Code Equity – Keying Girls into Coding

If you’re anxious about the future for your children, you’re not alone. No one could have predicted how Ai would change how we learn, who our friends should be, what activities we should be a part of, what we buy, who we date, and what we do for a living.

If you’re a parent, the things we explore today will help your child for a lifetime. If you’re not a parent today’s talk will give you new perspectives on why keying girls into coding is the new frontier of equity in our world of Ai.

We are humbled to share this time with Code Equity author Tara Linney. Tara is an international, award-winning educator, who has helped several schools nationally and internationally with launching and sustaining effective 1:1 programs over the course of the last decade. She holds a B.A. in Mass Communications and an M.S. in the Science of Instruction from Drexel University. She has had the privilege to speak at over 100 conferences in 10 different countries and online, impacting the work of thousands of educators all around the world. Tara’s book Code Equity: Keying Girls into Coding is the essential guide enabling equity through learning computer science. Her overall mission is to create a culture of equitable learning conditions for learners of all ages.

Today we’ll cover three topics

  1. What biases today hold girls from learning coding?
  2. What’s the reality of today’s world of coding?
  3. How does coding relate to gender equity in our world of Ai?

Biases Against Coding

Dr Ed Tse
You mentioned just at the beginning Tera that, you had 24 boys and one girl in this class, and you started to dive a little bit deeper. And that kind of led you to the creation of this book. So maybe you can tell us a little bit more about what did you discover? Like what kind of biases caused that type of shift and that change?

Tara Linney
Definitely, um, so there are a few things. So when I started to get into like, the actual book base, like research into, okay, what is the history of computer science and women? Right? There’s Grace Hopper, of course, but like, what has there been since then, and as I started to read and read and read and just take the information in, I was like, Whoa, 1984, when I was one year old, that’s when everything changed. And in 1984, you’re seeing an uptick in, let’s see movies, where the woman is the damsel in distress, you’re seeing an uptick in video games, where the woman is the damsel in distress. You know, you’ve got Wonder Woman, but nine times out of 10, you’re always seeing these males in these roles in media. And when it came to the video game aspect to like, I mean, no offense, Mario, Mario, and Luigi, but like,

Dr Ed Tse
That’s so true! You hit it right on the nail here?

Tara Linney
Great. Like I grew up with those games

Dr Ed Tse
The Role it’s built into our games, it’s built into our society and into our movies. And so it’s hard to… when you see that, that kind of forms your view of the world to be.

Tara Linney
It’s like in Mario and Mario and Luigi, from what I recall from those early years, it was like, okay, save the princess. Like, wait, what? And then like, you see Hollywood, it’s like, oh, save the girl. Or, like, it’s gotta be the hot girl and like all this, and it’s like, well, what about our brains, you know? And so, um, when I started to, like, you know, read back into just things that had happened over time that caused all of this to change, and also reflect on my experiences and growing up, you know, and not seeing role models in front of me of successful women in the field, right, or better broadcasted on a daily basis. Like when I was in high school, Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook, you know? And it’s like, oh, okay, white guy, Facebook. All right. What about these other tech companies that I use their products? Like, who’s behind them? Who, what impressions are left on what’s developed based on who’s building them? Right? Because when we talk about programs being built, the person building them leaves an imprint on what they build, right? And so if the people that are building these tools that we use are white males, then there’s going to be and a diversity issue, there’s going to be an equity issue, because empathy can only take you but so far, you need to have a team of diverse individuals that are developing these tools, right. And so but in order to create that diversity on tech teams, nowadays, our students and children need to be able to see themselves and the potential of technology in their futures. Right. And like, I mean, I feel like.

Dr Ed Tse
Important point. So who should be those role models. Tara, who would you suggest, are good role models that people we should be highlighting in schools to get girls to think that yeah, this is totally possible. These are people that I could look up to?

