Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday Five - Finding Ada (Role Models of Women in Tech)

How quickly can you answer the question "Who are the leading women in tech?"

This week's Friday Five will not only help you anwer this question, but will also challenge you to contribute to the number of female role models students and adults are exposed to as they explore the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. (often referred to as S.T.E.M.)

How many of you had Ada Lovelace's name at the tip of your tongue?

Ada Lovelace wrote the world's first computer program for the Analytical Engine, a general-purpose machine that Charles Babbage had invented. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software. Ada died an early death in 1852 at the age of 36 and never had a chance to explore her understanding of computing. The high level computer language "Ada" developed by the U.S. Department of Defense was named after her.

If you were not familiar with Ada's significant contribution to the computer world or had trouble naming at least 10 leading women in tech, this week's Friday Five will serve you well. It includes a list of sites where you can easily locate names, pictures, stories of female role models to share with your students or colleagues. And best of all the list is about to expand exponentially!

March 24, 2009 has been designated as Ada LoveLace Day, an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. On that day, thousands of bloggers have pledged to publish a blog post about a women in tech who they admire using the tag AdaLovelaceDay09 for Delicious, Technorati etc. or #ALD09 for Twitter.

The data continues to show that the challenge of attracting women into technology related careers continues. While the causes are complex and the solutions are many, everyone agrees that female role models have a huge impact on the career choices of girls.

Bachelor of Computer Science Degrees (Men vs. Women)

Outstanding women can function as inspirational examples of success,
illustrating the kinds of achievements that are possible for women around them.
They demonstrate that it is possible to overcome traditional gender barriers,
indicating to other women that high levels of success are indeed attainable
(Penelope Lockwood, University of Toronto)

One of the most rewarding activities I organize to provide girls exposure to female role models year are the Power Lunch with Women in Tech offered at annual TechSavvyGirls activities. The female role models who attend continue to talk about the value they feel being able to offer advice and inspiration to girls in their formative years. Not only do the girls leave the luncheon with enough pictures, audio, and video to create a webpage about their new role model, but they often refer back to the advice and inspiration they received that day in 'college applications', 'scholarship applications' or in their own mentoring of younger students.

If you desire to organize an activity that will connect girls to role models face to face, organizations like the Society of Women Engineers , AAUW, or other networks of women are great resources for role models. The National Girls Collaborative can help you get started by providing resources, a program directory of organizations and projects and mini grants to support collaborative projects between organizations. The Anita Borg Foundation Tech Bridge Program has compiled a fantastic guide called Get Involved to help prospective role models inspire girls in technology filled with practical suggestions and strategies.

I challenge you to consider how you might use this week's Friday Five Resources to design a classroom activity that introduces female role models to your students (both girls and boys). The images and stories of women in tech are beneficial to all students, and to society as a whole. The next generation of innovators will come from the curiosity and spirit of innovation we inspire in today's students. Helping girls see their future as women in tech will give birth to a more diverse wave of infinite thinkers. What can we as educators do to help?

  • Perhaps you might display some of the photos on your school bulletin boards.
  • Perhaps you might assign reading or writing assignments from the collection of stories featuring women in tech
  • Perhaps you might brainstorm with your students ways to publish your own blog post for AdaLoveLace Day. If you don't have a place to post a blog, you can always post an entry in the comments of this section. Don't forget to tag it--AdaLovelaceDay09
  • Perhaps you might introduce a lesson on using Technorati or the way "tags" can work to assimilate collective knowledge using the power of tagging.

So I challenge you to use the comments sections to share your ideas of how to use AdaLoveLace Day or to add to the collection of post that will be published. Looking forward to having you join me in fulfilling my #4 on my New Years Resolution post.

Friday Five - Sites with Role Models of Women in Technology

    Probably the most impressive and global collection of role models were free albums from all 7 continents.

