Gender And STEM: No Shift Required
Contributed by Morgan Fritz on 25 Mar 2014
In the past thirty years, several waves of opportunity have come successively closer to realizing Papert’s vision of a world in which children can self-actualize as owners and creators of technology. Each wave, starting with Logo, has had strengths and limitations and while some have had considerable reach (FIRST Lego League, for example), none have as of yet become fixtures of childhood. Now, part of the opportunity that comes with a switch from a STEM to a SEAD perspective is the chance to build foundations for female—and more widespread male—participation in computing on a wide, humane platform in which the outside world is involving, inviting and discovering rather than persuading, cajoling and selling. In particular, recent tools associated with the Maker or DIY (“Do It Yourself”) movement have the potential to increase embodied, craft-oriented, performance-focused behavior. Girls (and a range of boys) can now create inexpensive personalized objects that cause them to rub elbows with technology and technological thinking without having to first (or ever) label themselves as one of “them,” the kind of person that actually likes technology. They can tinker, both with creations and identity. They can develop skills that will help them no matter what they go on to do, and their relationship to those skills can change over time. The crucial opportunity, ironically, lies in the relative unimportance of the technology in defining the students’ projects.