If you want to teach someone how to code, you just have to sit them in front of a computer and help them get the hang of it, right? While that might seem like an effective way to teach someone, it’s probably not going to be effective for the vast majority of students. Some learn best by learning theory first, before diving into the practical; others prefer to learn by doing and get their hands wet right away.
And there are a lot of other ways that students learn best and it ultimately depends heavily on their individual situation. The responsibility of creating an inclusive and friendly learning environment doesn’t just lay with the teacher; the entire institution must commit to removing any barriers to tech education and students must be active players in maintaining a friendly and open classroom.
There are quite a few barriers to tech education that exist and in this article, we’ll cover some of the most common ones, unmask why they’ve become an issue in tech, and suggest some ways to overcome these barriers.
What is a Barrier to Education?
Before we head right into the nitty gritty, it’s best to first define what barriers to education are, where they come from, and give you some examples so that you’re able to identify any you might see. Once we’re clear on how barriers to education look, we can talk about tech barriers specifically.
Education is a fundamental human right; everyone should have access to fair, affordable, and inclusive education from a young age. However, this isn’t a given around the entire world, due to these common barriers to education:
Finances: you might assume that this section will talk about how education is too expensive and therefore excludes some people; while this is certainly true and we also need to take into account affording clean clothes for schools and materials, in addition to hiring quality teachers, some children aren’t afforded the chance to go to school because they must work from a young age to help make ends meet.
Instructors: students need skilled and trained instructors to help them not only learn the necessary material, but also develop soft skills. When students are being taught by under qualified instructors, their education will reflect that and it creates a cycle within the community that is nearly impossible to break.
Resources: students need a lot more than just a pencil and notebook to learn; they need high-quality and updated learning materials, in addition to a safe and healthy environment in which to learn. Many students don’t have proper classrooms and have to walk to school, which can be difficult with inclement weather.
Accessibility: in schools with limited resources, students with disabilities or accessibility concerns are frequently left behind and don’t have the tools they need to succeed.
Society: many are still weighed down by societal expectations, such as gender-specific industries or the assumptions that girls will stop studying and get married at a certain age. This can prove to be both a physical and mental barrier to education and have serious effects on gender diversity in the workplace.
Now that you know what barriers to education are, let’s get a bit more tech specific and discuss how the tech sector is directly impacted by barriers to education.
Barriers to tech education
The tech sector has grown exponentially in recent years and this has led to one thing in particular: an increasing demand for skilled tech professionals. It’s a profitable and interesting sector, so why is there such a large skills gap? Why are there so many open positions in tech? Well, the aforementioned barriers to education and even more exist in tech, creating a large hole between those who could learn tech skills and the ways to actually learn those in-demand skills. Let’s discuss:
A lack of tech resources: teachers can do everything they can to promote technology in the classroom, but if students aren’t exposed to computers and advanced programs, it will seem like more of a faraway dream than a reality.
A lack of focus: because technology is always advancing, institutions must commit to not only teaching the in-demand tech skills of the day, but also working to stay up to date with any new developments to not waste time teaching outdated or no longer used skills.
A lack of accessibility: students both learn differently and have diverse needs in the classroom, especially when it comes to learning about tech. Students must have what they need to reach success, which can be quite the challenge.
To ensure that barriers to tech education are overcome, the different learning environments in tech need to be understood and clear to all.
Diverse Learning Environments in Tech
A diverse learning environment in tech is one where the lesson content is viewed from more than one cultural perspective, in addition to centering both the learner and the instructor. For a classroom to have a diverse learning environment, however, it needs to not only have different cultural perspectives, but also promote and enrich these differences during lessons, encouraging students to think outside their normal cultural constraints.
Why are diverse learning environments important?
Diverse learning environments should be prioritized because:
They help students think outside the box: when diverse perspectives are seated at the table, the solution and product will reflect the diversity of these voices, making the final product or decision one that benefits a larger group.
They help students expand their worldview: knowing how to deal with cultural differences and disagreements is an extremely valuable soft skill that employers highly value, and will be needed once students enter the workforce.