    The most influential women in technology according to Fast Comapny is broken up into the following categories
    Women in Tech: The Executives
    Women in Tech: The Entrepreneurs
    Women in Tech: The Gamers
    Women in Tech: The Evangelists
    Women in Tech: The Activists
    Women in Tech: The Bloggers
    Women in Tech: The Brainiacs

    Fast Company's 2008 picks as Most Influential Women in Web 2.0

    Although, this project appears to be a newcomer and has a smaller collection of role models in the technology area, it uses design elements with higher appeal to younger students.

    This collection of role models from the Sally Ride Science Web Site includes role models in several S.T.E.M. careers including
    -Contributions of 20th-Century Women to Physics Website:
    -Role Model Project for Girls sponsored by ACM's Committee on Women in Computing
    -The Archives of Women in Science and Engineering Iowa State UniversityWebsite:
    -Women of NASAWebsite:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Horizon.K12 2009

The Horizon.K12 2009 report was recently issued by the New Media Consortium. I wrote about the process involved in producing this report back in January and thought Infinite Thinking Machine readers would be interested in the final product. Post your reactions and observations in the comments section of this blog! I'll be talking about this report on EdTechTalk's Seedlings web cast with Alice Barr, Cheryl Oakes, and Bob Sprankle on Thursday, March 26.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Five from Wee Web Wonders

This week's Friday Five come from a group of stellar students from Sahuarita Intermediate School and their rock star teacher, Dr. Jackie Gerstein.

In my recent visit to Arizona, the colors of the flowering cacti, were a notable and inspiring contrast amidst the sparse and arid dessert backdrop- gaining my respect for all that not only survives, but thrives within the parameters of the Southwestern U.S. In a similar fashion, the vibrant classroom of Dr. Jackie Gerstein and her students, was exciting and inspiring against a backdrop of daily newspaper articles featuring stories of budget woes by surrounding Arizona schools, aging computers, inadequate bandwidth, and exhausted supplies where students are bringing in printer ink and paper from home to be able to continue using classroom printers.

Within minutes of arriving at Sahuarita Intermediate School, both Dr. Peggy George and I, we were greeted by two very poised 5th grade students who lead us to a classroom filled with evidence of constructivist learning- a fertile ground for nurturing the infinite thinking machine.

Every student was fully engaged in activities that challenged them to take charge of their leaning. One student was putting the finishing touch on a miniature piano made of craft materials, while her partner was busy programming Pico Cricket sound sensors to play the melody they had composed as part of an interactive digital story they were writing. Another was demonstrating how the hot Arizona sun could be used as solar power in a windmill created with legos. Two fifth grade boys huddled around an aging computer debating the plot of the digital story they were writing using Tikatok's online book publishing site. At other computer stations, students were exploring Tux Paint – an open source software. Others were using the forums in to critically analyze the potential of Web 2.0 sites for learning. Storyboards and backdrops made of legos, clay, science kits, and other craft materials filled tables and shelves, each to be used with student's original writing in a long term digital storytelling project.

One classroom wall was lined with student created newspapers as evidence that the students had developed interviewing skills to learn more about each other. Another wall was lined with colorful 3-D representations of FIVE word questions that was to guide a self directed research project. In the middle of it all hung a student created hand painted Wordle that captured the essence of the type of learning that filled their day and avatars of the students who drove that learning. The avatars were enlarged versions that the students had traced and colored of the actual avatars these students use to safely participate in collaborative learning environments outside their classroom using a variety of Web 2.0 tools made available to them through their classroom wiki- Wee Web Wonders. Here are just five of the many web sites we saw student using during our visit with Dr. Gerstein and her incredible infinite thinkers.


When we arrived in Jackie's classroom, students were using Tikatok to write and
publish their stories. Teachers can set up classroom accounts and manage their
own student accounts. The site includes story starters, prompts, and
collaborative options. Students can share the stories with coauthors, family,
friends. Parents can order printed copy of the students book in hardcover or


Jackie's students proudly showed us the books they've read using Shelfari
bookshelves. They have become experts at putting widgets that display the books
they read on their project wiki. They also use the site to read reviews of books
or write their own.


