School counselors are challenged to encourage students into exciting opportunities that fit their skills and abilities but also to be careful not to stereotype. Today, Angela Cleveland talks about the tips, resources, and ideas to help encourage young women to go into Computer Science.
School Counselors Helping More Women Go Into Computer Science
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e246
Date: February 5, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Angela Cleveland @AngCleveland. She is the 2017 New Jersey State School Counselor of the Year.
But now, she’s working with school counselors across the United States, helping them help girls go into IT.
She’s co-founder of Reigning It (www.reigningit.com).
So, Angela, how do we help counselors advise women or young girls to take a look at IT and computer science?
Angela: First of all, thanks so much for having me on your show. I’m a big fan, so I appreciate this opportunity.
In terms of young women, school counselors and really all educators can help young women and really all of our students learn more about computer science and technology by thinking about how it intersects with every area of interest.
So it can mean just taking a look around at our world and thinking, “Hmmm, this is something interesting. How was this created? Someone had to invent this app that’s on my phone, or this way of solving a certain problem. How did that process take place?”
Really, thinking about how computer science affects every area of interest, whether it’s art or history or fashion or sports. It’s there somewhere. When we start to see that intersection as educators, we can have those conversations with our students.
Thinking about how computer science affects every area of interest
Vicki: What are some things that counselors do right, that actually work with helping girls? We’re not talking about encouraging a girl who may not be a good fit for that. But we are talking about having an open mind, right?
An open mind is really key. Sometimes we have to check our own bias about who we think is right for computer science.
In our society, there may be a certain perception that it’s maybe someone who is very quiet, who likes to work alone, and maybe a male, or maybe someone who’s very good at math or science. A lot of those, if not all of those, are really myths about who is right for computer science.
Today, people are working in groups. There’s a concept called Pair Programming, where students work together on a coding activity. Computer science is about problem-solving.
Computer science is about problem-solving
The biggest predictor of who’s going to be successful in computer science is someone who likes to solve problems. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have a strong math or science background, but that you have an inquisitive and curious mind.
So if you have a student who likes to solve puzzles, or they like doing Sudoku, that’s somebody who would be great for computer science!
All of our students have this great ability to pick up on what may be some problems in our society. Talking to student about, “How would you fix that? Especially using technology, how could you address that problem?’
So that’s really important.
For school counselors, what’s key is that school counselors have the ability to look at the demographics of a school, to look at where students are going in terms of course placement.
They can look at, “Is there a gender gap in our computer science class?”
Or, “We’re running this after-school club, and we’re noticing that all the same types of students are gravitating toward this club.”
So school counselors have this ability to look at the system as a whole and to support students.
School counselors have this ability to look at the system as a whole
One of the most effective things that school counselors can do is to encourage young women to explore a club or a computer science class with a friend. Just having someone else in there who is like them, who they feel comfortable with, is really important. We find that there’s a lot of success with just having a friend in the class with you.
Vicki: So you’ve already named one mistake, which is stereotyping.
Vicki: Don’t think that they just have to be a loner, or that sort of thing.
Are there any other common mistakes that you think end up not helping young girls the way we should?
Angela: Right. Sometimes it has to do with the environment that students are going into in terms of the classroom, the actual setting itself.
School counselors — we’ve talked to them across the country — go into a computer science class and look around. You can get a sense, just from the posters that are on the wall, “Is this an inclusive environment? Is there a fair representation of all people?”
If you’re a young woman going into a computer science class, and you look around and you see posters with Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, you start to maybe get an idea that, “Hmmm. This is a field for white males.”
It would be as simple as just having more representation in the classroom that shows women that there are people who are doing this job, and they’re in this industry, and they’re just like you. They have a background similar to yours.
Display more representation of women and people of diversity
Vicki: That’s so important, to show girls and give them models.
In my classroom, we talk of course about Augusta Ada Byron Lovelace, who was the world’s first programmer.
Angela: (laughs) Yes!
Vicki: Just realizing how many women (and people of) of diversity are really part of the computer science revolution.
So what are some of the resources that counselors can access that will help them in this area? Some counselors I know feel awkward talking about computer science because they’re not really very technical themselves.
What are some resources for counselors and other educators?
Angela: Absolutely. That’s a great question. I get asked that quite frequently.
I’m going to share with you one of my favorite resources. It’s completely free and very accessible.
It’s a magazine called “Careers With Code.” (https://careerswithcode.com)
If you go to their website in the Shownotes, you can download a magazine that they have. It’s totally free to download. You can also order some copies of it. What’s great about this magazine is they lead with this concept called CS, which stands for computer science, plus X.
And X is any area of interest.
They have really fun personality quizzes in there, and they talk about how — whatever you’re interested in — if you’re interested in pop culture and you like to keep up with the Kardashians — there is a career in computer science for you.
