Category Archives: technology

Making is a Click Away: 3 Kid-Friendly Maker Projects I Can’t Wait to Use in a Classroom

I’ve always felt like STEM was out of reach for me. It wasn’t that I felt locked out of the party, like many women throughout history have been, I just never thought I would actually enjoy a job in any of those fields. Much like our guest writer Emily explained, I love the idea of more women working in STEM… but other women, not me. Just the thought of sorting through code or equations when I could be reading or writing makes my eyes glaze over.

Luckily, over the last couple years, I had the serendipitous opportunity to work at a lab that combines the hands-on approach of maker culture with consideration for the humanities. This job forced me to approach a lot of tasks that I had never really encountered before, but it allowed me to do so from the perspective of a humanities student. We were prototyping, yes, but with the goal of understanding more about history, culture, and theory. My experiences at the lab gave me a whole new level of interest in the field of STEM and, while I still don’t feel like it’s the field for me, I feel confident enough to approach coding or engineering for some very (VERY) basic projects. It’s opened the door to ideas that once felt impossible to even consider.

I’m particularly excited to learn about the accessibility of maker culture because I recently decided to pursue a career in teaching. The more I learn about in the world of making and prototyping, the more excited I am to implement these approaches when teaching.

Building Circuits

If you look up the basics of circuit building online you will probably find a page that highlights all the tools and parts you will need to build a basic circuit. While this is incredibly helpful, for someone like me it’s also overwhelming. Even when approaching a much more accessible tool, like Arduino, circuit building can seem like something only experts should do.

That’s why I’m so thankful for kid-friendly tech companies who want to make this process simpler and more interesting for kids (and those of us with a child’s attention span for detail).

The first time I tried circuit building was with a Makey Makey, a kit that easily assembles into a simple circuit and allows you to use a variety of household items as computer keys (like food, pencil markings, and play dough).

I also brought it to work with me when I was running a summer kids program and got the kids to assemble it themselves. They loved the experience and were full of questions about why and how we could turn cucumber slices into a piano keyboard. I can only imagine how a simple circuitboard like the Makey Makey, or circuit stickers like those at Chibitronics, could make simple physics that much more exciting to learn. Continue reading

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We Need More Women in STEM, But I’m Not One Of Them

Hello everyone, my name is Emily and I am bad at math. Sometimes this makes me feel like a failure as a feminist.

See, I’m a nerd at heart (surprise!), and a lot of my favourite websites and blogs accrete STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) news alongside covert footage of the new Millenium Falcon. I certainly don’t mind after all, I follow NASA on Facebook. I really am truly interested in most of the science news that comes across my dash, but it’s like being a child with a crush on one of her parent’s friends: I think it’s so incredibly cool and it thinks I’m kind of silly. Left-brainers range from befuddled to downright arrogant when dealing with us right-brainers.  

At any rate I see a lot of news about how important it is to get more girls into STEM fields, and it leaves me feeling a little guilty.  I would consider myself both a nerd and a feminist, and yet my brain seems to be built like a sieve with number-shaped holes.  Seriously, when my husband was doing his engineering degree he would sometimes vent about the concepts he was learning and even when I was trying very hard to focus and follow what he was saying, my brain would go fuzzy and I’d entirely lose track of his words.  Numbers just make my brain congeal a little.

This, but with math.

I’m not exaggerating.  I can do the same problem four times and get four different answers.  The numbers swim and change places, and working through problems feels like pushing something heavy through something thick, only to find out you were moving the wrong heavy object once the job is done.  STEM types laud math for being so reliable and utterly logical, but it’s always felt rather arcane to me. Continue reading

3 Things I Learned During My 3 Weeks of Internet Deprivation

John and I moved back to Victoria at the beginning of September. I didn’t bother calling about internet set-up until we arrived. I figured it couldn’t be that long of a wait.

I was wrong, so very wrong.

Apparently, when all the students of Victoria are trying to hook up their internet, the wait can actually be quite long. Nearly three weeks long, to be exact. In those three weeks I learned a few things about myself. Since today is our first day with internet in our new place, I thought I would share what I learned with you.

1. It’s Easy to Fall Behind Without Home Internet 

It’s not like the internet was completely gone from my life for the last few weeks. I could still walk to a coffee shop or stay late at school if necessary. Unfortunately, since school started the same week we arrived, I almost only sought out internet when I needed to do some homework. It’s been particularly difficult to keep on top of my readings, since the majority of them have been online so far. I’ve spent several full days camped out at the nearby coffee shop just trying to stay on top of them. Then, this past week, I got sick.

Angrily, I continued to drag myself to the coffee shop in my pyjamas to finish my homework before they closed at 6 pm.

