Waiting for Superman? I Have Found a Superwoman in Technology!

A woman in IT! She can help change the classroom

Why are there so few women in IT? Why are there so few , By the Numbers ? I have been thinking about this for a couple of years and trying to advocate change in the organizations in which I work. I call your attention to
By the Numbers: statistics about women & IT The most compelling statistics on women’s participation in IT, on a single page. Then there is the report, “Why So Few/”In an era when women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law and business, why are there so few women scientists and engineers? A new  research report by AAUW (American Association of University Women) presents compelling evidence that can help to explain this puzzle. Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics presents in-depth yet accessible profiles of eight key research findings that point to environmental and social barriers – including stereotypes, gender bias and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities – that continue to block women’s participation and progress in science, technology, engineering, and math.


An Important Workshop

I attended a workshop on computational thinking at the National Science Board on Computational Thinking. I have been floating around in this area of learning for a while attending the Teragrid meetings, and  the Supercomputing Conference when allowed. There was at one time a lot of fussing about K-12. Henry Neeman, Scott Lathrop and Diane Baxter, encouraged me to keep learning, but others pushed me away, saying that K-12 teachers were too hard to work with and that the children should be taught. So this workshop was a great place for me to learn about the interface of computational thinking and curriculum. A lot of people bad mouth teachers without giving them the professional development, the chance to be a part of the conversation , the community, the collaboration for a better world.

Overview of the Workshop

As the use of computational devices has become widespread, there is
a need to understand the scope and impact of what is sometimes called
the Information Revolution or the Age of Digital Information. This is
particularly apparent in education at all levels. Various efforts have been
made to introduce K-12 students to the most basic and essential compu-
tational concepts, and college curricula have tried to provide students a
basis for lifelong learning of increasingly new and advanced computa-
tional concepts and technologies. At both ends of this spectrum, however,
most efforts have not focused on fundamental concepts.
One common approach to incorporating computation into the K-12
curriculum is to emphasize computer literacy, which generally involves
using tools to create newsletters, documents, Web pages, multimedia
presentations, or budgets. A second common approach is to empha-
size computer programming by teaching students to program in par-
ticular programming languages such as Java or C++.

A third commonapproach focuses on programming applications such as games, robots,and simulations.But in the view of many computer scientists, these three major
approaches—although useful and arguably important—should not be
confused with learning to think computationally. In this view, compu-
tational thinking is a fundamental analytical skill that everyone, not just
computer scientists, can use to help solve problems, design systems,
and understand human behavior. As such, they believe that computa-
tional thinking is comparable to the mathematical, linguistic, and logical

reasoning that is taught to all children. This view mirrors the grow-
ing recognition that computational thinking (and not just computation)
has begun to influence and shape thinking in many disciplines—Earth
sciences, biology, and statistics, for example. Moreover, computational
thinking is likely to benefit not only other scientists but also everyone
else—bankers, stockbrokers, lawyers, car mechanics, salespeople, health
care professionals, artists, and so on.
Marcia C. Linn, Chair
Committee for the Workshops on Computational Thinking

So, I learned to  pay attention to the stats on women and information technology and the talking points. of the National Center for Women in Information Technology.

Information technology (IT) is the language and toolbox of our information age.
We use it to communicate and innovate, in our work and in our play. It is the
means for our individual well-being and our collective progress. Participation with
IT – both as its creators and its consumers – guarantees that it will be a dynamic
force in our future; and IT’s pervasive impact on all our lives makes our participation
an imperative.

IT is Important!

IT has fueled much of our economic wealth and innovation over the last decades,
and it will provide the lion’s share of new job growth over the coming decades. The
Department of Labor estimates that the professional-level IT workforce will grow
at more than twice the rate of the overall workforce, creating 1 in 19 new jobs and
adding more than one million new jobs by 2014.

So why is it not in the curriculum in our K-12 schools?

Why aren’t people creating professional development and curriculum for use in the K-12 arena? There are a few shining lights. In this post I want to talk about a woman in technology because there are so few. There is not a movie about her, but perhaps there should be about the effects of her work with Dr. Alexander Repenning.


I want you to meet a very special lady.
Dr. Andri Ioannidou is the Principal Investigator of the subaward made to AgentSheets Inc. She is the Senior Project Manager of AgentSheets Inc. In that role, she is responsible for designing and developing software as well as managing the company’s large-scale R&D projects. She has been part of the AgentSheets academic and later commercial team since 1994. Dr. Ioannidou currently works with academic collaborators and school district administrators to develop and disseminate AgentSheets-based Scalable Game Design curriculum throughout Colorado and the U.S.

