Talking Web Literacy Map & getting schools/educators on board with Mozilla’s Doug Belshaw.
Kim Wilkens (a.k.a. TechKim) is the founder of Tech Girls, a non-profit dedicated to getting more girls interested in Computer Science and technology. Kim is based in Charlottesville, Virginia in the US and has a background in both the Computer Science industry and teaching. She shared her views on Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map as someone who is using it on a regular basis.
Kim has contributed to the Web Literacy Map in terms of thought leadership on community calls, but also in terms of resources that have been featured on Webmaker. She currently uses the Web Literacy Map to discover resources to use in workshops and classes, but wasn’t aware of the WebLitMapper.
At the moment, Kim believes the Web Literacy Map does a good job covering “pretty much everything” that people need to understand/comprehend about web literacy. The recent addition of ‘textbook’ like pages for each competency has been useful, she feels. Kim also mentioned that one of the reasons she uses the Web Literacy Map (and associated resources) so much is because she feels invested in the community and respected as a contributor.
However, Kim feels that we could make the Web Literacy Map more accessible to ‘non-techies’ by providing a better way to collapse, expand and search. One space to pull in all the resources needed to teach any of the skills and competencies from the Web Literacy Map would be useful, she mentioned.
Kim doesn’t feel that there’s anything missing from the Web Literacy Map, but it does need to be accessible to different audiences - especially schools and educators. Web Literacy isn’t embedded in schools, so we need to make it more useable in that context. Kim suggested different versions of the Web Literacy Map for different age groups or ‘comfort levels’.
Maker Party is something Kim sees as a great example of introducing web literacy in an appropriate way. However, jumping from Maker Party to webmaker.org in general is “a lot”, she says. Instead, we should scaffold people’s learning by showing them what’s possible in an hour / a day / in a six-week block.
At the moment, although we call it a Web Literacy ‘Map’, Kim feels we could go further with the metaphor. We could show next steps and different routes - or even have multiple maps with different representations. Another issue that came up was Open Badges. Kim found it clearer when, a couple of years ago, it was possible to unlock ‘automatic’ badges in Thimble. Although there are ways to earn badges now, it’s not clear. Putting badges on the competency pages would help with this.
In terms of organisations she’d like to see adopt the Web Literacy Map, Kim focused on schools. We need, however, to show ways in which the Web Literacy Map fits with curricula. By this, Kim says, she means that existing subjects “aren’t going to move out of the way for this”, so we need to make links between school subjects and web literacy skills/competencies. To effect change we should approach the problem on multiple levels - grassroots, state and national. We should have a forum to report back successes and failures.
When it comes to other organisations that could help get the Web Literacy Map into schools, Kim suggested:
- CSEdWeek / code.org
Are all-female spaces needed in tech?
This conversation was sparked by the FastCompany article: Why Silicon Valley Needs the Coder Grrrls of Double Union, The Feminist Hacker Space.
What do we think of this approach to women in tech? Pam Moran, Superintendent Albemarle County Public Schools
I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the lack of women in tech, but I definitely find the Double Union hacker space appealing. Now that I’ve been reaching out to local women in tech and we’ve had a couple of meetups, there is definitely something refreshing and uplifting about having this time and space together. Besides the networking opportunities of the monthly meetups, many women have shared about the frustration of being the only woman on a team or in a room and they seem to be seeking a sense of belonging. The next priority for this group of women is learning more and so we’re also looking at setting up workshop opportunities. While I don’t see Cville having a feminist maker space, I think we will be seeing more female-focused tech events and workshops.
I know there are also some women in Cville who don’t think this female-focus is needed - that it feels like we are seeking special attention. There are male allies who want to help address the lack of diversity in tech, but don’t know where to start. I have been discouraged to be in conversation with several men who say that the gender gap in tech issue has become so toxic, especially online, that they don’t even want to weigh in. I think all this highlights the cultural and entrenched roots of this problem.
Finally, I am myself one of the statistics - “56% of technical women leave at the mid-level point, more than double the quit rate for men”. I was on the fast track at IBM, primed for middle-management and beyond and I left. I thought I was paving the way for more women after me to be treated as equals, but instead I found I was just playing by the rules of corporate America and they no longer seemed adequate for my life. So some of my hopes are with women behind grassroots organizations like Double Union to create new ways for us to work and relate and make meaningful change in the world. - Kim Wilkens, Tech-Girls founder
I definitely agree that we need to concentrate on changing the system - and not on changing women. Kim, I also agree that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’. And I believe, we have to have men actively involved - it won’t work if it’s ‘us’ and ‘them’. Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have spaces that are exclusively designed to support women. I don’t think there’s a contradiction there. This is about changing a complex system which is no trivial challenge. - Mary Loftus, IT head (Stiefel/GSK)
I’m with Kim - I think this is a piece of the puzzle and an important space for those that may feel uncomfortable in other spaces. There is so much energy and buzz when we all get together (as evidenced in a Ruby Girls event Catherine and I attended here in Galway a few weeks ago) that gendered spaces should be a part of the landscape. (Just as there are Men’s Sheds?) - Leigh Graves Wolf, PhD, Assistant Professor and Program Co-Director MAET Michigan State University
Thank you for this, Leigh and Kim. It’s good to explore these hard questions. I agree with you both - yes to feminist spaces, yes to mens’ sheds, yes to CoderDojoGirls, yes to girls doing everything they have a mind to do. Yes, to creating places and networks where girls and women feel safe and accepted enough to figure out exactly who they are. Yes, to spaces where girls and women feel honoured and accepted for whoever turns out to be.
