Ten Things We Heard at the NCWIT Summit

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The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) is a member of the “Academic Alliance” arm of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). NCWIT hosts an annual summit meeting each year – this past May it was held in Grapevine, Texas, just 30 minutes away from CTC office – that is jam-packed with keynotes, breakout sessions, and interactive workshops all designed to improve IT classroom inclusion. If your school isn’t already a member of NCWIT’s Academic Alliance, join today. Membership is free and gives you immediate access to a wealth of useful resources and tools and handouts. Plus, you’ll get an invite to the annual summit.

Here are ten interesting things we heard at this year’s summit.

  1. It can be hard to respond to someone who’s just expressed an unexpectedly biased statement. One good strategy is to say something like “What makes you say that?” to keep them talking and give you time to think of what to say next.
  1. With employers craving workers and students seeking a faster track into the workforce, some foresee a trend that questions whether a traditional four-year degree is valuable or desirable.
  1. There is a difference between equality and equity. “Equality” means everyone gets the same help, whereas “equity” means everyone gets the help they need. For a visual demonstration, take a look at this famous image from the Interaction Institute for Social Change.
  1. First-generation college students must learn to “self advocate.” Their parents can’t support them in understanding or navigating campus systems or higher education hierarchies. These students need additional attention to make sure they know about all of the school resources (tutoring, faculty office hours) that are available to them.
  1. The terms “minority” and “non-white” can carry bias, which is why some suggest using instead the term “person of color.”
  1. One strategy to encourage attendance: remind students of the course price tag. If they skip a class, they are wasting their money.
  1. Asian-American students often face the stereotype that they are culturally and genetically predisposed to succeed, which can create pressures and anxieties. Students may be reluctant to ask for help, for example, because they’re expected to do well.
  1. Any sex differences in the brain are very small and don’t lead to any differences in behavior or ability, which runs contrary to much popular thinking that suggests men and women think differently or have innately different mental aptitudes. Researcher Lise Eliot argues that any sex differences in STEM fields are the result of learned behavior through practice and experience. Learn more here.
  1. In group work, put the least experienced student at the PC keyboard, a variation of the idea of making the quietest student do all of the talking.
  1. Faculty a`re encouraged to do more than just focus on the curriculum. Connect with the students. Reach out and encourage persistence. Be proactive and take the time to research questions of gender and identity and stereotypes to improve inclusion. Note also that it’s not just the responsibility of the African-American instructors to counsel and support African-American students. It’s everyone’s job.

 

 

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