Dio Teacher is fostering an interest in computer science and digital technology
In the fast-paced digitech world that’s crying out for more female participation, low numbers of females studying and working in the IT sector continues to be a serious issue faced by the industry .
A survey by international consultants, PwC, shows only 3 percent of women select a career in technology as their first choice, and only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women . And in New Zealand, the numbers of women studying information technology is materially lower than their male counterparts.
In an attempt to help bridge that gender cap, Diocesan School for Girls is working to foster an early interest in IT and break down some of the barriers that stop girls entering computer science and technology-related fields. This has seen the School become one of the early adopters of the new Digital Technologies Curriculum, which will be compulsory in all schools by 2020, for its year 7 to 10 students.
Diocesan’s Teacher in Charge of Computer Science, Lesley Sampson, is leading the charge for the School. One of the early pioneers of women working in the IT industry, Lesley first trained in computer programming at Auckland University in 1987 and has worked in both the corporate sector and as a teacher. She turned to teaching 11 years ago and her search for a way to encourage more girls into IT has led her into studying a Masters in Education, specialising in eLearning and Digital Technologies at Canterbury University.
“Girls respond to a more collaborative style of learning and like real world examples to explain the application of technology”, says Lesley, something she has taken on board in her classroom.
Virtual reality (VR) is a good example of this and Diocesan’s Year 11 students are not just using VR headsets to move around ‘off the shelf’ worlds, they are also creating their own worlds and characters and bringing these alive in the VR environment.
“The uses for VR are limitless, from bringing to life architects’ plans, through to teaching surgical procedures or how to spray paint a car. It is the way of the future and we wanted the girls at Diocesan to gain experience working in this technology early,” says Lesley.
Another project engaging the older students’ interest is the creation of a ‘personal food computer’ – a tiny, low water, climate-controlled agriculture system, designed for growing food in cramped city quarters.
The machine is plugged into a network, so all the environmental information runs into a database, where other farmers can see how much water and light the plants are getting and use that data to tweak the way they grow their own crops.
Thanks to initiatives like these, classroom numbers are rising as Dio students gain an appreciation of the importance of understanding technology as it surrounds and impacts them every day.
Says Lesley: “It is vital that women have a voice in the design of new software and applications, providing alternative and diverse views. They need to become creators, not just consumers –the inclusion of Computer Sciences as a part of Diocesan’s Creative Industries Faculty alongside other digital and technology design subjects, sets them up to do just that.”
One such student taking advantage of the technology opportunities is our rising IT star Amelia Lockley.
Thirteen-year old Amelia is one of a new generation of female digitech whizkids. With her own spot as a ‘kid tuber’ on What’s Now TV show, Amelia has had the opportunity to interview some of her heroes in the tech world, including Rocket Lab founder, Peter Beck and recently featured in North and South magazine alongside Dr Michelle Dickinson.
Amelia has also been named as the She Can Code ambassador for Code Club Aotearoa at this year’s TechWeek NZ in Christchurch on 23 May. 2018 marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. This makes Techweek NZ the perfect time to celebrate girls and women coding in Aotearoa!