They foster an inclusive environment: every student should feel welcome in the classroom, regardless of their background or culture. Classrooms where students feel free to be themselves will benefit from more perspective and experiences coming together.
Examples of diverse learning environments
Diverse learning environments don’t just refer to someone’s culture or gender; in fact, diverse learning environments can take on many forms:
Racial diversity: a student’s race is a large part of their identity and can affect how they interact with others, in addition to how they’re viewed by others in society. Keep this at the forefront of your lesson plans when creating your curriculum.
Ethical diversity: even students that look alike will come to class with vastly different backgrounds and cultural experiences; this will influence how they talk, act, react, deal with problems, and expect to be treated. Don’t make assumptions based on someone’s culture and work to create a classroom where all cultures and backgrounds are cherished and welcome.
Language diversity: a course may be offered in English and all students signed up do speak English, but if there are second language learners or people who aren’t familiar with tech-specific jargon, it’s essential to provide subtitles on videos or make an effort to use familiar words so that all students are on the same page.
Religious diversity: religious diversity means a lot more than what someone believes, it can affect the days a student can attend class, how they dress, how they interact with other students, and what they can eat. Instructors should reach out to understand any religious requirements students have and actively work to come up with solutions if any problems arise.
Accessible diversity: some disabilities are visible to the naked eye and others may not be; some students may be vocal about necessary adjustments such as a special keyboard, closed captioning, or hearing aids but others may not be comfortable sharing that information to the whole class. Ensure your classroom is one that incorporates anything and everything to make students feel like an integral and needed part of the class and ensures an equal and comparable learning experience for all.
Economic diversity: some students may have access to high-speed WiFi and state of the art computers; others may not have broadband at home and can only use public computers. Keep this in mind while assigning homework and outside projects, respecting the socioeconomic diversity of your class.
Gender diversity: gender identity is an incredibly personal and intrinsic part of the human experience; to ensure that all students feel welcome and safe, make asking for preferred pronouns and enforcing correct language from everyone the norm.
There are a lot of differences that can arise in the classroom, due to diverse learning environments. But that’s a plus and something that can help us improve the overall educational system. To break down these barriers in the tech world, we can follow these tips and tricks.
Overcoming barriers in diverse learning environments
Don’t let the above points get you down: diversity is something that should be cherished and welcomed because it’s incredibly valuable and contributes to higher efficiency, better final products, and a more inclusive society. And to foster innovation and inclusion in the classroom, we can:
Get to know each and every student: sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what a student needs right off the bat and creating a space where you make an effort to get to know each student helps reinforce the feeling that they’re appreciated, welcome, and important. If you’re seeing some reluctance from your students about sharing what they need, try offering an anonymous form or feedback box.
Practice what you preach: your students will follow your lead and creating a safe classroom is possible if you’re willing to start difficult conversations and take action when necessary. It’s not easy or fun, but your students will follow your lead.
Be flexible: some students will need adjustment or concessions to fit their specific learning experience and that’s totally fine. In fact, it’s a great way to ensure that everyone makes the most of their learning experience; take the time to understand how your students learn and incorporate what you’ve learned into your classroom routine.
Admit when you’re wrong or need help: knowing how to make adjustments and welcome every single kind of educational diversity simply isn’t realistic and don’t worry, we don’t expect you to be an expert! However, be open to making mistakes, correcting yourself if you do slip up, and working with students to incorporate feedback and changes as needed.
Barriers to learning certainly exist, and especially in a sector like tech. But no challenges are unsurpassable and can be handled with a bit of dedication and effort. At Ironhack, we’re focused on creating inclusive and diverse classrooms, with options like full or part time or remote/in-person courses to ensure that everyone can learn the necessary skills to launch a career in tech.
To discover what your tech future could look like, take a look at our four bootcamps (web development, UX/UI design, data analytics, and cybersecurity) to see which is the right fit and reach out to our Admissions team with any questions or concerns.
We can’t wait to see you in class and work together to create a more diverse and inclusive tech sector.