As we go through life, we view the world through our particular lens. This view is uniquely ours and is shaped by our experiences and our perception of those experiences. Accordingly, two people may perceive the same event very differently.
What does this have to do with edtech?
Built for Men
Our world, dominated by male influence, is accordingly designed for males. Per the link, the default size for a brick is a male hand. The default office temperature is matched to a male metabolism.
STEM careers are dominated by men. If something as obvious as a brick is not optimized for the average woman's hand, what does it say about complex tools for learning STEM?
I'm looking at you, existing edtech. You are off course.
Luckily for children and students, there is a significant number of women working in education. There is still a number of unfortunate invocations of "paint it pink, now it's for girls" in male-designed products.
I am not alone in my concern: indeed, little girls are being hindered by the tools they are using to learn STEM. Girls are statistically more likely to be perfectionists than boys. Edtech that involves software is typically unforgiving (unless it is a dysfunctional point-and-click experience).
Recipe for disaster:
1. Take a perfectionist.
2. Place them to an unforgiving environment.
3. Add a learning curve such that one must typically make mistakes to succeed.
In one study by Reshma Saujani, she found that girls were creating exceptional solutions to programming problems. Some of these girls would make a typo or forget punctuation and were promptly told by their edtech that their program would not compile. Their solution was wrong. A perfectionist and a wrong solution are oil and water.
To some girls, this act of being told that they were wrong was an unrecoverable blow to self-confidence. These girls deleted their amazing solutions and sat there staring at blank screens, waiting for the clock to relieve them from their humiliation.
The Other Half
I keep hearing that there are not enough girls involved in STEM.
Ignoring the uselessness of setting a participation goal for no particular reason, why would we expect any other result when the tools are not matched to their needs?
When we create tools, we impute our biases into them. If we are cognizant of our biases, we can actively choose to bring in other viewpoints and challenge our biases. It's like wearing a pair of rose-tinted glasses while being aware that there are other colors out there.
In my perspective, existing edtech companies have barely tried to identify male-generated biases, much less remove them. At best, these companies are working to addict the girls to the products for data mining purposes. Addiction and self-motivated learning appear similar to the observer, but are as different as night and day to the learner.
The self-motivated learning aspect is unique to Jade, and what allows our product-in-development to help you find a flow state while learning.
I wrote previously that Jade is being designed to be gender neutral. My female co-founder provides a feminine balance here, which has greatly helped me identify and question biases during early product development.
How can we possibly expect a functional society when half of the population is not equipped with proper learning tools?
Not Quite Neutral
To be completely accurate, Jade is not gender neutral. The identified strategies and concepts in motion cater to girls and women while producing a neutral-to-positive effect in boys and men.
I would like to provide a physical example, albeit just a straw[wo]man, of the neuroscience principles.
Imagine a brick. This brick is of a size that fits into most female hands, but is proportioned such that most males can carry it just as easily if it is turned 90 degrees. There is no longer a gender disadvantage: the effect is neutral to males.
My reason for catering to girls and women is simple: they are underrepresented today and are our future. I see a hard correction to the underrepresentation in motion, and it is not going to stop at a 50/50 balance: I believe that it will be an overcorrection that is necessary to compensate for the male inertia.
This is not a discussion of gender-attributable differences in skills, abilities, or anything of that sort. Whether you believe or do not believe in such things, I am not here to persuade you either way. There are identified gender differences, some attributable to societal influences (perfectionism, for example), others that are not.
We want to consider all factors and understand their roots.
Of the young children that I have talked to, the girls lead by a slim margin when it comes to expressing concern about taking care of the planet. They are basically asking for a durable tool because they want to stop the damage. Today, they are being handed technological bricks that do not really fit in their hand.
I do not intend to disappoint them. This is their planet.
And, as you can see from the many renderings, Jade is not painted pink and would not be shunned by little boys. Everyone, regardless of gender, age, or skill level, will find enjoyment learning with Jade. Jade is about an individualized, personalized experience.
By providing a framework for optimal learning, everyone will find unique reasons to enjoy learning with Jade.
See you next week!
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.