I admit that I am an advocate for educational change. I will never be rich except in experiences. My advocacy and direct discussion make many enemies for me. For ten years I have been working with HPC, ie. learning about Supercomputing. I have been working to learn. It has been a pleasure. Recently, I ran into a snag...or got run over. You decide.
Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing that describes race, gender and computing and that talks about many being stuck in the shallow end of computing, I have always aspired to create change, understanding, and knowledge about new technologies beyond the current discussion of participatory culture. 2.0 , 3.0 applications are interesting but I am thinking toward Supercomputing and how we poise the next generation for its use. Think Petascale not Second life.
Jane says, "midst the tumult of changes created by technology and its influence on our culture and the way we live our personal and professional lives, women and girls have fallen out of the loop. Girls and women are surfing the web in equal proportion to men and make up a majority of Internet consumers; yet, few girls and women are learning how to invent, create, and design computer technology. In the nation’s research departments of computer science, fewer than 20% of the graduates are female. Look around your computer science programming classes, fewer girls are enrolled in high school programming or advanced computer science classes. Despite the relative youth of the computer industry, much of which has developed since the rise of the women’s movement, women have lost ground in the world of computing. The gender distinction found in a 1970’s elementary textbook, "boys make things and girls use things that boys make," is uncomfortably true thirty years later.
The conversations among computer scientists can no longer be isolated to all-boys clubhouses; women’s voices and perspectives must be part of this conversation.
Why should it matter if the inventors, designers, and creators of computer technology are mostly male? At the most basic and individual level, girls and women who have the necessary talent and inclination, but do not become engaged in the technology, are missing the educational and economic opportunities that are falling into the laps of computer-savvy young men. Computing salaries are high, jobs plentiful, and entrepreneurship opportunities unbounded. Furthermore, a command of information technology is a valuable asset in many contexts outside of the field itself. Where in the "new economy" are advanced computer skills not valued? Where in education are advanced computer skills not an asset? This applies to the arts, social sciences, as well as the hard sciences.
The greatest impact of women’s absence may be on the health of computing as a discipline and its influence on society. A product design group that is not representative of its users can go wrong. For instance, it was a predominantly male group of engineers who tailored the first generation of automotive airbags to adult male bodies, resulting in mortal danger to women and children. It was a mostly male group of engineers who designed artificial heart valves sized to the male heart. In an example from computer science, some early voice recognition systems were calibrated to typical male voices. As a result, women’s voices were literally unheard. Similarly, some early video conferencing systems, in which the camera automatically focused on the speaker, ignored the participation of women. If women could not be heard, they could not be seen.
We found that very early on computing is claimed as male territory.
Along with technology’s power comes the responsibility to determine what computing is used for and how it is used. These concerns may not be on the minds of young male adolescents who get turned on to computing at a very early age and go on to become the world’s tech-Gods. But, these concerns must be part of a computer scientists’ line of work. The conversations among computer scientists can no longer be isolated to all-boys clubhouses; women’s voices and perspectives must be part of this conversation. For this to happen, women must know more than how to use technology; they must know how to design and create it.
Thinking as a Minority
As a minority, I feel that we were not stuck in the shallow end, but over the fence looking in at the pool, without permission to swim, or to learn to swim. I felt that we were excluded from the learning that creates the new technologies. We know that urban areas are the least developed and that there is no parity for excellence in the schools. I work in digital equity communities of thought. ISTE, SITE , lots of other groups.
I have always advocated for education, change and involvement of minorities and women by broadening participation. I think that teachers touch the future, so I put the burden on K-12, as well as communities. My grandmother's generation was lucky to be able to go to college, and as minorities many of us went to MSI, minority serving institutions, which were not always the best colleges and universities but served the purpose of making us think we had an equal opportunity to learn, and the same benefits as others. There was not a level playing field, when the schools were "separate but equal" and they were certainly not equal, but this is a new day and we are trying to create educational and digital equity. We were able to become professionals.
