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ISTE 2017 – Keynote Reshma Saujani

June 28, 2017

Here we are wonderful and amazing readers! It’s the last major session for ISTE 2017. (I know, y’all are asking where my notes and pictures of the Expo Hall are? Don’t worry, still working on that post, hopefully by later tonight I’ll have that one!) For now, it’s going to be wrap up time, and then Reshma Saujani!

Here we are again, with another great musician with some amazing music before we have our final speaker. They always find great musicians for the ISTE conference, last couple of years has been a group from Manitoba, nice to hear some local talent!

First up: Jennifer Ragan-Fore – ISTE Chief Events Officer

Jennifer had a great video with lots of clips from the conference! Some scenes from  all over the conference! (I’m hoping there will be a YouTube link soon, if there is, I’ll update this post!) Jennifer reminded us that ISTE staff is only 50 people, so everyone is working really hard to make everything work! She also recognized the program committee who ultimately make the amazing and incredible program work.

Dr. Jennifer Parker – co-founder of 21 Things
The Digital Age Drive Thru

Jennifer spoke at length about some of the projects 21 Things has been involved in.

Mila Thomas Fuller – ISTE Board President is next:

Mila asked everyone to tweet one thing that they learned and can’t wait to implement, and introduced Lizzie Sider

Lizzie is passionate about dealing with and learning about bullying. When she was coming home from school, she would have this feeling that she was worthless, and she was able to adapt and wants to help other kids deal with bullying.

Lizzie reminded us that kids are kids, and when they feel involved, they feel empowered and they want to make a difference. Why do kids bully? Because they have been bullied before, it makes them feel powerful, because they are insecure. Same answer no matter where she goes, and what school types are out there.

How can school administrators help?

Often a lot of kids feel like they are alone, like they are the only ones going through something. Maybe they are the only ones with these problems. So it’s important to keep the conversation open with kids, and let kids and parents know that we’re all in the same place, and to be a listener actively.

What can faculty to  for a student who is experiencing cyber bullying and social media?

It’s really important to educate our children on how to use social media. Parents and teachers can be extremely helpful, and important in helping kids. We need to remind them that once something is out there – it’s out there, and can’t come back! People who cyber bully think social media is like a wall between them. However it can be so hurtful.

Lizzie did a live performance of her song Butterfly.

Mila thanked Lizzie, and then had two assignments for all of us. First, join a PLN, and find your local affiliate and volunteer. Second, cultivate the relationships with people who you met this year.

Tweet questions to @isteconnects for live Q&A after this keynote.

And now…

Reshma Saujani
Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Book: “Women who don’t wait in line”

Reshma wanted to talk to us about Girls Who Code. Although she is not a coder. Reshma is the daughter of refugees. Her parents had to leave their country, wearing shorts and t-shirts, flew to Chicago and learned about winter, and made a new life for themselves.

When she graduated law school, she had $300K of student loans, and after 10 years still hadn’t finished, and still hadn’t run for public service. At age 33 she decided to run for United States Congress, against an 18 year incumbent. Had a 1% chance of winning. Built a website, raised $50K from folks who were happy an Indian girl was running. Was the best 10 months of her life. During her victory party, which didn’t end up being a victory party, just got 19% of the vote. No contingency plan. Establishment was upset at her.

As she visited schools, during the campaign, she visited 100’s of classes, robotics, computer classes, and didn’t see any girls. Just boys who wanted to grow up to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, or Steve Jobs. But where were the girls? It didn’t make sense to her that the % of women in the computing workforce and prediction that % continues to decrease. In 1995 – 37%, today, 24%, in 2025 – 22%.

Thousands of jobs available in computing science, but not enough people to take them on. 91% of the jobs are outside of New York, Silicon Valley, or Boston. They are not in traditional technology opportunities, but in finance, retail, and medicine. The solution? More women coming into the workforce, but it’s not happening.


When computers came out, they were typically advertised as toys for boys. Marketing and TV ads were targeted at boys. Stereotype that successful technology people were boys, nerds. Even in 2014 the TV show silicon valley is about boys. Not only do they not picture girls, but the picture of boys is not even appealing to girls.

In the 70’s and 80’s only 10% of doctors and lawyers were women. In the 80’s, 90’s, and today, girls are inundated with successful women who are doctors, and lawyers.

Similarly it was cool for girls NOT to be interested in math, or science. There was a Barbie who says let’s go shopping, not do math. It is considered acceptable to say “I hate math, or I hate science” but it wouldn’t be acceptable to say “I can’t really read, I don’t really write.” How many Moms say “Wait until Dad comes home to help you with your math.”

We raise our girls to be perfect, but we raise our boys to be brave.

Reshma decided to start a coding program for girls. Bought the domain name. Handpicked the first 20 girls. Bought pizza, and in 2012 she had the first group. And then partnered with Girls Who Code, and the Internet exploded. Today have taught over 40,000 girls how to code. Rout times the amount of women who graduated in computer science last year.

They are successful in two ways. Embed coding into classrooms. And run clubs in all 50 states after school. And it’s working. in 2018 there will be 10,000 alumni, starting as college freshmen.

Everyone has something they are passionate about, and this is Reshma’s. This is bigger than closing the gap, this is about leaving too many innovations on the sidelines.

Reshma gave some examples of girls who have come up with amazing things as a result of learning code, from inventing new algorithms, to winning major funding on Shark Tank, to girls who wrote a game called “Tampon Run”. No boy would ever write a game called this. Men invent things to replace their moms, what will girls invent?

Even books released suggest that girls can’t code, but that they will need help from boys to make it work. Culture needs to change.

One of the ways Reshma’s group can help, is books about Girls Who Code. They have a number of them coming out in August, 2017.

We can start a club. They are free, for 6th – 12th graders. Can be hosted in your community. They’ll bring the best swag we’ve ever seen in our lives.

Reshma thanked all of her partners who help make Girls Who Code work.

Reshma was very intriguing. She brought up ideas and issues that I hadn’t thought of. Our culture is used to treating girls differently, and not encouraging them in the directions of math and science. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but she made me think, and look at things in our culture a little differently. Thank you Reshma for all that you do, and wanting people, especially girls, to do more.



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