Special Report for Women in IT: Educational opportunities

This Women in IT Special Report highlights educational opportunities for females of all ages who are interested in technology. The panelists in this podcast include Jon Dewey, Nelly Yusupova, Ramona Santa Maria, and Elizabeth Perry.


The Women in IT podcast series on TechRepublic has generated several discussions outside of the recording studio and helped introduce me to several people I probably wouldn't have met otherwise. This Special Report, which highlights educational opportunities for females of all ages who are interested in technology, is a prime example.

Sure, the TechRepublic community has talked about IT career opportunities for women before, as well as the relatively low number of women currently working in IT, but we haven't truly broadened the conversation to encompass what we're doing right now to educate women -- young and old -- about technology.

This is where Jon Dewey comes in. In an e-mail, Jon told me about the initiative that they are starting at his school to teach middle school girls about computers, networking, and gaming. He asked if I knew any women already working in IT who would be interested in participating in the initiative. While it's still in the planning stages, they were considering having expert speakers come to the school, talk to the counselors and female students, and get everyone excited about the benefits of pursuing IT careers.

I put the word out to several women -- some from the TechRepublic community, a few who I have previously interviewed for the Women in IT series, and others who I have met through conversations about women in IT. In the back of my mind, I thought, "This would be a great podcast!" And so I followed that thought, contacting Jon and a few of the women who I knew would have some insight and first-hand experience with this particular topic.

Listed below are the people who make up the Special Report panel, as well as information about the various initiatives, programs, and schools that they're affiliated with. I encourage the panelists and the TechRepublic community to keep this conversation going, even after the podcast recording has ended. Listen to the podcast.

Jon Dewey -- an admin assistant to the regional Tech Prep Coordinator at a state vocational/technical school - the Great Plains Technology Center in Lawton, Oklahoma. For more information about the school, go to www.gptech.org. Nelly Yusupova -- a programmer, Web developer extraordinaire, and CTO of Webgrrls International, which hosts an outreach program.

Team Webgrrls is the outreach program of Webgrrls International where local chapters reach into the community to offer women and girls an opportunity to learn about and gain exposure to different technologies while offering mentors, role models and opportunities to learn about available technology. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of women to get excited about and get involved in the Internet and Technology.

The local chapter Steering Committee determines what the appropriate programs should be, prepares the curriculum, and then taps into their local chapter Webgrrls members for volunteers. NYC Webgrrls (I am the chapter leader) have completed three projects with the Mercy Center in the Bronx.

Ramona Santa Maria -- the Buffalo Webgrrls chapter leader and a full-time instructor at Buffalo State College, where she teaches a variety of courses regarding IT.

One of my courses in particular, Integrating Technology in the Classroom, is almost always predominantly women. These are preservice teachers who have very little technology experience, but produce nice work

I also teach Technology in Society, where students use Web 2.0 technologies like blogging and del.icio.us to keep a record of their readings/posts on others blogs, rather than traditional paper and pencil.

Lastly, I teach a computer fundamentals course (101, primarily freshmen) where I used podcasting, rather than a final essay, for students to bring back their research and have their final evaluation. Listen to the students' podcasts.

Elizabeth Perry -- a Technology Integration Specialist at The Ellis School, which is an Independent all girls PK-12 day school. To learn more about The Ellis School, visit www.theellisschool.org. You can also view the site showing of last year's VR images made by the second grade.