Tara Linney
So well, Google had this site, which was killed the other year, it happens. But it was called made with code. And it doesn’t exist anymore. But what was nice about the site is that there were two three minute long videos that were really fun and uppity. But that showed diverse women doing amazing things with computer science. And one that comes to mind right away is Danielle Feinberg. She works with Pixar films. So if you Google or, or if you like, put her name on YouTube. You’ll probably come up with the video. But what was nice about that was, okay, young girls, especially they’re watching these animated films, right? And like, you know, they’re seeing this really cool stuff going on. And maybe there’s like a little inkling in them. That’s like, I wonder how that’s made. One of the most inspiring things about Danielle Feinberg and she actually spoke at ISTE few years ago, I recall As

Dr Ed Tse
I recall hearing her talk at ISTE This is such a great talk, we need more people like her. But that was awesome that you mentioned. Like, cuz I think I was like it came to mind. I love it.

Tara Linney
Yeah, I’m trying to like remember that is see exactly, I think that I was like in a balcony that was like not in the main, like, main stage area, I was like in the balcony and like it was quiet, but they’re like the TVs and I saw her and I was like, Oh my gosh, it’s her, it’s like really hurt. Um, but the really cool thing about her is that she’s really like down to earth. And she shows how technology and computer science come together and making animation. And the cool thing about this is that when girls see that, and when they see somebody who looks like them talking about their cool job in the tech world, which is actually making animated movies, they’re like, Whoa, the connections start to form and they start to make these links. And then they start to explore. So we need to be exposing girls to more examples of girls who are doing girls and women who are doing these really cool things in tech. And one of the nice before I forget, it kind of segues into that. So Khan Academy, which is a free resource, has a whole animation curriculum for free, that if students want to learn about animation and computer science, they can teach themselves on Khan Academy. So it’s not something where like a new software has to be purchased, or you’ve got to spend or invest a lot of money. Time Yes, money, not so much.

Dr Ed Tse
So I’m gonna put Danielle Feinberg: FIENBERG in the chat. And I just wanted to like before we move on, highlight that we’ve got some some of our regulars here. I want to say hi to Alice, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it. Edna says hello, as well. She’s joining us as well. And she says it’s good to be here. So we’d appreciate appreciate you. And now. And I had a question come up from Steph: she’s saying my son’s into tech in video games, but has gone physically inactive, not really wanting to move anymore. Any suggestions of how we get them to not be so slothful in terms of the movement?

Tara Linney
So it depends on the video game. There’s a lot of really fun fitness games that are out there. You know, and they’re on commercials, but it also depends on like your gaming system. What I would say is, well, you can’t really April Fools it anymore, because April Fools is already past depends on your son’s age also maybe slowly start to swap out some of the games that are currently there, with fitness games with games that require your child to actually get up and move around because they do exist. And it really it depends on if your Wi Fi or Playstation or switch like it. It varies based on the platform, but they definitely exists on all platforms.

Dr Ed Tse
That’s a really, really great point. Like that’s a good way to get started. And there’s so many, like, even games that you can play in your mobile that are kind of get you outside and get you moving as well. So thanks for suggesting that. It’s great one.

Tara Linney
Yeah, like I play FitBit. Speaking of mobile, I play like Fitbit. They have that bingo challenge, which is like really basic, but I’m a bingo fan. And then there’s another app that’s connected with Fitbit that is called What is it called? It’s something about like a bunny race. Oh, Get Fit Bunny. And so every time I get a certain number of steps, I earn a certain number more moves to go towards solving like a candy crush type of puzzle.

Reality of Coding

Dr Ed Tse
The second area that we were going to move into was: people have biases because perhaps they don’t see the role models in this space. What is the reality? Okay, so they don’t see it. So maybe they have some assumptions about what it is. And I wrote in the promo for this, that there’s this kind of feeling that it’s this recluse right? This person who doesn’t talk to anybody, that’s the coder. But is that really the case? What is… what are coders like? Maybe you can speak from your experience of what what the world of coding is like?

Tara Linney
Definitely. So when you talk about coding and computer science, it’s not like it was back in the 1980s, where, you’ve got this dungeon or basement, and the lights are like really low. And then you’ve got somebody who’s just chipping away at the computer. It’s not like that anymore. It can be it depends on who’s doing it, right. But coding and computer science, the worlds have become a lot more collaborative in that, yes, there’s going to be time where you’re, you’re solving problems and creating algorithms on your own. But your eyes are not the only eyes that are ever going to be on that. And so, and now with more and more people of all ages, like children and adults getting into computer science, there’s like this whole community around the area, like if you, as an adult wanted to explore computer science, there’s a lot of different like meetup groups that are meeting online around it. And there’s a lot of different free resources out there to in order to learn, like the foundations of computer science, and machine learning and like how those things fit into society. So it’s exciting.

