Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Today is Ada Lovelace Day - "an international celebration day of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)."

Who was Ada Lovelace? She was a mathematician, born in 1815, who wrote what is considered to be the world's first computer program. Though today computer science is considered by too many to be "for boys," women have been making important contributions to programming since its invention.

This has implications for early childhood education. And these implications are not just for young girls. I think we also need to talk about our teachers. We all have our own personal histories of exclusion from or inclusion in technology spaces, and the significance of these experiences is rarely discussed in early childhood education.


The majority of teachers in early childhood are women. 96.8% of preschool and kindergarten teachers are women. This is compared to a more even gender split in secondary schools, where about 59.2% of teachers are women. (http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm)

Girls in IT: The Facts outlines some of the major barriers to girls creating or adapting technology, not just accessing technology, which "allows us to understand the way girls participate in and make sense of computing and IT work" (p. 5). These barriers contribute to women's later-in-life perceptions of technology and their own places in a technological world. Though "U.S. computer science education is on the decline" (p. 10), with implications for all children, the report reviews why girls in particular are underrepresented in computer science classes. Factors include perceptions of computer science-related jobs, perceptions of computing as "masculine," confidence levels, and stereotype threat.

This is, in general, the computer science experience of 96.8% of early childhood teachers. These ways of participating with and understanding technology do not disappear when teachers enter the classroom. Lecia J. Barker and William Aspray cite a study which found that women teachers, "regardless of their computing expertise, are unlikely to be thought of as technical experts" (p. 22). They go on to explain that though many teachers do not have the knowledge to be able to effectively teach computer science, they do not receive the training they need and are more likely to give their students passive computing experiences than problem-solving experiences.
Teachers are influenced and perceived within the same kinds of sociocultural beliefs as their students... Barker & Aspray (2008), p. 22
So, yes, we must do more for girls' computer science education, from the very beginning of their educational careers. We must also do more for their teachers, the majority of whom, at least in preschool and kindergarten, are women. There is a critical need for professional development that addresses not just teachers' abilities to "use" technology but also their perceptions of themselves, their students, and the developing role of technology in our world.

What's Lovelace got to do with coding instruction? As a teacher, I think we begin with self-reflection. Who do we see when we think of a computer programmer? Let's stop saying, "I'm not a technology person." Let's model doing the hard work of learning to create through computing. Let's seek out opportunities to develop as professional educators. Let's remember where our own experiences with technology began. Let's remember where computer programming began, and with that we can build towards an equitable future for women and girls in tech.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day - Happy International Day of the Girl

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