The problem I still have going round in my head is that the ‘establishment’ tends to see these initiatives as a zero-sum game: you gain, we lose. Like you describe, Kim, men don’t want to engage because they see feminism as anti-men… toxic. They feel threatened. So, how do we get over that?
And maybe the answer lies in the clip Catherine posted of Mary Robinson at the weekend - in the space between us. Ubuntu. ‘I am because you are’. Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine - ‘It is within each others shadow that we flourish.’ We make each other. I watched this tonight and took away much inspiration and maybe even some misneach (courage). Kim, I very much identify with your story and how our work has to line up with the rest of us. I’m still looking for that alignment and I hope maybe helping others look for it too - but it’s not an easy challenge in any of our worlds. - Mary Loftus, IT head (Stiefel/GSK)
I am reminded that different generations of women have different contexts for what it means to be female in the work world, home and community. It shouldn’t be an us against them paradigm but many women even young ones can find themselves closed out of the lodge, not realizing it’s happened until time has passed. How do we carve out spaces for women to feel safe In their work to grow and learn? And yet not dichotomize males and females. - Pam Moran, Superintendent Albemarle County Public Schools
Kim, many thanks for starting this conversation — and Pam, Leigh and Mary, for your thoughts. The need for women-only or women-centred tech spaces is such a conundrum. I have embraced such initiatives and spaces, but would not have done so when I was a new, young engineer. This has emerged in research too — young women in STEM (e.g. undergrads, new grads) may find themselves fighting for acceptance in a challenging field. Many don’t see and can’t name the forces acting against them and would resist being “called out” as women, as separate, as other, when they are working so hard to fit in and to succeed in their chosen field. Of course, “separate” is often “unequal” too, so many women resist the women-only or girls-only focus because of this — just think of all the PINK! initiatives of recent years. So the wish for some women to avoid the women-only label is understandable. Last night I RT’d an interesting NYT article which also describes this well: Some Universities Crack Code in Drawing Women to Computer Science.
However, for those women who have reached that point, women-only spaces can be life-saving (as we have discovered!). And for those of us who work with girls — in schools, in Coder Dojo, etc. — I’ve seen feminist women, and men, do beautiful work in encouraging girls and giving them space to speak and to create, when those girls might otherwise have hung back. So I see that a feminist standpoint, and women-only spaces, can make a difference — even for the girls and women who are not in those spaces themselves, and hopefully for the STEM field overall.
Changing culture is tough business. I look for inspiration and example to other movements for social justice — the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the gay rights movement. In all of these cases, it was a rich and varied mix of initiatives, campaigns (and certainly personalities!) which contributed to changing culture. I think that we can co-exist and support one another, as you point out beautifully, Pam — women-only spaces for women who wish to avail of them, women working in mainstream STEM who don’t want those initiatives, men who see the issues and act in support of women — and more than that, change the future together. - Catherine Cronin, IT lecturer & academic coordinator at NUI Galway
What do you think? Are female-only spaces needed in tech?
So many great gems in this talk by Seth Godin at the 2012 World Maker Faire
"if it might not work, then you are doing some making… you are doing something important because it’s risky"
"if you are not willing to fail, then you cannot possibly innovate"
an insurgent at work = “maybe you are going to break something”
"everybody who has a connection to the internet has something unbelievable in their hand, the ability to connect people who want to be connected"
"the connection economy is the biggest thing to happen since the industrial revolution"
"that voice in the back of your head that says ‘don’t do this, this might not work’ … when you hear that voice it is lesson to you that you are on the right path"
Tech-Girls — based in Charlottesville, VA and created by Webmaker mentor Kim Wilkens, aka TechKim, Tech-Girls is about engaging girls in computing through sparking interest, building confidence, and nurturing community. Kim has created tons of resources for other educators and mentors to share these skills.
Need a change of perspective? I suggest viewing earth from space.
When I first heard about the missing Nigerian girls from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School, I didn’t give it much attention. At Gangly Sister we emphasize the positive. We do that as a matter of philosophy, and of fear, to be perfectly honest. Our philosophy is to emphasize what is good and right. We believe that the more we shine light on positive things, the more they show up in the world. Our fear is that if we say something against how women are treated, we may be perceived as aggressive and lose some support from the people in power.
I’m so glad Rebecca at Gangly Sister brought this up. I also want to shine a light on the positive. One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Merton - “As if the sorrows and stupidities of the world could overwhelm me now that I realize what we all are. I wish everyone could realize this, but there is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun.” That being said, I don’t want girls to be blind-sided by some of the darker realities and when we shine a light, those show up too. My approach so far has been to acknowledge the problems and then point to actions that can be taken and organizations/people to support that make the space for women and girls safer, more respectful and filled with joy.
Keep on keeping on!
Do you dream of a better world? Discover how you can make a positive impact on the future through technology!
Hey #womenintech who want to see more #girlsintech - please consider voting for this idea!
Arise then…women of this day!
"A Mother’s Day Proclamation" by Julia Ward Howe (1870):
Arise then…women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe our dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace… Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
It’s time to remember what Mother’s Day was and continues to be about - a call to action. Arise then… women of this day!
Women make up less than 20 percent of those serving in Congress, but more than half the population. There are many reasons for this, but one simple answer comes back again and again. It’s about recruiting.
Even then, researchers say men are still much more likely to get asked to run.
This is also a great strategy for getting more #womenintech!