Furthermore, we know that the problems in the US are of a pipeline to the workforce. We need all of the talent we can get. Don't we? "In hearings and reports, we have repeatedly heard that innovation is key to maintaining a high standard of living for all Americans, and that we need more teachers and more graduates in the STEM fields if we want our country to continue to lead in the global economy," said Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill. "Reform of our STEM education system will require coordination on multiple fronts and across many diverse stakeholders."
Donald Wink, the University of Illinois at Chicago's director of undergraduate studies in chemistry and director of graduate studies with the Learning Sciences Research Institute, said K-12 school systems and universities are part of a cycle.
"Students educated in K-12...move on for more specific training in higher education," he said. "The colleges and universities have the opportunity to educate these students further, in specific disciplines, so those students are able to participate in health science careers. In addition, colleges and universities affect K-12 education by producing teachers....Further, colleges and universities work with existing teachers, both to provide deeper training in current topics in...STEM education and to receive from those teachers a better understanding of the actual issues that matter in K-12 STEM classrooms."
Schools must implement rigorous and open learning programs to make STEM teaching effective, Wink said, in addition to having the technology appropriate for teaching what is current and relevant in these fields. And teachers should have thorough training as well, because lack of content knowledge or lack of experience with STEM can limit a teacher's ability to fully educate students. Though the STEM initiative probably does not embrace supercomputing , I think it puts students on the pathway to computational thinking and learning and gives them the right to choose that area of knowledge equipped with the rigor needed.
I was surprised by this letter from an EOT person , who thinks I am misguided. So I am curious as to what you think. I admit that coming from a state where Brown vs the Board of Education shut down the schools , and from a culture told to learn to farm and keep house, even though there is a minority in the White House, I think education is the tool that got him there. I think power to the people is the quest for education and not just a rudimentary , shallow education. What do you think? Like Seymour Papert, I believe in hard fun. Rigor, but also in new ways to think about education.
The letter to me.
"I applaud your efforts to help improve the computational literacy of the
nation, and I agree that working with the teachers in the classrooms is
one of the most effective ways to do that.
But one nagging question I have is - why supercomputing? What is it
about *this* aspect of computing that hold more potential for generating
the positive impact needed?
Most of the successful K-12 and equity programs I've seen are coming
from other areas of computer science - robotics, gaming, human-computer
interactions, etc. Of all of the subdisciplines in computer science,
supercomputing and computational science are probably the hardest to
make meaningful as commodity technology.
It is only in the past 5 years or so that undergraduates have begun to
be exposed to parallel and high-performance computing. Graduate students
are still struggling with the technology and its applications, and I
expect it will be at least another ten years before current
practitioners are comfortable enough to be able to teach the concepts
effectively within our community.
Given the challenges of effecting change in K-12 programs, I'm not sure
that supercomputing and HPC are the right piece of the discipline to
bring to that community. I know you have contacts at NCWIT, CSTA, and
other communities. Can they help you find more effective communities to
The most effective community I worked with was the NIIAC. We worked with the President of the United States to create a vision of how technology should be used in the US. I was the K-12 representative on the Council.I had the only project that the council disseminated, which was Kickstart. ( for education)I was appointed to the Commission by the President of the US, and served with Vice President Gore.
What do you think about this letter to me? She further said in another letter to me that she hates to see me spinning my wheels in a place where i am not welcome? What does her exchange of information mean to you as a taxpayer, or as an educator? As a woman, as a teacher?
This is from an EOT person at a Supercomputing facility. Am I stuck in the shallow end or have I been run over!!
I listened to Norm Augustine, and the Council on Competitiveness. They seem to think schools need to change .
I have attended 18 meetings on Capitol Hill that speak to the needs of change in education and specifically to K-12. What say you?
Bonnie Bracey Sutton
230 G Street SW
Washington, DC 20024