Dr Ed Tse
Okay, so I love this. Like we’re living in a collaborative world. You know, you’re suggesting to join a community? Can you give some examples of communities that might be good to join?

Tara Linney
Definitely. It depends on your role. If you’re an educator, for example, there’s a whole stigma community around computer science, and there’s one around artificial intelligence as the as the International Society for tech and education. Long acronyms. If you are just a parent, or just an adult who’s interested, there are meetup groups and meetup groups are mainly free, but it’s based on your geographical area. And I mean, meetup groups cover everything from like I was in one when I was in Paris around like writing, it was called shut up and write. And so we’d write for like three hours every Sunday and stopped for like, 10 minutes on the hour, it was fun. But there are also ones around computer science. And there’ll be like different boot camps. And it really just all depends geographically on your area as well.

Dr Ed Tse
Specifically, in the computer science field, you talk about some communities, I think in the book, for example, Technovation, maybe you can talk a little bit about what that is.

Tara Linney
Definitely. In the book I talked about and updating the book right now. But in the book, I talk about technovation challenge and technovation challenge in particular, is this competition for middle school to high school girls age girls, to create an app that solves a problem in their community. And so like, that feels like a really big ask, but what’s really great about it is that girls cannot work by themselves on this, like, there has to be at least two and teams of up to five or advisable. It’s all free. And they make an app and an Android environment to address a problem that they see in their community. So it could be like people are littering too much, or maybe people aren’t wearing masks, or there’s a bullying problem. And what’s nice is that in the curriculum for the technovation challenge, it provides step by step curriculum on what to do. So like as a facilitator, if you’re a parent wanting to facilitate a group, you don’t have to have very much like experience before going in because it’s all provided for you. And then it also teaches the girls how to build business plans and marketing plans for the app. And then if they want to, then they can submit the app into this international competition, which is it’s just amazing. If you have never heard of technovation challenge and you have girls, whether you’re an educator or a parent, definitely check it out on there’s a whole YouTube channel of like previous competitions, and it’s great

Dr Ed Tse
I love that. And reason I mentioned it was because I helped facilitate a technovation challenge at the local university here in Calgary, with Professor Mayer Wang, and you know, in their attending it, they they asked to do one session in a company where they have female developers. And they ask them like, well, what are your biggest questions for the developers? And some of them, were just saying, Look, my mom tells me that, like, coding, like you just gonna sit in the chair all day by yourself, like, just don’t do that career. Like, it’s just not good for you. And it was interesting, because the the developer at the time said, Well, no, actually, what we do every day is so collaborative. Every day we’re meeting with people, we’re connecting with customers. And I think what I like about technovation was that connection to how is this going to impact our society. And I think that this is the challenge of a lot of our tech today. When we think about the future, we only think about the future, often, maybe it’s a male perspective, from the perspective of technology, like, oh, AI is going to enable this, but we don’t think about it from the perspective of society, as a whole. The example was, that heard from my brother, the other day was the Jetsons. So the Jetsons had very futuristic technology. But they never predicted in the movie that the role of women working, for example, like the the assumption was, most women were staying at home. At the time when the Jetsons first came out. They never envisioned this is science at changing because of the technology. But I think this is the this is the key challenge of our day is that the technology and the society are together, they’re interwoven. And the challenge is not the AI technology. The challenge is, what does AI technology do? How does that change our society? And we need more women are thinking about the consequences of where this is, this is going.

Tara Linney
It’s definitely and you bringing up the consequences aspect actually made me think of something that you shared with me, which is this Netflix film called Coded Bias. And it is a must watch. very eye opening. And it looks at who who are the developers behind like these big brother, like watch companies, right? Or the developers behind the AI that can like read our minds? And why is it that some people based on the color of their skin, when they put their hand under a waterfall set, it doesn’t sense their hand, or when they hold their face up to get it scanned? It doesn’t sense their face. And so we had the belief in that documentary

Dr Ed Tse
is against the highly melanated right? Like it like it’s all those biases in our society, right? It’s the reason why I mean, Ai is… Amazon’s Ai algorithm was not hiring as many women for their warehouses, because most of the people who are already working there were men. They’re just using the existing data. And so knowing this code is kind of like knowing the law of computers and how they work. And so we had a great question from Alice. I want to bring it up if it’s possible. “Do you think that coding should be considered a subject, like English or mathematics in the K-8 curriculum?”

