5 Easy Steps to Retaining Women to Trades, Science and Technology Classrooms

Step One: Bridge the Technology Divide

The reality is that overall women tend to have less experience with technology than their male counterparts, whether we are talking about computer technology or auto technology. Instructors who are successful in retaining female students recognize that they need to start with the basics during the beginning of the semester so that the less experienced students get the basic building blocks needed to be successful (this is helpful to male students missing those basics too). So that might mean an introduction to tool identification and use or the basics of navigating the Internet. Instructors should also provide open lab time for students in need of additional hands-on experience. If possible, staff the lab with a senior female student, women are often more comfortable asking questions of other women in a male-dominated field. For some best practice case study examples that illustrate these concepts look at the Cisco Gender Initiative’s Best Practice Case Studies developed by the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science (IWITTS) (1).

Step Two: Collaborative Learning in the Technology Classroom

Many female students lack confidence in the classroom and this negatively impacts their learning ability. There are several reasons for this: first, overall, male students have more experience with technology, especially hands-on labs; second, male students tend to boast of their accomplishments while females tend to think that they are doing poorly even when they are doing well; third, male students tend to dominate in classroom discussions and lab activities.

Technology instructors can overcome these factors by using collaborative group methods in the classroom designed to increase student learning, interaction and support of each other. Some examples of these group methods are: 1) grade students in teams as well as individually; 2) put female students in positions of leadership in the classroom; 3) assign students to teams or pairs rather than leaving it up to them to pick their partners; 4) have female students work together in labs during the beginning of the semester; 5) enlist the help of whiz kids with the teaching of their fellow students, providing them with a constructive outlet for their talents.

Step Three: Contextual Learning

The recent adage that women are from Mars and men are from Venus is alive and well in the technology classroom — women and men have different learning styles when it comes to technology. Most men are excited by the technology itself — how fast it is, the number of gigabytes, the size of the engine. Most women are engaged by how the technology will be used — how quickly the network will run, how much information can be stored, how far the vehicle can go without refueling. These Mars and Venus differences have implications for the class curriculum: female students will better understand technical concepts in the classroom when they understand the context for them. Don’t front load your computer programming classes with writing computer code with no context for this if you want to retain most of your female students. For more information on this subject including off-the-shelf curriculums for teaching contextual technology read IWITTS’s Making Math and Technology Courses User Friendly to Women and Minorities: An Annotated Bibliography (2).

Step Four: The Math Factor

Most technology courses require an understanding of applied math. Many women and girls are fearful of math and have had negative experiences in the math classroom. This phenomenon is so common that courses and curriculum on math anxiety for women are in place around the country. The key to success in teaching most females math is — like technology — contextual and group learning. Fortunately many off-the-shelf curriculums exist for teaching math contextually, see IWITTS’s bibliography linked above. Many technology courses at the two-year college level have math prerequisites that are unrelated to the technology coursework and omit the applied math that will be needed. Technology courses should only require math that is relevant to their courses and/or develop contextual math modules to add to their curriculum.

Step Five: Connect the Women in Your Classes with Other Women

A female mentor or peer support network can help your students stay the course when they are feeling discouraged and can provide helpful tips for succeeding in a predominantly male environment. There are many on-line and real-time associations for women in technology, connect your female students to them. See the Career Links on WomenTechWorld.org for a list of some of these networks. Also, WomenTechTalk on WomenTechWorld.org — a free listserv for women in technology and students — provides a combination of support and expert career panels to it’s over 200 members from across the U.S.

2008 Trends in Robotic Underwater Technology

It looks like the Russians and the Americans are breaking new records under our seas as they go deeper and discover more and more unique things. While NASA studies other planets, asteroids meteors, suns and moons, we have yet to discover or document over 1/2 of the surface of our planet, which lies under our giant oceans.

So what have we found? Several new species for one thing and we have erased previous thought to be known facts about underwater volcanoes. It appears much of those old research papers must now be re-written with new theories attached.

We have discovered enormous formations underwater that we did not believe possible made of known elements of our periodic tables and compounds that defy our current knowledge.

Robotic Unmanned Underwater Vehicles have made great advances this year both in the private sector and the public sector, as well as the military. The private sector uses these subs for exploration, research and underwater infrastructures like cables.

University robotics, science and engineering departments are working on all sorts of ROVs, UUVs, and mini-submarines for nearly any type of use such as:

  • Environmental Remediation and Monitoring
  • Oceanography Research
  • Underwater Mapping
  • Underwater Geology
  • Port Security
  • Oil and Natural Resource Exploration
  • Net-Centric Warfare Exploits
  • Sea Life Study

In fact, just about anything you can think of having to do with such underwater robotic technology has made strides in 2008 and many who study this area of science and technology, as well as many futurists believe this is the tip of the iceberg and we will continue to see new innovations each and every year. Manned submarines have also broken records this year.

Science And Civilization

Science has made tremendous advancement in different sphere of life. It has completely changed the face of the earth. If the dead souls could rise from their graves and the see the marvels of our time they would be simply bewildered and amaze. The goddess of science has blessed us with one hand but its demerits are no less significant.

New scientific inventions have revolutionised human life. The whole society has undergone manifold changes. Time and space have been conquered and long distances have been narrowed down. Explorations in space have opened new vistas for the study of man. Many new medicines have come to our rescue. It is now possible to prevent many infectious diseases. The longevity of life has increased. Science also provides entertainment to millions of people. In agriculture, the use of fertilizer, manure and latest methods of farming are sure to increase our foodstuff, ten times more. So also industry has also made gigantic strides with the help of latest machines, now in operation everywhere. The forces of nature have become our slaves. The discovery of stem-power and electricity has worked wonders happiness and comforts. With the help of science, a new civilization has emerged. In our houses, offices and market places, we see the wonders of science.

But there is nothing like unmixed good in the world. Human life itself, as Shakespeare says is but “a mingled yarn ___ good and ill together” The ugly yarn which science has woven in the garments of human personality are not negligible. Machines have snatched away from us the calm of min and peacefulness of our environment. We are surrounded by a perpetual din and dazzle, noise and unrest. We are badly caught in the entangling apparatus of money and machinery.

Science has, no doubt, provided us with an enormous stock of knowledge but it has failed to guide us as how to put it to the best use. The moral developments of man has been totally neglected. As a result of this, we have more knowledge will certainly make our lives very miserable.

In the use of scientific knowledge a balance should be maintained. The side of character and self-control should never be neglected otherwise the whole civilization will be destroyed.