Somewhere in my meandering education about education I remember hearing boys and girls develop an learn differently. A quick google search got me this "girls make more serotonin and oxytocin, so they are calmer and more interested in emotional connection. Boys mature more slowly than girls and girls have more of their cerebral cortex defined for verbal function." Ok. The author, Gross, goes on to also say that "The hippocampus, where memory and language live, does develop more rapidly and is larger in girls than in boys. This impacts vocabulary, reading and writing skills. Boys, on the other hand, have more of their cerebral cortex defined for spatial relationships. As a result, they learn easily through movement and visual experience." So summed up girls need/want/do better with narratives whereas boys need/want/do better with movement and manipulatives. Most of us already incorporate differentiated instruction into our lessons. Why bring this up? Does this really matter? As a woman in computer science I think this does.
I'm 36, I have a BS in Computer Science and I was one of four, yes FOUR, female students in my entire department. I have always be fascinated by computers. From an early age I picked them up quickly I felt I just understood them. That carried through to my adult life. I'm an early adopter. I love new technology, how it can improve our lives, or ruin it depending on who you talk to. I spend far too much time on kickstarter for the health of my budget, and I teach computer coding to students in Maine. So why, at 36 am I just now hearing the history of women in CS? I'm listening to The Innovators: how a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolutions written by Walter Isaacson and read by Dennis Boutsikaris. And the FIRST chapter is about Ada Lovelace, an 18th century woman cited as being the first person to explain and understand the full possibilities of what we now call a computer. She is also credited with being the first person to ever publish a computer program. Do you understand now why I feel slighted in my education?
Then we have the recent movie "Hidden Figures", how as a 36 year old have I never heard anything about this? How was I unaware that the first computer programmers were women. How, despite insurmountable odds, women, were a HUGE part of the space program. Think about it! We've have now had over 60 women in space since the first space launch, 60. They worked, walked, and lived on the International Space Station. I'm using these examples to prove a point. Why have I never heard any of these stories? Why as a graduate of Computer Science did I not know or understand the importance of my gender on the history of computers? In the current climate where we seek to open up computer science to women and minorities are we not tell more of these stories?
I can program in a few languages. I'm not very good, it's what is called ugly code, it's not pretty but it usually works. I didn't go to school to be a full time programmer, I earned my degree to teach others how to program. (Insert "those who can do, those who can't teach joke, I'm fine with it.) I didn't want to be a programmer, I wanted to teach others the beauty of code and the power that it can wield. The skills I've learned while programming are key to how I understand and learn from the world around me. By teaching our students, especially girls, the narrative behind their digital devices, the stories, can we somehow ingrain in them the same curiosity that fueled their predecessors? Have we been teaching to only certain students? Maybe? I'm gonna try it out are see, who knows, maybe.
These, of course, and just ramblings, and thoughts of an overtired grad student. But, whenever I teach code I make sure my students know Ada, and understand the history of coding as well as the code itself.
Gross, Dr. Gail. "How Boys and Girls Learn Differently." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 16 May 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.
Hidden Figures. Dir. Theodore Melfi. Perf. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe. Levantine Films, Chernin Entertainment, Fox 2000 Pictures, 2017. Film.
Isaacson, Walter, and Dennis Boutsikaris. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. New York, NY: Audioworks/Simon & Schuster, 2014. Audio CD.
Wikipedia contributors. "List of female astronauts." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Feb. 2017. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.