NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

By signing up to our newsletter, you agree to our terms.

Do Something

Attend the event

Join the conversation on Tuesday, May 23 2017, at Drexel University’s Mitchell Auditorium. Register here

 

Connect WITH OUR SOCIAL ACTION TEAM



Cheat Sheet

Low on time? Read the recap of this story

  • Leah Buechley led the High-Low Tech Group at MIT Media Lab, creating ways to integrate traditional arts and crafts with new technology.
  • She invented Lilypad Arduino, a sewable electronics kit for children that lets them stitch together lights, sensors and little computers with conductible threads to create, for example, a shirt that sings or turns colors.
  • Buechley’s work at MIT Media Lab touched on something that has become more apparent to Buechley since she left Cambridge in 2014: The inequality inherent in our education system, particularly when it comes to computer science and STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] fields.
  • Three years ago, Buechley moved back to New Mexico to focus on the business she formed out of her research and to have a family. The time away from academia has allowed her to think more deeply about the ways in which technology—an exciting educational tool—can also leave more people behind in a system in which those with money have more access to the latest gadgets, and those without it barely get any computer education at all.
  • Buechley will talk about these issues and her personal angst over choosing a prospective school for her child as part of Drexel ExCITe Center’s Learning Innovation Conversation Series.

The Citizen Recommends: Leah Buechley

As part of a Drexel series on rethinking learning, the former MIT educational technologist grapples with the inequities her work can bring to education

As part of a Drexel series on rethinking learning, the former MIT educational technologist grapples with the inequities her work can bring to education

When Leah Buechley was growing up in New Mexico, she was always gifted and interested in math and science. But she didn’t think of herself as a scientist; she was, instead, artistic. “I was into fashion and design and art,” Buechley says. “I went back and forth between those two thing—being an artistic kid, but doing well in math and science.”

That dichotomy stayed with Buechley until she started graduate school when, she says, “I discovered this really exciting territory at the intersection of technology and arts.” That intersection led Buechley to her research at MIT Media Lab, where she led the High-Low Tech Group, creating ways to integrate traditional arts and crafts with new technology. Among other things, she invented Lilypad Arduino, a sewable electronics kit for children that lets them stitch together lights, sensors and little computers with conductible threads to create, for example, a shirt that sings or turns colors. Lilypad Arduino was designed to appeal to all kids, even those, like Buechley, who might not think of themselves as scientists—like girls.

Like the wearable technology kit, Buechley’s work at MIT Media Lab touched on something that has become more apparent to Buechley since she left Cambridge in 2014: The inequality inherent in our education system, particularly when it comes to computer science and STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] fields. “Technology and STEM are dominated by white and Asian guys,” she says. “Some of the work I’ve done has shown ways of attracting different types of people. A social justice lens has always been a part of of what I do.”

Three years ago, Buechley moved back to New Mexico to focus on the business she formed out of her research and to have a family. (She has a three-year old son.) The time away from academia has allowed her to think more deeply about the ways in which technology—an exciting educational tool—can also leave more people behind in a system in which those with money have more access to the latest gadgets, and those without it barely get any computer education at all.

“It’s important for us who work in educational technologies to spend a lot more time and attention thinking about these big hard problems,” she says. “If we don’t address them, it will get worse. And our inventions can make that gap even worse.”

Buechley will talk about these issues and her personal angst over choosing a prospective school for her child as part of Drexel ExCITe Center’s Learning Innovation Conversation Series. She says she’s hoping both to impart lessons from her years as an education tech developer, and to solicit answers from the audience about the difficult questions we all should be facing about the state of education in our country.

“Do ‘learning innovations’—new technologies and approaches—usually exacerbate inequality?” she wonders. “How can we guard against this? How can we ensure that schools connect to the interests, passions, communities and cultures of all kids? What can we do to better engage and support everyone?”

Header photo by jeanbaptisteparis via Flickr

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We want to be a communal space. But that doesn’t mean you have a First Amendment right to be an idiot. Send us an insulting, offensive and/or wildly off-topic comment and not only will we refrain from posting it -- we will laugh at you before we hit delete.

Recent Tweets
@THEPHILACITIZEN

@thephilacitizen @@thephilacitizen
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"You can’t have it both ways any longer." Guest commentary on Trump and the state of his party. https://t.co/sv4kjLxLIP 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
.@onwurd weighs in on problematic statues and their rightful place in America. Via @ellisonreport https://t.co/sKdIlcfQAc 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Which House or Senate leader is willing to make a statement repudiating Trump?" Guest commentator @coachsethberger https://t.co/sv4kjLxLIP 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Perhaps the more unfortunate thing is the lack of any historical context in the removal of statues." @ellisonreport https://t.co/sKdIlcfQAc 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Last night someone defaced the #rizzostatue. The Citizen takes a look back at the play about the former mayor. https://t.co/R0qlO2DgoY 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Guest Commentator Seth Berger wonders where we go from here after #Trump's backpedal on condemning the Alt-right.… https://t.co/XTswcVGTJS 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
.@onwurd ’s afternoon hosts wonder how much those doing the debating over the Rizzo statue actually know. #OnWurdhttps://t.co/0yacMntiuR 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
A comprehensive list of actions we can take in the wake of the events of Charlottesville. #UnitedWeStand #Philly https://t.co/ublgupOhWE 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"Let’s distinguish ourselves from Trump by being the anti-moral equivalence city." @platt_larry on #Trump & #Rizzo https://t.co/OXVyTI9DZS 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Friday join @UACoalition in celebrating 1,400 youth successfully completing summer jobs and internships! https://t.co/xY40nTcjlp 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Celebrate, learn and engage with Caribbean culture this Sun at the Philadelphia Caribbean Festival @penns_landing. https://t.co/mJyawYIF1Z 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Click link to review the agenda and regulations for tonight's SRC meeting at the Phila School District HQ, 4:30. https://t.co/hSJ8ija8wM 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
The Citizen has 16 ways to turn your horror over what happened in Charlottesville into action and support in Philly… https://t.co/D0giDHT9Q0 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
"How we deal with Rizzo’s legacy will say a lot about how much we’ve internalized Trumpism." —@platt_larryhttps://t.co/Kd4jIIDnzg 

LOAD MORE

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story