Bring in the girls

Two years ago, I put on a hackathon at our school library for students to come and learn to code. It was poorly attended, but one girl did attend. At the end of the week-long event, she asked if we would like to sponsor a chapter of Girls Who Code. Our female CS teacher, our librarian, and I agreed to help her for next year. When the next school year started, we discovered that the student has the program ready to go.

For the course of the year, we served as sponsors for a student-run club. Every Monday for 90 minutes, the student and 15 other girls met to learn computer science 1.

This year, the girls took it a step further and started their own non-profit, Connect(ed), to teach coding to area elementary school students.

Sometimes, even when you don’t think something is successful, it is. The message: keep trying to get in the girls. No step is too small.

By 2020, we are going to have over 1 million unfilled jobs in the CS industry. Be need to fill that hole. If girls equaled the numbers of boys, we would fill that number. Imagine the difference we would see…

To help get you started, I’ve compiled my favorite programs that you can join or host your own to get girls into STEM. Check out Girl Power and fennovation.org for all things STEAM. Enjoy!

TCEA 2016 in review

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually attended a conference. There, I said it. I’ve been to many and presented at many recently. However, I read so much in my own time that I find it hard to be surprised at a conference. And, recently, I have been presenting so I’ve been too fatigued to actually attend. 

This year, though, I attended. 

I wonder how many others who present actually attend. Most, like me, gain their information from their own personal learning. However, it’s beneficial to not always be the one leading – to be the one following. I’m so used to leading that I find it difficult to follow and I find it difficult to sympathize – at times – with followers. But, following is necessary at times. To be a leader, you have to be a follower.

So before I sum up my highlights and learning challenges, I challenge all those stuck in the presenter circuit to attend. To take a break from leading to be a follower. I plan to do it more this year. It was refreshing even though the content was not unique. It’s the act of following that is important. 

To kick off TCEA 2016, I went to the opening session of the STEM Academy. Keynotes and opening sessions are usually a lot of talk and no action. In fact, many sessions are. And, attendance in my own sessions is up when it is a lot of talk and little action. We, like our students, are trained to be receptacles of information. This needs to change.

Cindy Morris led the keynote with a fast-paced, high energy talk. She gave us about 20 seconds to turn to a partner to talk. Though, in a large room, this is a reluctant task. Again, we are trained receptacles. I argue that more sessions need to be structured in a maker format – more around creation. 

That said, I left with a confirmation. It was not necessarily anything new, but it was confirmation of my beliefs. 

My favorite take-aways included: 

STEM Academy Opening Session: Using technology to engage students in problem solving

  • Cindy Moss – @stemboss, Cindy_moss@discovery.com
  • STEM is a culture, not a class
  • It’s for ALL kids
  • 70% of hs graduates wouldn’t qualify with lowest level of military b/c lack problem solving skills – says it’s a matter of national security
  • Every 18 seconds, some student drops out of hs
  • Banks hire 90% math majors & would hire 3 times as many if they could find them
  • Stemconnector.org – sign up for Stem Daily
  • 768,000 new stem jobs in Texas by 2018 – must get kids ready for this
  • Change the equation – sign up for this email in organization
  • 75% of all jobs will be 75% stem in a few years
  • Many stem jobs you can get with little to no college jobs
    • Graduating with a ton of debt does no one any good
  • We need to be honest with kids about the job market
  • Kids aren’t afraid of STEM – teachers are, but we need to help them not be
    • Don’t pass on fears of math & science to kids
  • Be a STEMINIST! – Girls should have opportunity to go into STEM
    • Project STEM – by Duke university
    • STEM is one of few industries where women make as much as men
    • DOUBLE # of girls in STEM!!!!
  • Students make decision to go in math & science by 6th grade
  • You can’t be what you can’t see – why Google Cardboard is so great – show kids jobs they aren’t seeing
  • STEM jobs are changing – 71% of jobs that need to be filled are in STEM, million jobs open in US because we can’t fill those jobs
  • Behind music services is a whole bunch of statisticians – making at least 80,000/year
    • Algorithms – developing these for companies – makes a lot of $$
  • We need 80 hours of high quality, ongoing PD over two years – most fields have this
    • We need 160 hours of high quality, ongoing PD over three years to change culture
  • 4Cs – we need to teach these!!
    • STEMformation Continuation – standards!
  • We need these under a transdiscplinary theme – we don’t say we’re doing 2 hours of literacy, 2 hours of math, etc.
  • FAIL – first attempt in learning
    • Angry Birds creator – took 10,000 tries to get it!
  • Reading like a scientist
  • Give kids problems to solve & make them figure it out
  • STEMtastic Staturday – play being a Stem person
  • discoveryeducation.com/STEM – a whole lot of free resources – STEM Camp
  • The more diverse the people solving the problem, the more robust the solution


