Maria Klawe talking about 'Changing the Ratio for Women in Tech' at DCU

I have been a longtime fan of Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College and often quote her 4 pillared strategy for attracting, encouraging and supporting young women in STEM careers, and in particular, Computer Science: 
Develop courses where Computer Science is paired with disciplines where we already find young women e.g. Health Informatics, Business Data Science etc

  1. Outreach to Schools
  2. Provide more accessible introductory programming modules - these should teach the same concepts but without the steep learning curve of dense syntax and form of languages like Java & C#
  3. Develop courses where Computer Science is paired with disciplines where we already find young women e.g. Health Informatics, Business Data Science etc
  4. Provide more social glue and build community in STEM classrooms

So, I was delighted to get the opportunity to see her speak at DCU last week, where she shared her Irish roots, and was warmly welcomed by Professor Lisa Looney, and President Brian McCraith, 46 years after her last visit to Ireland. She started her talk by remembering her childhood and noting that, as a child, she always thought she should have been a boy. Why? Because she so enjoyed all so many interests and activities that were thought of as boys stuff, and her parents always expected her to be able to do anything where she showed an interest. An interesting insight into how society viewed girls and set expectations accordingly - and the huge role parents can play in challenging these stereotypes.

Why is it important to have more women in STEM & CS?

#AdaLovelaceDay 2016

When I was growing up, I really can't recall having any women tech mentors or peers. There were no other women I knew who were interested in technology and computing. Come to think of it, I don't remember any tech mentors - except maybe my Dad. He was always doing mad-inventor kind of things - like running the family car on a domestic gas cylinder and it was he who bought the Commodore 64 computer that got me started.  

Not having peers and mentors in your chosen field of work or study has repercussions. If you can't see it - it's so much harder to be it. It means it takes much longer for you to conceptualise your identify and start to shape and form it. 

But these days, I feel very lucky to be part of a rich network of women involved in technology and related fields. Some of them I know well and some I'm getting to know - and on this Ada Lovelace Day 2016, it's a great pleasure to mention some of them below. 

 If I were to single out some for special mention, they would have to be our CoderDojo Sligo mentors, Carla Warde and Aoife Kerins. They have been superb role-models this year for girls interested in careers in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering & Mathematics) and are still managing to mentor this year even as they prepare for Leaving Cert exams. The future is bright. 

What is notable among this group of women is their willingness to support others in their journey and to see the bigger picture of our humanity and interdependence. Thank you all for your friendship, advice, guidance and support over this past year. It's meant so much. And happy Ada Lovelace Day! 

Catherine Cronin - PhD scholar and open educator

Leigh Graves Wolf - scholar and collaborative creative thinker

Pam O'Brien - Lecturer & CoderDojo Leader

Thank you Outbox Incubator #ald15 #adalovelace

BBC4's 'Calculating Ada' documentary is still available to view

 It's Ada Lovelace day and following the example again of my tech-hero and friend, Leigh Graves Wolf, I want to blog about some inspiring tech women. This summer I was completely inspired by the OutBox Incubator initiative lead by Mary Carty and Anne-Marie Imafidon and featuring some amazing young tech entrepreneurs - including CoderDojo Sligo's own Aoife Kearins as well as Catrina Carrigan, Vanessa Green, Ciara Judge, Edel Browne and many more.

'The River' by Jane Clarke - a poetry launch with Moya Cannon


Moya Cannon launched Jane Clarke's wonderful new poetry collection 'into the waters of Galway' tonight at Charlie Byrne's bookshop and it was a lovely occasion. Wonderful to see these two Irish women of poetry work together and complement each other so well. Moya is launching her 5th collection 'Keats Lives' at the Clifden Arts Festival next month, but tonight she was generously supporting Jane's first collection 'The River'. 

Dearbhla talks 'Esio Trot' in Tubbercurry

Magical time with Dearbhla Walsh in Tubbercurry last night at the hometown premiere of 'Esio Trot'. The film is a complete joy and highly recommended for all ages. Last night's audience was perfect - made up of the very young and the very-young-at-heart and all ages in-between. Everyone loved it if the chorus of laughter and great variety of audible reactions was anything to go by. I was there with my daughter Katie and who did we bump into but my dear friend Lorna Curry - first lovely surprise of the night.