Tara Linney
So K-8 here’s how I would do it. And in a dream world, I would put coding and computer science as its own subject in high school. And K-8, I would integrate it mandatorily throughout subjects in every grade level, because often times, when you’re in, I can speak for like K-5, for example, in K-5, you tend to see one teacher teaching all of the subjects, maybe two teachers teaching all the subjects, depending upon where you are, I’ve worked internationally, and that has been the case there as well. But that was also only two countries. And yeah, I digress when you get into

Dr Ed Tse
I’m always interested in your history. Give us more.

Tara Linney
Well, when I worked in St. Paul, both of my both of my schools when I was abroad, they were both American schools. So I worked at the Singapore American school and I worked at the American School of parents. So they used in both stances they used. What I was about to say is Yep, that one. Okay. I was about to say a totally different thing, but they use Common Core as their standard. And when you are in a school that uses standards, okay, one of the funnest things about the book for me was that I love researching, and I love data, like, you give me a spreadsheet, and I’m like, Oh, my gosh, I could stare at this for hours. And I have, um, but in the back of the book, it maps Common Core standards, to different computer science activities. And when you look at programs like code.org, for example, in their curriculum, they have their curriculum mapped to Common Core standards. What does that say? When a curriculum is mapped? That says that the tool or the product or wherever you’re going that says that it’s mapped and linked, does not need to live on its own. And so when you look at K through five, there are small, simple little things that can happen in classrooms, where computer science starts to be infused into the curriculum, right, like, little changes in words that are being used when you’re talking about pattern recognition, in kindergarten, what’s the pattern here, link that back to a coding activity, where they’re seeing tangrams, where they’re seeing puzzles, and then the students will start to make the links. And they’ll go home and say, Oh, I just did this thing. on the computer. I did coding week, but I also did not, oh, wait a minute. And the more that they start to see those connections happening in the core subject areas, the more comfortable they get with learning how to code, and the more comfortable they get with learning about computer science, so that by the time they’re in middle school or high school, and they’re able to choose their electives, computer science now becomes an option because they’ve been exposed to it. And not just in one class, but throughout the duration of their academic career to that point.

Dr Ed Tse
Tara, I love what you’re saying. You’re blowing my mind because it connects all those different things you were referring to earlier! I First of all, I really appreciate that, because, it’s the problem with computers is it’s just that, right? It’s just a tool. And, it’s kind of like saying to people to girls, yeah, be really excited about the tool. And I think what you’re saying is that no, it’s not about the tool. It’s about how does that tool actually impact people. That’s what Technovation does, that’s what we can do. If we do more integration, and we say this is just the way that you get to your, your goal. It’s just a tool that helps you you get quicker there, then the application becomes immediately apparent and obvious. Like, this is so good. Alice is already saying like, oh, if I can add that, yes, I love that. I wonder if pre service teachers are being trained to code or to use tech in their lessons more seamlessly. That’s great. You, you you do some training, don’t you?

Tara Linney
Yes, I actually do. And yeah, so I do decent training. Um, and it varies state by state and country by country, right? It all depends on if computer science as a priority and a geographic area, then you’ll start to see one of two things. Not often will you see both, but you’ll see one of two things. One thing would be in higher ed, when teachers are becoming teachers and becoming certified. It’ll be a required course, that’s not really required in most higher ed programs. Another thing that you might see is with new teacher onboarding. So there’s actually three things. So the second thing that you might see is with new teacher onboarding, there might be like a lesson or two around, here’s what computer sciences and this is an initiative within our school. Number three is that you’ll see schools and districts and I’ve seen this in New Jersey, and I’ve seen this in some parts of Canada. And I have not actively seen this in other places. That doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. But what will happen is the school board or the district, somebody who’s a decision maker in the environment, will say, hey, computer science is a priority for the next five years. Our teachers need to learn this. And then what you’ll start to see is professional learning opportunities that are being brought in, like either that live in the district or in the school environment, or they’re brought in from the outside to get teachers to All around what computer science is, and how to teach it. Because the important thing to understand when it comes to computer science is that it’s not a didactic learning program. It’s not a didactic learning situation, it’s not a thing where, like with some standards, you have to teach how to write an essay, you have to teach proper spelling, you have to teach how to solve for x, right? with computer science, it’s more what we’re seeing in it and education is that it’s more about getting the getting the educator, comfortable with iterating on their practice, getting them comfortable with not knowing the right answer, and getting them comfortable with being a facilitator of how to learn. Because when students are learning this new thing, it shouldn’t be something where the teacher is saying, this is how you do it. The students need to figure out how to learn it. And the teacher needs to be a guide by their side as they’re doing this guiding along the way, but not going into like standing up at the front of class saying you’re doing step one, followed by step two, followed by step three. And so that’s a total shift.

