The other day our Master’s cohort was lucky enough to have a presentation from Audrey Watters. She challenged our group to think of the need for diversity in the technology field in terms of who is creating the tools we use because technology is created to solve problems that we encounter (or perceive to be) in daily life. As a result of the lack of women and minorities within the technology filed, there is a limited breadth and depth to the reasons technology is created which results in limitations towards the type of technology that is created. This idea of limitation in thinking (and doing) led me to question how the education community tends to be focused on how education works with blinders on at times and rarely looks laterally to other professions to access ideas. I recently read an article in the Verdict (2012) that provided lawyers with a summary of how to use social media within their practice. Normally I would not look to a lawyer publication for ideas, but this caught my attention. A few quotes resonated with me.

  1. Create Value”. [the author] urge[d] others to… follow [this] one golden rule. Chris Wejr posted a similar tweet a while back that urged others to provide meaningful content online. This is an important point. Using your social media to provide meaningful content that others find value in is a benefit to your entire PLN. Your social media does not need to be strictly professional in the sense that it should also be an avenue to present personal insights into your life (vacations, activities, and hobbies), but cutting out frivolous comments about the shape of your breakfast pancake might be a step in the right direction.
  2. “…online comments have a long lasting, potentially permanent footprint [due to] the inherently public nature of social media platforms…” While many might think this statement is obvious, some still do not recognize the significance of their actions online and this includes the students (and at times teachers) in our schools. Providing students with activities that promote understanding of this idea and fostering positive interactions online is important.

Another area of investigation outside the education field can come from business. The statement in education that is used frequently is that failure can be a necessary step towards understanding and it should not be thought of negatively. Attempting a challenging task, failing, then trying again is an important educational cycle. In business it could be argued that the synonym may very well be risk taking. The idea of risk taking and resulting reward has been studied in business previously. Individuals who have higher desires to achieve are more willing to take risks and these individuals were also more educated than those less likely to undertake risk-taking behaviours (Chen, Su, and Wu, 2012). Translating this to educational settings it has been noted that gifted students are more likely to retry after failure of a perceived challenging task than average students (Bogie and Buckhalt, 1987). This suggests that it is important to support students through tasks in various ways (Scaffolding, etc.) in order to improve students perception that the task, although challenging and failure may occur, is ultimately attainable. Students need to feel that they are capable of achieving an outcome and this confidence should lead to more frequent risk taking behaviours.

Bringing this direction of thought back to our discussion with Audrey, it is important to provide an educational environment that is not gender restrictive in terms of our pre-conceived notions towards technology. This goes for students and staff. It is important to remove stereotypes from our teaching practices that have traditionally placed an emphasis on technology users being a high percentage male, not female. The way we present courses has to be cognizant that we do not perpetuate the gender inequity currently seen in the technology sector.

References:

Bogie, C. E., & Buckhalt, J. A. (1987). Reactions to failure and success among gifted, average, and EMR students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 31(2), 70-74.

Chen, S., Su, X., & Wu, S. (2012). Need for achievement, education, and entrepreneurial risk-taking behavior. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 40(8), 1311-1318.

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