On 22 May 2021, EU Code Week ambassadors for Switzerland and RightsTech Women board members Ellen Walker (@LN_Walker) and Brice Copy (@bricetweets) gave a workshop to teachers around the world to introduce them to a free activity of RightsTech Women that they can use in their classrooms. The activity, ‘Women in Science! Let’s Learn Python Programming’ is a free, open-source activity for teachers and coding instructors to use to introduce their students to data science, Python programming, and female role models in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
The activity, written by Ellen Walker in a Jupyter notebook, is available to teachers including by using PYODIDE (@pyodide), which allows users access to Python with the scientific stack using only their web browser. This means that teachers can do this activity with their students to teach them about Python, and about famous women in science, with no additional installation needed. The activity was piloted in separate activities with teachers and with girls in English and French during EU Code Week 2020, with support from the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva (@EU_UNGeneva). Teachers interested in using the ‘Women in Science! Let’s learn Python programming’ activity in their school can write to pythonwomen (at) rightstech.org for more information.
“It was fantastic to reach out and network with teachers from so many countries and exchange on diversity and equality issues with them”, said Brice Copy, who co-led the workshop, calling Code Week’s Teach Day a “great event”.
This inaugural EU Code Week Teach Day was a fully virtual experience using the Spatial.Chat platform (@SpatialChatTeam). During the day, there were keynote speakers, panels, workshops, exhibition booths and networking opportunities for participants, who were teachers joining from all around the world. The event took place in English.
The event was moderated by Annika Ostergren Pofantis (@AnnikaOP), of the EU Commission (DG Connect) and @CodeWeekEU coordinator. The day included opening remarks from Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market (@ThierryBreton), who emphasized the importance of digital skills for the European economy. In his keynote speech on Technology and creativity – social aspects of knowledge sharing, Massimo Banzi, Co-founder of Arduino (@mbanzi), shared his experience in innovating and teaching and the importance of open-source. He described his own learning journey, noting how helpful it had been for him to start experimenting with electronics as a young person and how he still believes today that the best way for students to learn is through projects, which try to solve a problem that interests them.
During a plenary panel discussion on Innovation in Education, participants heard from
- Joe Sheik, Principal, Thames Valley District School Board (@Joe_Sheik)
- Karen Triquet, PhD Researcher, Education & Behavioural Scientist and BILD Core Member at EDWE, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (@k_triquet)
- Lidija Krali, Senior Analyst @ Knowledge Team at European Schoolnet (@LidijaKralj), and
- Robert Ford, Director, British Council Int. School of Moldova (@HIS_Moldova).
These innovating educators talked about the benefits and challenges that teachers can reach in bringing innovation to their education system, with Ms. Krali noting that innovators often feel like an ‘odd duck’ when they bring new ideas and approaches and challenge established ways of doing things. Changing the mindsets of colleagues can be a challenge, and perhaps even the greatest challenge. The simultaneous participants’ chat was lively with comments, one participant stating that getting resources and training was the biggest problem for teachers in her experience.
During the plenary panel on Diversity in Coding, Ellen Walker shared with participants RightsTech Women’s initiatives to reach gender equality in STEM education and employment by 2030. She reflected that RightsTech Women’s unique approach of combining human rights education with STEM education was a pivot required by the rapid pace of development and the challenges observable today, which will only increase with widely available new technologies. This panel discussion was co-moderated by Arjana Blazic (@abfromz) and Maha Elkheir (@maha_eun) of EUN, EU Schoolnet. Speakers included:
- Prof. Alberto Barbero, Founder, Scratch 4 Disability
- Ellen Walker, EU Code Week ambassador for Switzerland & Founder, RightsTech Women (@LN_Walker)
- Dr. Evangelia Balatsou, Cognitive Neuroscientist & Founder, Greek Girls Code (@e_balatsou), and
- Hannah Bryson, Education Officer, UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) (@hannahmbryson).
During the discussion, panelists discussed how their initiatives were addressing inclusion of women or persons with disabilities in STEM. Dr. Balatsou shared her successful experience with Greek Girls Code, providing a range of activities for girls, including programming and mentoring. Ellen Walker shared about RightsTech Women’s methodology, which brings human rights and STEM education together, and about its work. She shared that RightsTech Women was recently named a WSIS Prizes 2021 Champion in Category 1 – The role of governments and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development (@WSISProcess). She emphasized the important role of teachers in encouraging girls to see themselves as a future woman in STEM, given how useful STEM skills can be regardless of career choice; noted the need for partnerships and resources for STEM gender inclusion; and, thanked those teachers who were already active in encouraging girls in STEM. Dr. Barbero and Ms. Bryson shared their experiences in increasing inclusion of persons with disabilities, providing inclusive learning activities, and providing students individualized support. Ms. Bryson stressed the importance and the need for role models of persons with similar disabilities in tech, and and the need for inclusive education. Finding topics that interested the student was one of the keys to her success.
Interesting plenary classes (masterclasses) were provided:
- Humanized Computing (Alessandro Bogliolo, EU Code Week ambassador coordinator; Professor, School of Information, Science and Technology at the University of Urbino (@neutralaccess)), and
- Playful learning with Scratch (Carmelo Presicce, Research Assistant, MIT Media Lab (@tarmelop); Tracy Tang, International Outreach Manager, Scratch Foundation).
There was a wealth of parallel workshops during the day, including — in addition to the workshop of RightsTech Women on Python and women in science, already mentioned — workshops on AI, creating games, and many more.
Participants were active on social media using the hashtags #CodeWeek and #TeachDay and the social media team of the event were busy reporting live during the session on participant engagement.
At the end of the day, participants noted warm appreciation for the event, having provided the opportunity for connection, learning, fun, and programming with people around the world. The spirit of collaboration and free sharing of resources across borders was noticeable and welcome, especially in these days where multilateralism and friendly cooperation are so badly needed. The Code Week team in closing noted that this had been a successful first Code Week Teach Day and that others were sure to come, a point much welcomed by the participants on the day.
RightsTech Women congratulates all involved in organizing and participating in this fun and inspiring event. The RightsTech Women team is looking forward to the next #CodeWeek #TeachDay!
#WomenInSTEM #Python #genderequality