Dr Ed Tse
That is a huge shift. Yeah, like, to me that that’s a key aspect, like comfort. Like people have this discomfort, then to begin with. And it is only through repeated exposure. And other people like the role models, which could even be their teacher, saying that this is normal, this, this isn’t a big deal. Like, you know, just you guys can figure this out, I know you can I figured it out, you can figure it out, too. And so really just guiding them, letting them explore, rather than dictating, like, yo, you’ve got to learn this, and then you got to learn this, it’s like, that’s the thing about everything is sometimes we need to go like, these are a bunch of things that you have to learn, like the interest is immediately gone. But it feels like you’ve got to lead with that, that interests, especially for girls like got to make that context relevant pretty fast. You want them to be engaged and to go further on it.

Tara Linney
Yeah, and speaking of like, with girls, like, another thing about it is the purpose. And so what will happen sometimes in schools and in classrooms is that when coding is brought in, especially at the elementary level, it’s like, Hey, we’re going to code this fun game.

Dr Ed Tse
Okay.

Tara Linney
Why? Who’s it for? Why are we doing this? Like, if I wanted to make a game, I would have made a game at home, but I don’t, you know. And so when it comes to girls, we need to have that purpose in there. What is the purpose of the game? What is the purpose of the digital story if we say that it’s a game to teach people how to X Y Z. That’s better than just saying, hey, build the game. And even empowering the students, boys and girls, to have them choose what X Y Z is, but that the object of the game is for the end user to learn something

Code Equity

Dr Ed Tse
How does coding relate to gender equity? We talked about the purpose. If one of the purposes, especially with code equity was to get to that level of equity, how does coding relate to it, and especially in our new world of, of AI, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this Tara.

Tara Linney
Definitely. And so when it comes to how equity relates to coding, I mean, it relates from so many different ways. It’s, there’s a gender line, there’s a cultural line, there’s a socio economic line. And so when it comes to Computer Science, and when it comes to Ai, representation matters. So when we talk about the future of technology, which I feel like is right on our doorstep right now. But when we talk about what that looks like, we need to think about who’s designing it. And if we want something that is going to be representative of like our current environments, then we’d need more gender diversity, we need more race diversity, we need more just ethnic diversity in the people that are developing those technologies. And in order to get to that diversity aspect, and in order to get to that equitable, like side of things, students of all ages and races and genders and everything need to start to be exposed to computer science at a young age, and you can start when they’re 2, 3, 4, or five, like if they can talk, if they can read a little bit, they can figure it out. They don’t need to be a fluent reader. And actually, Computer Science helps them to learn how to read, which is another part of my research. But anyhow, I digress. I’m

