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 From Suzanne Fogarty, Head of School

March, 2015

Dear Friends,

There is more than enough evidence that women are underrepresented in the technology industries and that the percentage of young women pursuing degrees in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art/architecture, and mathematics) disciplines is significantly behind that of young men.

All of these disciplines require some knowledge of and facility with computational thinking. According to the Center for Computational Thinking at Carnegie Mellon, computational thinking “is a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science. To flourish in today's world, computational thinking has to be a fundamental part of the way people think and understand the world.”

Not all Lincoln students will pursue degrees in computer science, nor should they. Our students are passionate about writing, debate, robotics, art, the environment, and more. But what all Lincoln students have in common is the desire to make a difference! You can see it in the workshops they facilitate on Morgan Stone Day, the topics they debate in Model UN, the apps they design in our Middle School Girls Who Code Club and the reflections they share with each other during our weekly silent meetings.

The STEAM disciplines are critical to solving many of the world’s problems. And yet, too often girls and young women self-select out of the STEAM disciplines because they don’t think of themselves as “math/science” people. This is where our work is!

Tasneem Raja, the author of "Is Coding the New Literacy" dispels the myth about coding as a club for the few. She brings this skill into the spotlight, as a tool that can facilitate innovations and solutions to real world problems.

She writes, “What if learning to code weren't actually the most important thing? It turns out that rather than increasing the number of kids who can crank out thousands of lines of JavaScript, we first need to boost the number who understand what code can do.” She goes on to talk about how “it isn’t the software they write, but how they think” that matters most. To be “code literate” she argues, is to know enough about how software works to creatively apply this literacy to solving problems. In other words, computational thinking.

I could not agree more. Take me as an example. I majored in English and French in college, got my masters in elementary education and continued to take graduate classes at the Gallatin School at NYU where I studied the intersection between memoir and self-portrait. Learning how to code could not have been further from my mind!

But after reading Raja’s article and the many conversations I have had with colleagues and with my husband (who is a software engineer), I have finally internalized that coding is not a mysterious language. It is not a discipline for the few. It is everywhere – in the apps on our phones, in the social media we use, in the cars we drive.

If I am going to participate in the mission of closing the gender gap in the STEAM disciplines, and computer science in particular, I have to have a sense of what it is, the resilience it requires, and the creativity that emerges through all the trial and error.

Which is why I buckled down this winter to take coding classes through Kahn Academy. I learned some fundamentals and vocabulary for coding and then extended my experience to learning about variables and functions. My goal is to take one class every weekend for the next year.

And just think if I started coding when I was in elementary school – all the practice I would have had! Tasneem Raja points out the keen importance of starting early: "Similarly, exposing today's third-graders to a dose of code may mean that at 30 they retain enough to ask the right questions of a programmer, working in a language they've never seen on a project they could never have imagined."

Through our Middle and Upper School Girls Who Code Clubs, partnership with Brown’s School of Engineering and the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, partnership with RISD’s School of Architecture, and hiring of a full-time computer science teacher, Lincoln School is working towards closing the gap between women and men in STEAM disciplines. We all have the ability to think computationally. We all have the skills to code. We just need to create room to learn and practice this new literacy!

Stay tuned as our programs continue to gain breadth and depth, and our students reap the benefits of and show growth in STEAM fields.

Best,

Suzanne Fogarty, Head of School

 

Recommended Reads

Suzanne's Blog

How Google Works by Google Executive Chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt and former SVP of Products Jonathan Rosenberg.

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

NPR: All Tech Considered: How One College is Closing the Computer Gender Gap. by Wendy Kaufman. This is part of a series: The Changing Lives of Women.

Are Women Better Decision Makers?
When stressed, men are more prone to taking risky bets with little payoff. New York Times article by Therese Huston is a cognitive psychologist at Seattle University who is working on a book about women and decision making.

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens
Getting a good grade doesn’t mean you retained the information. In his book, Benedict Carey offers better ways than cramming for you to hold on to knowledge.

What ISIS Could Teach the West
New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristoff:
There’s a lesson we can learn from the Islamic State and others we are fighting: the importance of education and women’s empowerment. 

Learning to Love Criticism
New York Times Op-Ed, Sunday, September 28 by Tara Mohr, the author of the forthcoming book “Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message.”

New Research Proves Gender Bias Extradordinarily Prevalent in STEM Careers - Columbia Business School experiments show that hiring managers chose men twice as often for careers in science, technology, engineering and math

The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know
by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

The Confidence Gap
Atlantic Monthly Article by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Women Don't Wait in Line: Beak the Mold, Lead the Way
by Reshma Saujani

Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection
Debora Spar

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