She leads collaborative efforts with companies and educators in Greece in projects funded by the European Commission and the Greek Ministry of Education to develop educational activities using AgentSheets for use in all Greek schools. She engages in outreach activities in local schools, where she works extensively with teachers and students to introduce simulation-based activities in computer education, math, science, and social studies courses, as well as extra-curricular activities.

She teaches game design workshops and classes at all levels level nationally and internationally as well as trains teachers. Dr. Ioannidou received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests and expertise include end-user development, agent-based simulations, educational technology, game design, computational science, and human-computer interaction. Her work has been published in numerous international conference proceedings, academic journals, trade magazines, and books.

She has served as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation and academic conferences. She has received numerous awards and honors including scholarships and the esteemed title of the Outstanding Graduate of the College of Engineering at the University of Colorado, mainly for her involvement in LEGOsheets – a visual programming environment for the MIT programmable brick (now known as LEGO Mindstorms).

I asked her, as I always do, how did she get started in computer science?

She said…

It’s actually a sort of an ironic story: growing up, I didn’t really know what i wanted to do, but i always knew what i did NOT want to do and that was become a teacher – which is what both my parents and my sister (and other members of the extended family) were.

So I went towards the field that I felt was the furthest away from that: computer science. I was already good in math and science and had some interest in computers so i figured that was a good choice. And I was doing well as an undergrad, but it wasn’t until my senior year at CU, when i started working with Alex on the LEGO sheets project, that i really discovered my passion with computer science: educational technology. Ironically, the thing i was trying to avoid so hard (education) ended up being the perfect combination for me for technology.


I asked her lots of questions. I asked because she was such a gentle force and so easy to learn from. Her mission was to help. It was not about her accomplishments. I don’t think she even said much about who she was. So I started this conversation with her about Cyprus.  I have been there three times to work in the media for children group, the Agora.

Women in the Serious Games ..Dr. Andri Ioannidou

Scalable Game Design Wiki

High School Teacher Workshop I attended
Mission: Reinventing computer science in public schools by motivating & educating all students including women and underrepresented communities to learn about computer science through game design starting at the middle school level
Results: The project aimed at instructing 1200 students in 3 years but already instructed over 1300 students in the first semester; 52.3% of the students were girls, 78% of the girls want to continue! more…
Scalable Game design was presented at the ISTE 2010 conference in poster sessions by Alex Repenning, Mark Shouldice, Andri Ioannidou, Corey Papastathis, and Steve Barron
We just successfully completed the 2010 Summer Institute (June 1-June 11, 2010).
I participated in a  successful CS4HS workshop (June 25-June 27, 2010) sponsored by Google and AgentSheets Inc. Newspaper report.
Read the press release about the Summer Institute and the press coverage by the Daily Camera about the CS4HS.

The Dept of Education talks about the crisis in the classroom. Seems to me that a meeting with the NSF, and other interagency groups should be created to info those who speak for education about the computational sciences.

From Karen North

“The most powerful of software tools is the programming
language … an important role for the teacher is as a sort of human tool, a
consultant on ways and means, rather than an initiator of activities for
students.” – Brian Harvey 1980

“Education is the only business still debating the
usefulness of technology.” – Dr. Ron Paige.

Both are still true today! So what is taking so long for education to value technology
and programming languages?

Here are real teachers learning programming and scalable game design. These pictures were taken with an Iphone

*** If you are a parent or an interested professional, write to the Secretary of Education about the computational sciences. One percent of women in IT is not enough.

Workshop photos


Committee for the Workshops on Computational Thinking

Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Washington, D.C.

One thought on “Waiting for Superman? I Have Found a Superwoman in Technology!

  1. Karen J.K. North shared this with me on facebook.
    I have the following 2 quotes on my webpage created 2
    decades ago:

    “The most powerful of software tools is the programming
    language … an important role for the teacher is as a sort of human tool, a
    consultant on ways and means, rather than an initiator of activities for
    students.” – Brian Harvey 1980

    “Education is the only business still debating the
    usefulness of technology.” – Dr. Ron Paige.

    Both are still true today! So what is taking so long for education to value technology
    and programming languages?

    The “Crisis in the Classroom” will continue to be a
    crisis as long as education depends the resource of people. Education is just too teacher
    directed classroom dependent. I did not hear one word
    about using the computer as a teacher in the classroom by Duncan, Weingarten,
    or Rhee. Two decades ago I embraced
    these ideas, but little has changed. What has changed is the enormous amount
    of online resources for learning. So, how do we “force” schools to use what
    were solution…

    Crisis in the Classroom (Part 1)
    Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten and Michelle Rhee discuss education reform.

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