They really demystify what computer science is, how it affects all of these different areas of interest, how it’s changing the world.
Then, there are extension activities. You can go onto the Careers With Code YouTube channel, and you can see more interviews with the people who are featured.
It’s a really great resource, and I think especially for counselors to see that there are different pathways to computer science.
It’s not so linear (pun intended) where people start at a young age, coding in their basement.
Oftentimes with young women, they come into computer science because there’s something they’re interested in, there’s a problem they want to solve, and technology provides a pathway for them to solve that problem.
Vicki: So Angela, as we were recording this recently, you were at Georgia Tech working with about 70 counselors in this area.
What are counselors saying about the conversations they’re having with kids — particularly girls — about this topic?
What are counselors saying about this topic?
Angela: Right. When we meet with school counselors, one of the things that we share out is the data regarding Bachelor’s degrees that are being conferred in this country, and the number of jobs that are available.
This is something that really resonates with school counselors because we’re very much focused on graduating students to go into post-secondary education, the military, or the world of work, and to have sustainable careers.
When we look at the data, we have the majority of degrees being conferred in the social sciences, but there aren’t enough jobs in this country for someone who just has a degree in the social sciences.
The reverse is happening in computer science. Sometimes when we’re talking about STEM, we’re looking at science, technology, engineering, and math.
But really, the jobs that are coming up in the STEM fields are in the computing industry. There are so many jobs available, and not enough people with those backgrounds.
So when we talk to school counselors about — ultimately, as I said, our job is to graduate students to have sustainable careers and to be happy and to have rewarding careers — the way for them to do that is to think about how — whatever their area of interest is — how it’s being transformed by technology. That will prepare them to enter a major or to enter a workforce.
Vicki: Wow. Are counselors feeling overwhelmed by all of this change?
Angela: You know, I think it’s something that really resonates with what school counselors believe in.
It’s really tied to our ethical code as school counselors.
We’re kind of a very unique profession, where not only are we addressing change with individual students, supporting that individual child, but we’re also — as school counselors, part of our responsibility which many people don’t know about is looking at a system (whether it’s our educational system in our district or looking bigger picture) and making sure that we are providing optimal learning environments and equitable access to all of our students.
This is at the heart of what school counselors do.
Looking at the big picture is at the heart of what school counselors do
When they see that there’s a way for them to achieve this goal and support their students, it actually feels very accessible to them.
It takes a problem that feels very big, and it provides the pathway for them to support students with something as simple as, “Hey, here’s a computer science class. Why don’t you and a friend sign up together, and I’ll make sure you’re in this class.”
Vicki: Well, school counselors and everyone listening, the counseling job is such an important job.
There are also many times that teachers of high school kids find ourselves wearing a little bit of a counselor’s hat, maybe not quite as much, but kids will come to us.
I think that we’ve heard some very important concepts to encourage all of our students to take a look at STEM jobs and IT jobs, and to kind of have an open mind about things because we do want our students to be successful and lead successful lives.
Part of that equation is not only building relationships and living healthy lives, but also finding a career that they love — a successful career for them.
So take a look at these resources. I’m particularly interested in the “Careers With Code” magazine. I’ll be sharing that with my students.
Thank you so much, Angela!
Angela: Thank you so much for having me!
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
Angela Cleveland, M.S.Ed., M.Ed., MA [www.AngelaCleveland.com] advocates for equity and access to STEM opportunities, she consults for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)’s [ncwit.org] Counselors for Computing [ncwit.org/c4c] division, PBS’s SciGirls, [http://pbskids.org/scigirls/home] and Accepted to School. [http://pbskids.org/scigirls/home]
Angela has 15 years of experience as a professional school counselor and is a Google Certified Educator. She is an executive board member and webmaster for the New Jersey School Counselor Association (NJSCA). [njsca.org] Angela co-founded ReigningIt, [www.reigningit.com] a non-profit dedicated to creating a STEM dialogue inclusive of every woman.
Angela is a technology contributor to national publications, such as Edutopia, [https://www.edutopia.org/blog/surprising-skills-school-counselors-need-angela-cleveland] she presents on a national level about computer science and the school counseling profession, and she is an adjunct professor at Caldwell University. [www.caldwell.edu]
Angela’s advocacy has earned her recognition, most recently the “2017 NJ State School Counselor of the Year” award and was featured in Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls blog. [https://amysmartgirls.com/above-beyond-women-making-big-change-in-their-spare-time-11b5b11f7517]
In her free time, Angela enjoys writing and is the author of several therapeutic children’s books. [https://www.amazon.com/Angela-Cleveland/e/B014LG8FM8] Learn more about her: www.angelacleveland.com. [www.angelacleveland.com]
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