There is a gentle warmth between Dench and Hoffman's lead characters that wafts off the screen and some beautifully timed comedic moments that catch you off-guard and land you into the most unexpected belly-laughs. The screenplay was written by Richard Curtis of 'Love Actually', 'Bridget Jones' & 'Four Weddings & Funeral' fame.

The apartment building scenes where Dench & Hoffman hang out are connected by a seemingly unconnected narrator who runs through the streets of London through a magical series of visual puns and ultimately serves as a connection to community for the main characters. It's very clever work at so many levels.

Getting Bogged #blimage

Bog Snorkelling

Thank you, Bianca Ni Ghrógáin

The 23rd of May 2015 was one of the last interactions I enjoyed with Bianca Ni Grógháin on Twitter.  It was Ireland's Equality Day and it started with an appreciation of her social media campaign for a YES vote over the previous weeks and months. It was a conversation full of hope, history and jubilation and it ended with an intention to celebrate in-person in that most Irish of ways - with a cup a tae next time we met with her great friend and mentor, Mags Amond. It was also full of fun and a gentle sense of 'divilment'.

Two weeks later it became clear that we will never get to drink that cup of tae. Bianca died on Saturday 6th June and the Irish EdTech community is still reeling from the news. Over the past two years she had taken the scene by storm - sharing her teaching and learning insights on Scratch, a programming language for kids, the MakeyMakey  'invention kit' - but she was about much more than the technology.


Bianca talked about the classroom as a creative space for kids and by kids. She talked about making them awesome - empowering them to do meaningful learning together - technology was just one medium for making this happen. 


People are fulfilled only to the extent that they create their world (which is a human world), and create it with their transforming labour.

PauloThe fulfilment of humankind as human beings lies, then, in the fulfilment of the world. If for a person to be in the world of work is to be totally dependent, insecure, and permanently threatened - if their work does not belong to them - the person cannot be fulfilled. Work that is not free ceases to be a fulfilling pursuit and becomes an effective means of dehumanisation. Paulo Freire. 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed'

Women in Tech - what's the problem?

 Last Saturday-week Sligo hosted over 200 delegates at DojoCon2014, the global conference for CoderDojo mentors.  These are people who gather in schools, community centres, universities, business premises and other venues every Saturday to teach kids in their communities the basics of coding. They do this mostly to experience the sheer magic of seeing a child run with a virtual spark of an idea and bring forth that idea into the world.  They help these kids to be able to communicate their ideas and to collaborate with others to create coding solutions.

Among the many very fine speakers at DojoCon2014 coordinated by our wonderful MC, Ann O'Dea from Silicon Republic, were Debbie Forster of Apps for Good, Mags Amond on computational thinking, Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin on the pedagogy of teaching tech, Kate McDonald on the amazing young people of Young Rewired State, James Corbett on Mission V (he generously brought along his Occulus Rift for delegates to try out), Stephen Howell on Microsoft's Kinect and Project Spark and so many - more of that anon...

I participated on the CoderDojo Girls and Diversity Panel and an interesting discussion emerged on the issue of attracting girls into technology - and retaining them in the industry.  A number of points from this discussion are still circling in my head:

Thank you, Catherine Cronin

If you are very lucky in this life, every now and then you meet someone who changes everything.  They see you.  They see potential in you.  They believe in you.  If you are brave and courageous, you start to live up to that potential.  I'm still working up the courage and still starting - but I was lucky enough to meet Catherine Cronin almost ten years ago and she did that for me.  Every Ada Lovelace Day for the past few years, I have intended to write this.  Because I know that I am not the only one.  She does this for others too.  That's pretty amazing to me.  Inspiring.

You can read about Catherine's work in Open Education research, ITonline Programs at NUI Galway, CoderDojo and much more here.  Thank you, Catherine. 


Photo by Leigh Graves Wolf

Now, encouraged by Leigh Graves Wolf (and borrowing her format), I encourage you to write about a woman whose achievements you admire.  On October 14th, write a blog post about your STEM heroine and add it to our collection: Just follow these simple steps:

Write about a woman in science, technology, engineering or maths whose achievements you admire.

Publish your story online.

Add your story to our collection at Finding Ada.

Tell your friends!

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