Dr Ed Tse
This digression I think is important. The reason I wanted to just pause there is because I’ve been looking at some of the things that have been happening, not necessarily because you have a background in Singapore. And to me it was this is interesting thing. I’m reading the like Ai superpowers book by Kai Fu Lee. and in it he talks about essentially this Ai Sputnik moment for China in 2016. When Google’s Ai was able to beat Lee Sedol one of the top seeded players at the game Go. It beat Chinese players at their game. And it was kind of this massive wake up call in China. We are getting our butts whooped by America we are getting we’re we’re in a lot of trouble here. And so government level changes in the curriculum resulted specifically related to Ai. And there was a leak. Let’s see if I can bring it up. There was a leak of a picture of the Ai textbook, which I found very interesting because it was a textbook that was to be used with kindergarten students. Right? So they have a curriculum that goes a kindergarten to like grade 12. And it’s all different levels and aspects of AI. And it’s out there like this is what they are doing now, right now. So this is okay, I’m going to switch my camera view hope this works. So this is the example. So these words at the top here, these these top four words are artificial intelligence. And then this says basically it’s for kindergarten, the early kindergarten. So there’s like two parts of kindergarten. So this is early kindergarten, and moving down from there. And so seeing this made me think like, they’re like Sputnik was huge for education, because it meant like, we were way behind, we’ve got to totally change everything that we do. We got to rewrite the curriculums, we need to make it so that, you know, we like we are going to be competitive in this marketplace. And I don’t know like maybe it wasn’t a big deal in America, but I certainly in China, in many places in Asia was a big wake up call. And as a result, like that stuff is now it’s in the curriculum, they’re changing the way that they teach like they’re they’re really want to be they have like very high objectives to to basically be leaders in this area in a very short, like a few years time like 2017 there was 48% of all all Ai venture was from China.

Tara Linney
That doesn’t surprise me. I mean, you know, as a not to get to into politics, but it’s all about what you prioritize. And so, um, when, like with this new administration, let me not get too into politics, but with the new administration when they talk about infrastructure for the future, right, and the future world of work. I’m hoping that in the very near future, that there is more conversation around what jobs of the future actually look like. Because I think one thing that we’ve learned in this pandemic, for like, the last, what 16 months or so worldwide, is that there’s been an uptick in technology use, right from health care professionals, like, you know, it’s not safe to go into the doctor’s office, so you’re on a zoom or like, whatever the forget the name of the app that they use. But anyhow, you’re like on an app, students doing remote learning, having more screen time than they ever had before, right? Tick tock, becoming an overnight success, like when I was abroad over in France, actually, I went on holiday once. Well, I went on a lot of holidays. But one time I went on holiday to Greece, and I signed up for a tour. And you know, whenever you sign up for a tour, you meet all of these, like random people that you then become like Facebook friends with and all this stuff. And the other well, Instagram, but I met this person who like actually works at Tick Tock is like a pretty high up like, Director person, right. And he’s like, the guy who does like the chicken nugget thing. And he puts the chicken nuggets and all of his tic tocs. And I’m like,Okay. But talking with him, and like spending time with him. While I was on this tour, you know, there’s the world as we know, it is changing, like future is the future as we know, it is changing. And so like, if we remember back to when we were in school, and I can’t really speak, we’re like everybody in the audience. But like, I went to high school, I graduated from high school like, Well, I was in high school in the 90s, 80s, baby. And so back then we weren’t really, in my environment, we weren’t really being prepared for specific industries, right. But depending upon where you are, maybe you were being prepared for specific industries, I feel like if we’re going to start to level out the playing field and make things more diverse and equitable, we need to make sure that all students are receiving computer science education in their K-12 lives, not just once and not having the option, but having it be something that’s a part of the curriculum, because what we’re going to see and what we’ve already started to see is an uptick in job opportunities that are in the tech industry, right. Google, for example, is opening a new data center in Raleigh, North Carolina, like who opens things in the middle of a pandemic. And so what we’re also seeing is an uptick in. What’s the word that I’m looking for? Let’s see, what’s the thing that Oh, an uptick in hackers? Right. And so, right, and so you have different types of hackers, that actually the government employees, hackers to figure out how the hackers did what they did, right? And so like, Facebook, just had a whole big data leak, like 5 million or 15 million

Dr Ed Tse
500 million leaked and they were like, “Oh, it’s no big deal.” It’s a big deal.

Tara Linney
And so at the very least, if we are empowering students to understand how their data is being used, and why ads come up that like and how they can protect their data. I think that’s the first step. The second step is teaching them how to be the people who create these systems, right? Because it’s, it’s like I’ve been talking about this whole time, if we don’t have the gender diversity in there, then you know, when there’s a random drawing going on, the white males always gonna win. Why? Because the white male created the algorithm. So so it’s important. It’s important for students to learn about these things.