The Making of a Makerspace

  • Jason Harron – @jrharmon – jasonharron@utexas.edu
  • Maker movement started around 20016 – with idea that we are all makers
    • White House supports
    • Bill passed by colleges & school educators calling for need in K-12 education
    • 1200+ hacker/makerspaces around US
  • The 4Cs are what we want- these are the qualities we want in all professions
  • Tortillas/Cookies under laser printer to engrave thigns
  • Montessori schools – hands on –
    • Constructionism – different than constructivism – final product you can see, hear, touch – and learning is physical in world
  • New UT building has 10,000 sq. ft. of maker spaces available
    • ATX hackerspace – has full car lift
    • TechShop
  • Agencybydesign.org – design thinking principal – broke it down into four steps – maybe use this for maker class
  • FabLearn conference – held Oct. 14-16 – need to attend! – buff.ly/1RGcyZI
  • SX Create – Mar. 11-13 – Maker aspect of SXSWedu – don’t need SXSW wrist band & it’s free!!! At Palmer Events Center
  • Go beyond banana piano
  • Use Arduino to code teddy bears
  • Drimmel tools – more child-safe, Skill also has tools for lighter materials with guards


Leading Innovative Change

  • George Couros – @gcouros
  • Innovation – invention or iteration – something totally new or a reiteration of something existing
  • We expect innovation in everything outside of what we work in
  • What innovation is and isn’t
    • What is it actually changing vs. changing for changes sake
      • Taking out candy of vending machines & replacing it with good stuff is not innovation
      • Saying that kids will figure it out is not always right – not all are proficient so – do need an adult guidance and the longer you wait the more afraid you’ll get – “the suspense at the top is what freaks you out”
      • Don’t fit people into job titles – find great people & give them titles
  • Competitive collaboration
    • We’re missing notion of competition – no one wants to be the weakest, but someone always is
      • We push each other to get better, though
      • We don’t want “mind your own business learning.” We want to ask – what is tech allowing us to do that we couldn’t do before – we must collaborate
  • 5 elements of leadership
    • Strength-based leadership
      • Best people to teach this are these passionate educators – and have them go to places they love
    • Powerful learning first, technology second
      • Business vs. Education – don’t base what we use vs. what makes sense for business. For instance, don’t use Office 365 just because the IT dept. feels comfortable with it
        • Ask – what is best for kids, how does this improve learning, if we were to do —-, what is the balance of risk vs. reward, is this serving the few or the majority.
        • Power is about what you can control, freedom is about what you can unleash – our jobs as teachers is to get others to unleash
    • Creating meaningful learning
      • Teachers should be responsible for their own learning now
      • To innovate, disrupt your routine
      • How do yo move people from their point a to their point b
      • How do you disrupt the routine of other
        • Stop giving meanings with handouts – if they say they have to use paper, show them how to print
        • Less is more – paradox of choice – TED talk to walk – a lot of people can’t make choices
          • Literate – adaptive – trans-formative
          • Focus on just a few and know them inside out
        • Move to meaningful creation
    • Embrace an open culture
      • When kids leave school, they should be well-Googled – you need to develop your Google footprint
      • We live in a world where everyone can have a voice – but how are we using it
  • We are data-driven – but need to think about – what are we really good at and why
  • I think, I question, I design, I create, I struggle, I collaborate, I try, I solve, I invent, I reflect, I LEARN
  • You can’t ignore change-makers – they push human race forward. The crazy ones…





Final Recommendations:

  • Registration is a challenge. You can purchase premium, basic, or exhibit only. Basic entitles you to sessions labeled as basic. You cannot get into any of the full-day academies. You also function on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you may be spending a lot of your time sitting on the floor, waiting in line. If you purchase premium, you can get into a lot of sessions. However, you are put into a pool and it’s also first come, first serve. This year, I went online immediately at the time that sessions opened up for registration, but due to technical difficulties on the conference’s website, I was unable to get into 80% of the sessions I wanted to attend. 
  • Badges – way too expensive. This year, I presented a total of 6 times. I am happy presenting. However, it also means that I spend a lot of time rushing, and not a lot of time getting to attend sessions. Since presenters cannot attend as many sessions, there needs to be a discounted or free fare. In my hurry of presenting 5 times in one day, I lost my badge. I discovered that it would be $10 to replace it. Unfortunately, you have to have it in order to get into sessions. My suggestion – make it electronic. Send the badge code to phones so they can be scanned. This will save paper, hassle, and increase conference satisfaction.
  • I love having so many presenters, but it can also be overwhelming and not all are created equal. I would love to have sessions more easily divided into tracts. 
  • Less overlapping of academies. I presented in the Google Academy, but it was at the same time as the STEM academy so I could not attend many sessions. Perhaps one academy a day would help eliminate this.
  • Keep on, keeping on. I love seeing the excitement in educators’ eyes the first time they attend TCEA. They are blown away with ideas. But, support for those ideas is critical. Perhaps a follow-through on workshops would help – plus, it would boost the conference’s image. 
Next up, I head to SXSWedu. Though, I discovered SXSW Create which I am more excited about. This year, no presenting – just attending. This is my time to listen to and follow others. 

When will you be listening again?