On Saturday we will celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme of “Inspiring Change” encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere, in every way. At Microsoft, we are celebrating women who have and will change the world through technology with a particular focus on those who are inspiring more women to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math — commonly known as “STEM.”
Having worked in a technology company for the past 20 years, I’ve seen much progress made. Yet, it remains evident that a huge gap still exists when it comes to getting girls interested in technology and in STEM subjects more generally. These areas are considered to be “in crisis” throughout global education, especially as they relate to young girls. That’s why we wanted to celebrate some of the inspirational women who are using Skype in the classroom to bring world-class learning to all children everywhere.
Heather Heenehan, “Sounds of the Sea”
Heather Heenehan is one such woman who is passionately inspiring young girls to explore their STEM interests and follow their dreams. A PhD student in Marine Science and Conversation at Duke University and guest speaker on Skype in the classroom, she joined Skype’s “Exploring Oceans” unit this past November. Heenehan, who had hosted educational outreach programs related to STEM for fourth through sixth grade girls in Durham, NC, jumped at the opportunity to expand her influence.
Heenehan says, “I love seeing the children’s faces light up because it keeps me going. I thought it was selfish, but I now realize it is service!” She has developed her own Skype in the classroom lessons, “Sounds of the Sea.” She speaks to classrooms about the importance of sound for marine animals, the effects of human-made sound on animals, and what it’s like to be a woman in science. Her lessons are customized for each classroom with an age range of six through 18. Not only is she leaving a lasting impression on students around the world, but she also has shared the power of Skype with her readers on the Huffington Post.
Jennifer Reiter, Iditarod Teacher on the Trail
Jennifer Reiter is a Baltimore-based teacher who just started her mission as this year’s Iditarod Teacher on the Trail. She is traveling by bush plane across Alaska following “the mushers and their dog teams across 1,000 miles of what is believed to be the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer.” Her mission: to save the sled dog culture and Alaskan huskies, which are being replaced by snowmobiles in Alaska; and to preserve the historical Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome.
Reiter, who has used Skype to bring experts into her own classroom, has held pre-race Skype visits with 35 schools to educate them about the Iditarod Race. She’s excited to use Skype in the classroom to “bring the energy and enthusiasm of Iditarod live and ‘in person’ or via video messaging” now that the dogs are off to the races! Students around the world will have the opportunity to see a woman in one of the toughest competitions known to mankind.
Sarah Weldon, “Oceans Project”
Sarah Weldon, a cognitive neuropsychologist from Great Britain, first became acquainted with Skype when she played BBC’s ‘Oceans’ series to her classroom in the Soviet Republic of Georgia in 2010. Many of the students had never seen an ocean animal before and were enamoured by them. This sparked an idea: Weldon arranged to have the cast of ‘Oceans’ to use Skype to speak directly to her students. These sessions became the perfect forum for Weldon to teach her classroom about issues such as climate change.
Since then, Weldon’s “Oceans Project” has grown into an organization that provides free STEM education to more than 17,000 students worldwide. She joined Skype in the classroom as a guest speaker to deliver educational experiences and content to students in all corners of the world. In 2015, Weldon will set out to be the first person in the world to row solo around Great Britain. She will be at sea for 13 weeks on behalf of the Oceans Project. During her journey, she will be uploading 3D film footage, scientific data, photographs, blog posts and sharing her journey and adventure through her Skype in the classroom lessons.
Skype in the classroom is pleased to help women like Heenehan, Reiter and Weldon educate the next generation of scientists, explorer and researchers. If you are not a member of the free and easy to explore Skype in the classroom teaching community, but would like to learn more about how Skype can make an impact on the students in your classroom, please visit education.skype.com.