Dr Ed Tse
You raise so many good points. Like, I try to stay on top of everything because really the key that I took away from from that last bit was that we need to start thinking about how do we prepare like how do we prepare them for the future because the world is already changing. We know this We’re just trying to figure out the best ways to keep them in tune. And it does feel like when it comes to equity as a whole, like it, we don’t often consider equity and coding to be like the same thing. Like, we feel like coding is this weird thing? Like, why do I need to learn this. And then equity is this other thing, like, and we don’t see how that they’re related. And I remember a quote from Meredith Whittaker, who said, concentrated power is being masked as technology innovation. So all of these things that we see as coding and tech and all these like, Oh, it’s really complicated math stuff. To me, I feel like it’s on purpose. We don’t want you to explore it, we want to like the people in power, want you to think that this is too hard, you would never like it’s very complicated. And as a result, they can maintain their their hold on to basically concentrated power, because nowadays, more and more industries are being controlled by fewer and fewer people, like Bill Gates alone, probably has more influence on world health policy in many countries. And in the same way, like, why are all these tech companies going up and buying land everywhere? Because they know that that’s where the food supply is, so they’re, they’re soon going to control your food, they’re going to control your health, that there are a few aspects. Tell me about it.

Tara Linney
Theyalready do. I mean, when you think about it, if we take kids out of it, if we just look at our lives as adults, and how we use technology, I sleep with a Fitbit on okay. It tracks my sleep, it tracks my heart rate, it tracks my steps, it tracks, other things, I can choose to turn on or turn off, right. Like I can track my food, I can track, I can track everything if I want to write in terms of like body and health stuff. And so I’ve now gotten to the point, actually, for a few years now, where first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is not you know, meditate or anything like that. It’s I checked to see what my sleep score was. Because if I only got six hours of sleep, I want to go back to sleep. I just bought noise cancelling headphones, right? I bought them because the mockingbirds outside are way too loud it to three o’clock in the morning, because it’s spring and you know, birds, um, any

Dr Ed Tse
Birds getting busy.

Tara Linney
Yeah, they’re doing something. Um, but with the noise canceling Bose headphones. That’s still technology. But what it does is it helps me go back to sleep. Right. But it’s technology that I’m relying on to do that. I have a Pixel phone. And if I say the G word, then it thinks that I’m talking to it. You know, it whenever I look at my G alerts, because I don’t want it to unlock and you know, say, hey, blah, blah, blah, the morning is this. But when I look at the news, based on what my search history was, it gives me a list of about 20 different articles that I might be interested in. And I’m like, who, on Facebook, based on photos that I liked your posts that I like, it has a whole algorithm saying, hey, you might want to see this. And it’s like, No, actually, I’ve already seen that. But you know, data surrounds us. And there’s not really a way that we can just turn it off and say Nope, because we’re always going to use something I drive a 2018 Well, I won’t give all my details away, but I drive a 2018 vehicle. And before I went abroad, my last vehicle was manufactured in 2010. And it didn’t have all like the cool gadgets and things like that. My vehicle right now is a push to start vehicle. And as soon as I get in the vehicle, it links to my phone and starts playing whatever I have on Spotify. Well, you know, like our technology is, is getting to be smarter than us in some ways, which is really scary, but really comforting, in some ways. Like it makes us have to think less. But we do need to be mindful of what we’re sharing and what’s tracking us. Like I know what’s tracking me and I’m okay with that. Right. But do our students know? And when we do Google Search And we’re searching for things like there’s like a little black book that’s being kept of everything that we’ve ever searched for right and a profile being set up about us. And so, do our students know this? Do they realize the ramifications that that holds on their futures? And if they don’t, it’s about bringing things like digital citizenship in to teach them.

Hey, this stuff matters. And it doesn’t have to be a canned lesson. If you’re if you have teenage students, or if you work with high schoolers, the latest season of The Bachelor is enough to show how somebodies what was it a Facebook or a Twitter post about them mainly dressing up and antebellum dresses as a Halloween costume like three years ago, yeah, you know what I mean? So like, when students see these real world examples, it hits closer to home, rather than doing a canned lesson on. Okay, we’re gonna learn about data privacy, no, just look at the news, and then have a discussion, and then get into why and how.

