Work and Life

How taking a break led to a mission

Since I took a sabbatical, I’m a mom on a mission. I worked in computing and digital content for 25 years. My job always involved in one way or another training people, understand their needs, designing applications, prototyping and disrupting how people work, promote their business, shop or get informed. I now want to put my skills and knowledge to use for the benefits of children instead of businesses.

Like many women in tech and STEM-related job, I’m deeply concerned by the fact that not only girls don’t consider these career choices but that many women left these industries to launch another venture or to work in other industries.

This latest study by Accenture and Girls Who Code quantified the decline of women in computing and how it impacts the US economy. We need to do something to close the gender gap in computing and in STEM careers.

I believe that as a mom I can do something to make sure that my son and the kids of his generation don’t grow up with the same bias. But contrary to the conclusion of the Accenture/Girl Who Code study, I believe that we need to start at kindergarten. Waiting until high school is too late!

At the same time, my interest in elementary education grew even more when I sought an innovative school for my son. Despite all my efforts, I couldn’t find a progressive primary school with a strong STEM education mission near us. My search raised many questions. Why our schools still use a traditional education approach? Preschoolers often use technology at home. Why do they have to wait 5 or 7 years before they use technology at school? Why promising pilot projects are not implemented at large? How do the most innovative schools in Canada, the United States and around the world educate kids differently? What can I do as a parent to complement what my son learned in school? What can I do to promote the maker education movement to other parents, policymakers, educators, kids?

One night as I discussed my latest findings with my husband, he told me that I should document my findings and made them available to other parents, to parents who want a school that will truly prepare their children for the 21st century. My findings would be useful to them. It would save other parents time and inform them. More importantly, it would help advance a cause dear to me: reinventing the school. My first reflex was to do a research on the state of innovative primary schools across Canada and the United States. I might produce this research but I also want to take actions now. I want to do something that will bring tangible results to kids.

This is why I put my energy into informal education. In the short term, informal education provides the best opportunity for bringing 21st century learning to school-age kids. The steps that I took so far are volunteering at non-profit organizations, like Kids Code Jeunesse, and developing hands-on activities for kids aged 5 to 8 where they learn coding, computational thinking, design thinking, digital storytelling, problem solving and creativity. These steps advance the cause by testing/refining new teaching methods and by demonstrating to parents, policymakers, decision makers and educators the benefits of learning these skills from kindergarten. There is more to come.

+ photo credits: Rasmus Lerdorf on Flickr