Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day: The Fear Crew

I've been thinking about this for the last few days. Unfortunately, my interest in technology has puttered along without much inspiration from women. I learned fairly early on to rely mostly on myself. And a lot of the people who helped me along the way were actually men, my husband primary among them. I thought about writing about my friend Lisa Meeden, who is an inspiring woman in CS, but when we first met, I wasn't yet interested in technology. I also thought about writing about my first real boss, Jennifer Hart, who encouraged me in many ways, but she is mostly a business person. I also thought about Kathy Sierra, whose work has always inspired me, but I wanted someone I actually knew.

So I decided to write about the four women, dubbed the Women of Fear, the Fearless Women, the Fear Crew, after we gave a presentation on Fear 2.0 at ELI in 2008. The women are Leslie Madsen-Brooks, Barbara Ganley, Barbara Sawhill, and Martha Burtis. I first met BG, BS, and Leslie at BlogHer 2006. BG, BS and I gave a talk on Edublogging. We were kind of oddballs among the mommy bloggers and the sex bloggers and the bloggers who wanted to monetize their blogs. But I was so thrilled to meet other women who were as passionate about technology in education as I was. It was exciting to meet people who didn't think my ideas were crazy and who were fearless about pursuing what they believed in. Now Barbara G. is out of school, pursuing a completely different path. Her ability to strike out on her own in part inspired me to do something different.

Then I met Martha at Faculty Academy in May 2007. I had seen the buzz about Faculty Academy in the blogosphere in 2006 and I knew I wanted to go. Invited by Steve Greenlaw to be on a panel, I made the short trip down and was inspired by all the amazing work the technologists and faculty were doing to incorporate technology into the curriculum. Much of that work was being done under Martha's leadership. Martha continues to inspire with her thoughtful consideration of the role of technology in teaching and learning.

Leslie has always been somewhat reserved compared to the Barbaras, at least in my mind, but when I think about all she's done and is doing, I'm constantly amazed. She works in a Teaching and Learning Center, blogs in two different blogs, teaches two (I think) classes, plus takes care of a 3-year-old and a husband. She writes inspiring posts about the nature of academe, the role of technology in education, and the struggle of women to balance work and life and make it in fields where they're not always welcome.

These women are a touchstone for me, people who push me to do my best, to see things differently, to not be content with the status quo. They constantly push how we think about technology in our lives, struggling against all kinds of tensions. I often reach out to one or all of them when I'm frustrated with something or have a good idea I want to test or just need someone to listen. It might be good to have "famous" heroines one can hold up as inspiration, but I prefer the everyday type of heroine, those that inspire daily.
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