Dr Ed Tse
So I would say that the key here is that it’s it’s about like digital citizenship is more than just showing like, this is how you do privacy. This is how you do one thing, it’s about like, what are the practical real world examples. And all you did was just described, like, example, after example, after example of how this is impacting you. And it kind of doesn’t matter if you are into coding or not, you are influenced, you’re impacted by code in a big way. And so when you start to see how ubiquitous it is, did you just order something and make that McDonald’s kiosk? And you know, put this information in? Like, yeah, yeah, I did. It’s like, Okay, well, that stuff’s being tracked, too. Did you just like browse something like on the web, and you’re just like, you flip through it some things on a, like, your Instagram, it’s like, those milliseconds were all counted. Just so you know, like, you may not have explicitly hit like button does matter. Right?

Tara Linney
Did you just signup for something and say yes, to the terms and agreements, but not actually read the terms and agreements?

Dr Ed Tse
Yeah and who has the time to read them? It would take years, just read them and they get updated all the time. Like, I think it’s kind of we’re in a post consent world that is used to be the case, many years ago, like computers was just for fun. And it like, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t participate. But nowadays, you don’t say agree, you can’t get like the jobs, like at least the freelance type jobs, you can’t, you know, get employment, if you are trying to get a LinkedIn profile, like you can’t connect with your friends, like all of these things are withheld from you. Like our basically our functioning society is withheld from you if you do not agree to the terms and conditions.

Tara Linney
Yeah. This is our place. I mean…

Dr Ed Tse
I know I don’t try to not always go so dark in our chats, but I think it’s important. It kind of draws the the reason why this is so important. This is code and equity. And to me, it goes back to Well, I think what you described is, is giving practical examples. So the more that the parent can explain those practical examples, the more that that, for example, a person’s like a family. Parents daughter, for example, would be more interested in learning code, if they just explain good, yeah, you see that there’s that connection. Right? You see, like, this is how it affects all aspects of your life. And it’s interesting, you mentioned Raleigh, in North Carolina lineup. It was that right? Like rallying in North Carolina, remember, like they have some of the largest research centers there. Right. And so it’s like, wherever there’s research going on these tech companies, they want to be right there on the forefront. And when it comes to, like, we keep thinking like, oh, maybe the law is going to to save us. But the reality is, many of these tech companies are as powerful as countries, in sometimes more powerful than some countries. And what this means is that sometimes they influence the laws. By the time a law is implemented, and it’s ready to go. They’ve already figured out the next thing, like that’s why all the researchers are there. Like they’re, they’re solving the next problem. Okay, you don’t want cookies anymore. That’s fine. We’ve got a we got another meth

Tara Linney
Yeah brownies right!

Dr Ed Tse
Like or whatever. It’s like, whatever, we’ll find a way like we’ve got like the smartest people on the planet, you know, working on this stuff. And I think that that’s the, the key part is like, equity is just about it’s about like you having a city and you having a little bit of control in this world of tech. You don’t have a lot of say, and you don’t have a lot of control, especially if you, you don’t know code. And you don’t know how computers think. And or, I don’t know if I would describe this thinking, but how computers process your data, and what they do with it. If you don’t understand some of those basics, you’re always going to be subject to the algorithms. And you’ll be wondering, like, why did it not give me any recommendations? Or why didn’t I get recommended on? It could be like, maybe all they want to do is be popular on Instagram. Okay, great. What does it take? Right? Like, we think, Oh, it’s gonna because I’m going to have like better posts or I’m going to look more beautiful. It’s like, no, computers don’t really like measure beauty that way. Turns out, like certain things like brightness of the image, loudness of the video, like those are the things that it actually cares about, like not your, like your appearance, and like, we have these assumptions like, oh, it must be because like other people, like no, it has nothing to do with that. Right? We I did some experiments just like increasing the volume. On some videos, I’m like, wow, they got promoted a lot more. Because computers are very simple, right? Like they like no man. They can measure quickly. And measuring beauty is like really hard number to measure. And so they say, forget those. Let’s just focus on the easier things which is how long is the video? You know, how loud is it? How bright Is it like those are easy to calculate. So let’s do those.

References

  1. Code Equity available on Amazon
  2. FitBit available on Amazon
  3. TL Specialists is Tara’s Consultancy http://tlspecialists.com/

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