During computer time, some of Jackie's students collaborate with students all
over the world in a 3D environment helping the council of the virtual world,
Atlantis, solve problems impacting its water, air, health, and animal life. As
an active member of the Second Life Educational Committee, its easy to
understand how Jackie found Quest Atlantis a very compatible technology tool to
her constructivist teaching.


As I walked around the classroom, I noticed one of my favorite sites,,
on some computer screens. The students were using this very safe social
networking site to post reviews about new web 2.0 links their teacher had
posted. The site is especially supportive of teachers, parents, and students who
want a more private place to collaborate. Oracle has very stringent rules about
participation and offers teachers a setting that allows their students to
interact ONLY with those from the same school. Oracle also checks each teacher's
credential and school affiliation before activating accounts. Teachers are
required to carefully monitor their classroom Think accounts.


One of the most impressive examples of learning and student leadership I
witnessed during my visit was students using the projector to lead their
classmates through group participation in student designed quizzes about the
topics they were studying. Students used My Studiyo to create quizzes, embed
them on their research wikipages, and then facilitated group decision making
about the answers to each question as they proceeded through the quiz using the
classroom projector. These student presentations were far from the traditional
student presentation. They had mastered the concept of “engaging” the audience.
It was obvious that they had witnessed good modeling from their teacher – Dr.
Gerstein who doesn't know the meaning of “sage on the stage” when it comes to
teaching. These students are defintiely in charge of their learning, and their
teacher is a superb 'designer of learning environments.

I wish I could share all of the great ideas and websites, I learned about during my visit to Sahuarita Intermediate School, but I think I will follow Jackie's philosophy of letting the students be the guides and leaders. Follow their evolving project pages at
and see for yourself the evidence of student centered learning, and if that doesn't blow you away, brace yourself and visit their fantastic role model of self-directed learning by visting Dr. Gerstein's own learning space.

P.S. Thanks to my Personal Learning Network powered by powerful Web 2.0 tools like Twitter, I had the pleasure of meeting both Jackie and Peggy face to face and you have the opportunity to meet their students virtually. Special thanks to Jackie for inviting us into her classroom, and for Peggy to driving all the way from Phoenix to join me in this visit.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Friday 5: A Tale of Two Conferences

With the advent of new communication technologies, it's now possible for educators to participate in professional development by virtually following conference events. While face to face interactions are still important and clearly aren't going away, people can virtually be in several places at once. This occurred last week as Illinois Computing Educators held its annual conference in St. Charles, Illinois, and simultaneously, the National Association of Independent Schools conference took place in nearby Chicago. For some educators, this presented a conundrum of which conference to attend, particularly because keynote presentations at each conference were great draws. Fortunately, through the use of blogs, wikis, streaming video and Twitter, people were able to get a flavor of each conference. And, records created by these tools are still available for virtual and real attendees to revisit as they try to absorb the plethora of information that came out of each event.

I think this is the future of conferences and it is to the benefit of organizations to plot their social media strategy. I personally am more likely to attend a conference in person after getting a taste online and, if people will be physically present that I've added to my personal learning network via these aforementioned tools. Social media is not be an alternative to a conference; the use of such tools helps disseminate important information and spotlights an organization. In this open source, long-tailed world, this is the way to go.

This week's Friday 5 is more like a Friday 9; take a look at some of the material that came out of the ICE and NAIS conferences. Dig around and you might find some useful links and food for thought!

1) ICE web site

2) ICE conference ning

3) ICE conference wiki

Within this great wiki maintained by Scott Weidig and Luke Allen, you can find streaming video archives of keynote sessions as well as presenter handouts.

4) ICE conference twitterstream

5) NAIS Web Site

6) NAIS bloggers
KaTrina Wentzel
Jonathan Martin
Michael Obel-Omia

7) Sarah Hanawald's liveblogging of the NAIS conference

Sarah used CoverItLive to liveblog for her colleagues back home.

8) NAIS twitterstream

9) Independent School Educators' Network

Another great online community in which educators can connect. A great deal can be learned from the private school sector and vice versa!