STEMinist Profile

Posted by Debby on 24th April and posted in Cultivating Communities, STEM

Gotta admit, it was sort of cool to be profiled on the STEMinist site 🙂 The funny thing is that I didn’t realize the interview had published until I read about it today in the Post University newsletter that gets sent out every couple of weeks. How they picked it up, I have no idea!  I’ll post the interview below.

STEMinist Profile: Debby Kurti, Professor, Instructional Design & Tech

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I took the scenic route to teaching technology. I actually started out college as an English major, although I did take a Fortran programming class my freshman year. I finished my BA in linguistics. There are lots of similarities between the study of human language and the study of computer languages though – syntax, punctuation, style, etc. My MA is in educational technology. When I look back, I can trace what I do today to an elective class I took way back in high school.

My senior year of high school was the first year that computers were taught in the classroom. For some reason, I can’t even remember why now, I signed up for the class. We had a dozen Apple IIe machines and a room full of geeky kids I called my friends. I may have been the only female in the class… if there were others, I don’t remember them. What made this such a magical class was that we knew we were playing with something that had boundless potential, something that was going to change the way we all did things. We were fascinated by creating random pixel arrays and motivated by debugging the ominous “syntax error”. I still have my dot matrix printout of my final project code… maybe it’s my geek street cred…lol.

The instructor, a charismatic, fun-loving, off-the-wall sort of guy, set up the learning environment in such as way that we all felt safe to explore… and to fail. Failure wasn’t something bad, it was just one thing that didn’t work. We couldn’t wait to get there, and he had to chase us out the door for lunch. He was probably only about one step ahead of us the whole year and he truly relished the opportunity to learn along side of us. He thought it was totally cool when we figured something out that he didn’t know. My experience in that class set the stage for the learning and teaching that I do now.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Hands-down it has to be LEGO robotics. We did a project in grad school using LEGO and a few years later, I decided to try it out in my intro to CIS class. Ever since then, it seems like LEGO robotics has permeated my entire life! I like to set up an impossible task (to the students it seems impossible anyhow), give them the tools they need, and get out of their way. It’s one of those activities where you can actually SEE them think. Every time I do a class or workshop with robotics I can honestly say, “wow, I haven’t seen that before!”. I’ve used robotics for community outreach, for professional development, for middle school kids, and at Expanding Your Horizons China Lake for the past 6 years, a great annual conference to “nurture girls’ interest in science and math courses to encourage them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Role models and heroes:
Teachers… from elementary school to grad school, I’ve been blessed to have some amazing ones. The very best ones made me push beyond what I thought I could possibly do and had faith that I’d actually be able to do it. A few years back I wrote up a post discussing the impact teachers have had on my life – http://educationalexperimentalist.com/wp/?p=455.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t be afraid to get right in there with the guys. Women bring unique insight and perspective to the technical table that is valuable and necessary. By all means, play around with it and have fun! You’ll learn more that way and discover things you never imagined!

Favorite website or app:
Too many to name! Facebook and Twitter are the best professional development tools I have used in years. They are great for networking, useful for crowdsourcing ideas, and wonderful for discussing interesting topics. W3Schools is helpful for quick lookups. CodeAcademy.com has put together a nice intro to programming site that my 12 year old is working through right now.

Twitter: @ChangeEd (academic) @DebbyK (personal)

Site: http://www.EducationalExperimentalist.com

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