Breaking down silos in education to promote inclusion

What if, in order to get girls more interested in science and technology, we first had to make education more inclusive for all? “Basically, all children want to learn and are curious. Let’s not quench their curiosity, let’s avoid confining them to stereotypes,” argues Kate Arthur, founder and executive director of Kids Code Jeunesse.

She recently attended a lunchtime conference hosted by the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of AI and Digital Technology (OBVIA) to mark International Women’s Day.

She was a panelist with Nadia Bhuiyan, professor of mechanical, industrial and aerospace engineering at Concordia University, Elizabeth S. Charles, researcher in educational technologies at Dawson College and co-director of the consortium Support Active Learning Technological Innovation in Science Education (SALTISE ). ., and Ann-Louise Davidson, professor in the Department of Education at Concordia University and holder of the Maker Culture Chair at that university.

During the discussion, moderated by Lyse Langlois, Executive Director of OBVIA, the four women reiterated on many occasions that classroom environments need to allow more room for diversity and stimulate children’s curiosity about a wide range of topics. “It’s important that young people have the opportunity to see all the opportunities that are available to them, both boys and girls, to break out of the pattern,” says Kate Arthur.

“We need to fight stereotypes in the school environment and not just in textbooks,” said Nadia Bhuiyan. She gave the example of this fourth-year mechanical engineering student who came to thank her. She was in her last year of college in this predominantly male environment and had a teacher for the first time in her university career. “Even though she had the interest and all the skills, she had no confidence in her as a future engineer and I had just given her that confidence. »

For Elizabeth S. Charles, every woman working in a STEM field needs to feel challenged and become a role model for others. “We don’t see ourselves as role models, we do what we love, we are who we are, but we have the potential to make a difference. »

A more active pedagogy

“In early childhood, children learn much through touch, manipulation, and exploration of their environment. As they get older, girls have less freedom to explore. They shouldn’t get hurt or dirty,” laments Ann-Louise Davidson. In doing so, we maintain a separation between boys and girls, we no longer let girls “do it”, which is the essence of science and technology.

What can teachers do to break down these stereotypes? Active pedagogy, collaboration, solving authentic problems, valuing the contributions of everyone beyond the results, interdisciplinary projects are elements mentioned by the panellists.

“The school curriculum is structured in silos, with a completely artificial division of time and subjects. Life is not divided into matter. Let’s stop thinking about education in silos,” says Ann-Louise Davidson. It invites schools to turn to setting up creative labs. These make it possible to place young people in more concrete learning situations, they promote interdisciplinary projects, learning to act and creativity. “Young people construct their identity by exploring their environment. Let’s give them the opportunity to develop. »

About digital

Finally, Elizabeth Charles challenged girls and women to take their place in the development of digital solutions, including artificial intelligence. “Technology can help break down stereotypes, but women need to take their place. »

As Kate Arthur, who first studied English literature, put it: “Code is a new form of language. Just as I understand the power of words, I now understand the power of code. In the last few centuries, literature was only written by men, then women found their way/x. Don’t let men write technologies alone today”.

The conference recording is available on OBVIA’s YouTube channel. Note that the discussion was in French and English.

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