Tuesday 8th March was International Women’s Day, falling at the perfect time to align with the UK’s only festival celebrating women in digital – Spring Forward in Brighton.
Among their month-long series of events was Saturday’s Women’s Day Photo Pop Up at 68 Middle Street, an experimental day of portraiture and discussion between some of the most creative minds in Brighton. Attracting a range of educators, writers, journalists, artists and digital pioneers, it was the perfect chance to reflect a little more deeply with the women who are truly changing the world of tech in our city.
Hosted by photographer Julia Claxton and journalist Emily Yates, the Women’s Day Photo-Up, marked the launch of the CoCreationism arts collective – a collaborative working model seeking to break down the usual ‘interrogative’ structures of portraiture and interviewing.
We sent our colleague Summer along on Saturday to catch up with some of the inspirational women working within technology and education in the Brighton area.
by Summer Dean (@summertvuk)
It’s no secret that women have been under-represented in the Tech community for a long time. This is exactly the thing that Spring Forward – along with SheSays Brighton and Brighton Digital Women – are seeking to put right.
Below I’ve spotlighted some of the women who have a background in both technology and in using it to enhance learning:
Viviana Doctorovich – Product Manager at Fireflylearning.com and co-founder wespringforward.com @vivdoc
FireFly is a virtual learning environment (VLE) used in primary and secondary schools to upload learning resources, set homework and track progress. While trying desperately to avoid eating the cakes positioned so delicately in front of us, I asked Viviana how she came to be involved with FireFly.
Viviana tells me that when she started working at FireFly she was the UX designer and has now progressed on to being the product manager. Her job is about understanding users (students, teachers and parents) and their needs in terms of teaching, learning and communication, with Firefly ‘bring[ing] together teachers, students and parents’.
As Viviana sips her tea we get onto chatting about the role of technology in learning. Viviana believes that technology should be used to make non-teaching tasks more efficient to allow teachers more time to spend with their students. She adds that while interactive resources being available to students can enhance their learning that they should not replace interaction with teachers and it’s all great as long as it doesn’t become disruptive in the learning environment.
Introducing Primary and Secondary students to technology like this not only prepares them for FE, HE and the workplace but also raises some interesting questions including discussion around the expectations of students who are entering Higher Education.
On being a woman in Tech:
As Viviana is the co-founder of ‘Spring Forward’, I feel inclined to ask what it’s like working as a woman in a tech-based role and why women only tech events are important.
“As networking is a huge part of technology, women only events are important to break down barriers and act as an intervention to break male dominated circles and tech industries are often very male dominated and are difficult for women to be a part of due to differing values.”
Jacqueline Currie – Founder & STEAM Educator at Curiosity Hub @jaxcurrie
I first met Jacqueline when I went to a codebar event in Brighton. Codebar’s goal is to ‘enable underrepresented groups to learn programming in a safe and collaborative environment and expand their career oppourtunities’ (codebar.io).
I recently caught up with Jacqueline and asked her what she does in the time that she isn’t teaching people like me to code.
Jacqueline tells me she is the founder and lead educator at thecuriosityhub.com, ‘a not-for-profit educational organisation based in Brighton & Hove, offering creative Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) enrichment workshops for all ages’. (thecuriosityhub.com)
“So”, I ask inquisitively, “these workshops.. do they combine the above subject areas or is it separate workshops for different disciplines?”
Jacqueline explains how the workshops aim to combine the different disciplines in order to try and break down the “false separation between the Sciences and the Arts” and how she believes that “kids should not simply be consumers of technology but rather use it to be creators”.
Eyeing up the fresh confectioneries that have been set down on the table in front of us, we continue to chat about formal and informal education and the importance of integrating technology into self directed and project based learning. This, Jacqueline adds, is to ensure young people are able to use technology to develop skills that will help them both in formal education and later in the world of work.
“We aim to teach young people abilities that will help them develop skills such as communication, patience, understanding and the importance of working collaboratively”.
Sam Harrington Lowe – Publisher, Event Manager, Lecturer at BIMM Brighton on (BA) Events Management @
As I started chatting with Sam it struck me very quickly – Is there anything this woman doesn’t do?! Aside from being a publisher, owning an Events Management Company and a series of other exciting sounding things – she also manages to find time to lecture on the (BA) Events Management degree at BIMM (British and Irish Modern Music Institute) in Brighton.
I arrive at the pop-up event just as Sam is being called in to have her photo taken. When she’s been sufficiently digitally immortalised by Julia the photographer, I catch her at the bar as she’s on the way out of the door.
I ask Sam if she has any thoughts on the use of technology to enhance learning in Higher Education. Kindly, Sam followed up our fast paced multi- directional conversation with an email the following day and here is what she had to say:
“I’ve just completed a PGCE where part of my academic research project included reviewing our teaching methods, and my findings show that I don’t believe the students’ needs are being met effectively in terms of blending live classroom experience with technology enhanced learning”.
“Students are seriously groaning under the weight of email volume, up to 10 or 15 a day on some courses! So many of the emails go unread – they’re overwhelmed.”
Of course, this idea of being bombarded by communication from every angle, particularly email in a work or education setting, is not a new or abstract concept in the digital age. Forums can be really useful, for example, used in the right way in the right environment.
Sam continues, “I think there are potentially easier ways in which to share information and also offer better continual support and assessment throughout the course, as well as supporting the students as they move into a deeper learning environment so perhaps utilising the ideas that Learning Technologists are working on seems the best way to do this.”
“I think there’s opportunity to create online assessments, deliver supporting material via video, and offering Skype tutorials. In-class experience is still important, but I think we’re missing a trick and could be offering so much more by blending their learning experience.”
Spring Forward events run throughout March 2016. Thank you to all the truly insipirational ‘Women in Tech’ who contributed to this blog post.