Ada Lovelace and celebrating women in technology

Filed Under (Blogging, Education) by Sharon Peters on 24-03-2009

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Today has been designated Ada Lovelace Day – an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. I thank Cindy Seibel for drawing my attention to this important event a few months ago!

I knew immediately I wanted to blog about the accomplishments of Susan Einhorn, whom I have met only recently, but who has become a woman I admire deeply because of her lifelong commitment to enhancing learning through the use of technology. For me, it was a jolt to meet her because she had been living here in Montreal under my nose while I had been using web 2 tools to network for so long with those who lived beyond my own city and province. Sometimes you can get the feeling that you are the only one in your community using emerging technologies and who cares passionately about innovation in educational technology.

Many of you are aware I began teaching at a new school in September. Imagine my surprise to meet Susan (you will see her bio below) as one of the parents of not only my student, her daughter,  but also my advisee! We met for coffee shortly after our initial meeting and later went off to experience Educon ’09 together in Philadelphia!

I asked Susan to provide a bio of her education and experience:

I’ve been involved in educational technology for over twenty-five years and, since 2007, I’ve been the Executive Director of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation (AALF). AALF is an international non-profit organization focused on ensuring that all children have access to unlimited opportunities to learn anytime and anywhere and that they have the tools that make this possible. To achieve this, AALF helps schools develop visionary leadership and knowledgeable, innovative educators. AALF provides educators with news, resources, and research on 1-to-1 laptop learning and runs a variety of programs for school leadership, including summits, institutes, and academies focused on learning in technology-rich and 1-to-1 laptop environments. In my role, I do whatever needs to get done – from editing newsletters to speaking at conferences, from handling event logistics to building an online community website- in order to support schools as they not only implement 1-to-1 programs, which ensure equitable access to technology for all students, but also as they begin to re-imagine what learning is in a technology-rich culture and the role of schools in this learning process.

Prior to joining AALF, I worked at Logo Computer Systems Inc (LCSI), the company that designs and develops Logo-based constructivist software. I was introduced to the Logo computer language while studying for a Masters degree in Educational Technology at Concordia University in Montreal, QC. There, I read the book Mindstorms by educational technology pioneer Seymour Papert. I was completely enthralled by both Dr. Papert’s ideas about learning and by how empowering it was to create my own program in Logo on the computer. Although this wasn’t my first introduction to programming – I had taken a course in Fortran at the University of Michigan in 1968 while studying for my B.A. (Psychology) – Logo was far more accessible. More than a language, Logo embodies a pedagogical belief that people (male/female, child/adult) learned best when actively engaged in creating personally meaningful projects and technology – personal computers – provided opportunities to create at previously unimaginable levels.

In 1984, I joined LCSI, Dr. Papert’s company. Although rather unqualified for the available job – Quality Assurance programmer – my interest in Logo convinced management to hire me. After a year, I became a member of the Product Design team and an author/editor, developing project-based learning materials for students and teachers for products such as the award-winning LogoWriter, LEGO/Logo and MicroWorlds, and culturalized into more than 15 languages for use around the world. During my 23 years at LCSI, I held a number of positions before becoming President of the company in 2005. During these years, I had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Papert and other leading members of the MIT Logo-community to continue to develop new Logo-based educational initiatives and products. In the many projects we observed, we noted that girls as much as boys were actively involved in being programmers and problem-solvers, immersing themselves in the mathematical thinking that programming and debugging require.

The most striking part of all this work has been my ongoing need to always be learning – whether about new technologies (from Fortran to Facebook), how people learn, systemic change, or the three “C’s” – collaboration, communication, community-building.

It is women like Susan who have been trailblazers in the area of educational technology in the last 20 years – years where it has been difficult to find women in such positions of leadership.

Thank you, Susan, for dedicating your career to promoting excellence in innovative education. You have provided a model for those of us who are only just starting – we benefit from your wisdom and experience!