When it comes to inclusive classrooms, we’d all like to think we’re the industry leaders, boasting diversity in everything that we do. But the reality is that it’s not quite the case and truly fostering diversity, inclusion, and equality in the classroom requires an effort that’s deeply rooted in a commitment to bettering the world. And the tech sector, an industry that had low levels of diversity for so long, is in dire need of professionals looking to make a strong promise to diversity.
The classroom is an essential place to start diversity efforts, showing all students that they’re welcome and belong. But even before that, how can we ensure that all students have the tools they need to be able to even step foot in the classroom? After all, if not every student has an equal opportunity to even start learning about tech, a diverse classroom will be impossible.
In this post, we’ll explore some barriers to tech education that many groups face, in addition to tips to improving diversity and inclusion efforts in the classroom.
Barriers to Tech Education
People who want to learn tech can just sign up for a class, right? It may seem this simple to some people, but the reality is that many people are unable to even access basic tech classes, which then ensures that they can never advance in the field. Let’s cover some of the most frequent barriers to tech education that we witness:
A lack of resources: this is quite obvious; if students aren’t exposed to technology, they won’t be interested in learning more, let alone pursuing it professionally. And for those who do get some technology knowledge in school, if they only see outdated machines or programs, they might doubt the importance of technology today and in the future. Other schools may have limited computers, weak WiFi connections, or budget constraints that don’t allow for a thorough tech education.
Limited instructor knowledge: have you ever had someone try to teach you something that you just know they’re not an expert in? Unfortunately, this is common in areas with low resources; teachers are forced to lead classes in subjects they aren’t experts in and aren’t passionate about and this is frequently transmitted to the students.
Institutional barriers: many schools don’t place the same importance on technology classes that they do math or English, meaning students don’t realize that technology is an incredibly important skill that could be quite beneficial later on. Other schools simply don’t have the bandwidth to take on an additional subject.
Assumptions about the tech sector: it just takes one comment about how girls have no place in tech for a little girl to completely close off to tech; misconceptions about the industry communicated to students can completely change a person’s mindset when it comes to tech.
A test-heavy dependence: as education has advanced in recent years, we’ve learned that there are many ways to learn and some students simply don’t test as well as others, despite having the same knowledge. Students who struggle with tests might be deterred by an excessive amount of tests or strict evaluation policies.
Resistance to change: tech is becoming increasingly important and many people are reluctant to truly embrace it; while understandable, this resistance to change can limit the development and education of students.
These general barriers can limit the tech education opportunities that students have and ultimately lead them to choose a different career path. To ensure that all students have the chance to truly explore tech and decide if they want to pursue a career in it, institutions should keep these following tips and tricks in mind:
Ensure that technology offerings work for all students
Low-income students may not have the broadband power they need at home to complete technology-focused assignments, resulting in them falling behind and losing interest in the subject. Before assigning at-home work that requires tools and resources that some may not have, familiarize yourself with all students’ situations and offer solutions or help when needed. And for students with disabilities who may not be able to work a computer for whatever reason, ensure teachers are familiar with accessibility options and work to provide a comparable and equal experience for all.
Keep affordability at the forefront of lesson planning
There might be an ultra-expensive program that would be a great resource for your students and the majority of them have no problem affording it. However, the financial barrier to tech is a major one and putting financial barriers in place can completely exclude some students from your lesson and ultimately make them feel like they’re not welcome. Keep affordability at the front of your mind at all times and make an effort to make adjustments for specific students if their circumstances require other solutions.
Promote the use of technology in daily life
Students react positively to tools and resources that they can see helping them in their daily life–they want to know that what they’re learning will be beneficial to their lives, no matter their specific circumstances. Bringing technology to the forefront of everything you do and showing how it can be beneficial to society can help spark an interest in technology that will propel them to keep learning.
But how can we promote diversity and inclusion in the classroom, once the student is in the classroom? This takes dedication and a true passion for achieving a diverse and inclusive classroom, but it is possible.
Diversity and Equality in the Classroom
Diverse and inclusive classrooms are completely realistic and many efforts have been made in recent years to guarantee it. But if you’re unsure on where to start or how to deal with certain situations, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive right in.
Create a place where everyone belongs: this seems obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Creating a classroom where all students feel welcome and cherished can be challenging, so follow these tips:
Review names and preferred pronouns frequently at the beginning of the course, practicing the correct pronunciation of people’s names to avoid any microaggressions.
Ask students to create a bio on a shared platform where they can share their photo and basic information, creating a place where everyone can review this information.
Be attentive to student needs: some disabilities are visible and students talk about them easily; others may be hidden and students are reluctant to share them openly. To make sure you’re fully aware of student needs:
Create a survey for them to take home or fill out online where they can privately share anything that is essential for their learning process.
Keep a feedback box or online survey available for the entirety of the course so that students can anonymously communicate any problems or concerns with you.
Promote teamwork and collaboration: you may have students that have never interacted with people from other cultures and to encourage cultural exchange and diversity, make teamwork and group projects an essential part of your course:
Avoid letting students choose their own groups (this can lead to students picking people similar to themselves or others feeling left out) and instead pair or group students based on their varied backgrounds, encouraging this inclusive principle.
Encourage a culture where students use each other for resources and answers, letting them see each other as tech professionals and boosting each other up.
Ensure your classroom is accessible: an accessible experience is comparable and equal to that of the “regular” experience and classrooms that aren’t creating an equal and inclusive experience for all simply aren’t effective:
Take the feedback from your initial student surveys into account and incorporate what you’ve learned into your course: offering captions or subtitles for second language learners could be incredibly helpful and accessible PDFs with image descriptions include visually impaired students.
Listen to your students and watch for areas where someone might be struggling, reaching out and making the necessary adjustments as required.
Remember that the technology sector has a history of being non-inclusive: we’re working towards becoming more inclusive but there’s still a lot to be done to repair the years and years of being non-inclusive:
Don’t assume that everyone has the same knowledge and be patient with those just starting out; they deserve the same opportunities and may have had limited resources in the past.
Boast flexibility to make all feel welcome, such as allowing students to have their cameras off during remote classes or study from different places if they have other responsibilities.
Creating an inclusive and diverse classroom where all feel welcome is totally possible, but it will require hard work, patience, and adjustments when necessary. And if you’re looking to get started in tech in a diverse and inclusive environment where all are welcome, different backgrounds are cherished, and you’ll feel supported, there’s no better place than Ironhack.
At Ironhack, we boast diverse students in our Web Development, UX/UI Design, Data Analytics, and Cybersecurity Bootcamps, thanks to our flexible part and full time options, financing plans, career support, and no previous tech knowledge required.
Interested? We’d love to see you in class. Apply today and help us make the tech sector more diverse and inclusive.