.

Teaching risk free design is so 20th century.

More later – your feedback on what to tackle first is welcome!


Teaching Girls to Tinker

Education Week: Teaching Girls to Tinker.

Yet, even as girls open new gender gaps by outpacing their male peers in most subjects, men still receive roughly 77 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering and 85 percent of those in computer science. Why aren’t girls choosing to enter these critical fields of the future?

There are several familiar explanations: Girls lack sufficient female role models in computer science and engineering; girls prefer sciences that are clearly connected to helping others; girls are turned off by the “isolated geek” stereotype that dominates their view of computer science and engineering.

Here’s another explanation: Girls don’t tinker.

Be sure to read the rest of the article…Teaching Girls to Tinker

My Tinkering Towards Technology Fluency session at Educon 2.2 went very well. I’m waiting to hear if the recording glitches were solved or if it’s lost to eternity! (Don’t bother clicking on the Elluminate link on the session page, it just says the session is over.) I have heard, though, that they are working on putting up the links.

It was a great conversation. So many people participated and shared some really great ideas and stories. I will post some resources from the conversation soon.


Does your tech room say “stay out” to girls?

Science Notes 2009.

Professor Sapna Cheryan led her student into a small classroom in Stanford University’s computer science building. Star Wars posters adorned the walls, discarded computer parts and cans of Coke clustered on a table, and a life-size bust of Spock perched on the desk. “Sorry about the mess,” Cheryan said. “Just ignore that stuff, it’s not part of our study. Here’s your questionnaire. Let me know when you’re done.”

The student took a dubious look at her surroundings and raised her pencil to answer the question: “How interested are you in computer science?”

Cheryan, now a psychologist at the University of Washington, has placed students in situations like this for nearly five years. She has found that women rate themselves as less interested in computer science than men in the “geek room” described above. But in a room decorated more neutrally with art posters, nature photos, and water bottles, their interest levels were about the same.

A few years ago one of our GenYES advisors told me that he was very proud of the fact that his student tech support team was over 50% female. But it wasn’t always that way. He said that it took time and effort to change the culture of the team, but the thing that made the most difference was that he remodeled the “tech room”. He took down the video game posters, brought in a couch, and cleaned it up. His advice to other advisors was that this little thing mattered. He wasn’t sure at the time it was a big deal, but now he’s sure it changed everything.

What does your classroom or clubroom say about who belongs there? And if you aren’t sure, ask some students.


Only the Developed World Lacks Women in Computing

Only the Developed World Lacks Women in Computing | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

Mark Guzdial wrote this short report from a gathering of the National Center for Women & IT Computing (NWCIT). Several talks focused on international studies that show that IT is not considered a “male” vocation in many less developed countries. For example, says Guzdial,

Vivian Lagesen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology presented her study of Malaysia, where the 52% of all CS undergraduate majors are female. Vivian interviewed students, department chairs (mostly female), and a Dean (female). She found that Malaysians can’t understand why anyone would think computing is particularly male — if anything, they consider it more female, since it’s safe, mostly inside work “like cooking.”

We’ve seen this in our work in Malaysia as well. Even in schools where males and females are taught in segregated classrooms, the prevalence of female IT staff and IT teachers is striking.

The article summarizes some speculation about why this is true, but here’s my take on it. I believe the search for gender identity is a strong human need. When societies evolve to be more equal, the barriers to gender entry into specific fields change from externally imposed to self imposed. Women used to be strongly discouraged, even banned outright from certain professions. That, thankfully is no longer the case in the US.

Instead, these practices have been replaced with more subtle cultural definitions of what femininity and masculinity mean. I think people are as influenced as much by these subtle signals as being overtly told that women “aren’t good at math.” In other countries where women have more defined cultural roles, perhaps they feel like they have enough gender identity, and don’t have to rely on a job to define themselves.

My thought is that there is a fine line between outright discrimination based on gender and culturally imposed definitions of gender that mold girls’ views of who they are. And if there are fewer externally imposed rules, people create their own. Sending messages to girls about their ability to be engineers and scientists has to go beyond simply telling them, “you can do anything!”

Your thoughts?