I’m an adult, and I have my own laptop that I can bring with me. As inconvenient as it is, lacking internet doesn’t actually prevent me from doing my homework. However, for a lot of young people without home internet it’s incredibly hard to keep up with their studies without home internet. This problem is sometimes referred to as the digital divide or the homework gap and generally tends to affect low-income households.

These numbers are based on an American study. You can find information about the digital divide in Canada by clicking here.

Continue reading

The Hoarder Vs. The Purger: How Do You Appreciate What You Own Without Letting It Own You?

This will be a shorter post than usual because I am visiting my family for the week while John and I transition from “school home” to our “summer job home”. In the spirit of moving, I wanted to touch on a question that might occur to anyone who has ever had to pack up their belongings: How much stuff is too much stuff?

This is an example of what too much stuff looks like.

This past Saturday John and I handed back the keys to the basement suite we called home for our last two years of university life. Despite storing our books and dishes at a friend’s house, we still ended up with way more bags and boxes than our small car could possible hold. While I struggled to decide which pants I wore least often and how badly I would need those mason jars for canning, John had no qualms throwing out pretty much anything that he knew he wouldn’t need in the immediate future. He also jokingly called me a hoarder, knowing that it would get under my skin.

As I sat on my suitcase (in an attempt to keep as many of my clothes as possible), I thought back to a couple years earlier when almost all of my earthly possessions could fit into one suitcase. What is it that makes me hold onto things now so much more dearly than I did a few years ago? Continue reading

Lisa Nakamura Part 2: Navajo Circuits and the “Nimble Fingers” of Asian Women

In my last post, I told you a little bit about Lisa Nakamura, her research, and the talk she gave at my university about Tumblr activism. I also promised to tell you about her second lecture the next time I wrote.

Both of Nakamura’s lectures were about digital media, but unlike her first talk, her second presentation focused on the physical material of digital technology.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or recently time-travelled to 2015, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that most of your digital hardware came from Asia. You may even be familiar with the way Asian women have been racialized as innately predisposed to factory work because of their “supposed docility, nimble fingers and attention to mind-numbing detail”.

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Click on the image to view the full infographic.

However, you might be surprised to learn that this stereotype has been applied to women of colour ever since the digital revolution. In her paper on “Indigenous Circuits: Navajo Women and the Racialization of Early Electronics Manufacture”  Nakamura examines the way digital factory work is both gendered and racialized. She refers to the work of Karen Hossfeld when she insists that

“…by the eighties in Silicon Valley, electronic assembly had become, not just women’s work but women of color’s work.” (290)

Continue reading

If This Blog Doesn’t Make You Pick Up Your Smart Phone then I’m Obviously Not Guilt Tripping You Enough!

So I just saw another one of those videos meant to guilt trip me into “putting down my smart phone.”


And I became thoroughly irritated.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do know what he means. Heck, for a long time I was one of those people who just refused to get a fancy new phone. I wanted to be environmentally conscious. I didn’t want to carry a bunch of blood minerals in my pocket. I didn’t want to have constant crackbook access to distract me from the real world.

However, now that I have FINALLY upgraded to a phone that has a battery life longer than 2 hours, I’ve started to change my tune. In fact, contrary to what that video says, I think my smartphone may be making me into a better person.

Let me give you an example.

I’m an incredibly lazy person. This is unfortunate because I’m also a university student who spends the majority of my time sitting. My body often screams for exercise but I’m all like “body, I walked you yesterday, and I’m kinda-sorta working on my essay while constantly being distracted by the internet.”

Then I got my new phone. It gave me access to a whole new world of things I had never really gotten into because they were too much bother to use on an actual computer. Many of these apps do more than make my life easier, they give me incentive to get off my butt. For example, my phone came with a pedometer app. I can’t really explain it, but this app tapped into my suppressed competitive side and got me taking the long route home just so I could meet my “steps” goal. Then there’ss Instagram. I mean, I still have no idea what I am doing most of the time (tagging people has definitely been hit or miss in my experience), but it makes me want to go on hikes so I can take pictures of pretty stuff.

Continue reading

The Golden Age of Television

Readers, yours truly is not a person to whom the positives of life are either readily apparent or understandable, but even someone as typically dour as myself can’t deny that we are living in a golden age of television.

It’s he-re…

Now I’m not exactly sure why that is- why all of a sudden we seem to have had a jump in quality and quantity of shows. An age thing, perhaps? I considered that, but as much as we could argue that we simply prefer the television shows we had when we were in our 20s, I don’t think my generation is alone in the belief that TV is better now than it was a decade ago.

Let’s try to figure out why. Continue reading