You know we believe that Charlotte is a creative city. It’s also a generous one. While it doesn’t make the headlines every day, our home is bursting with people drawing from the life experience and giving of their social, financial and creative capital to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. Sharon Jones, Ed.D, founder & CEO of thedot. Consulting and the Lady Tech Charmers Podcast is one of them.
Today, our friend Mai-Lis at People of Charlotte speaks with Sharon about her work with The Dottie Rose Foundation, a nonprofit organization she founded to “provide opportunities for all girls to learn computer science and understand how they can use in their everyday life and as a potential meaningful career choice.” Less than a year old, the Foundation is seeking partners to assist with support of their scholarship opportunities and mentorship, as well as providing technical experts guest to present at coding academies.
Mai-Lis speaks with Sharon today about her inspiration and passion and the importance of teaching computer skills to children, especially young girls.
Q: You’ve said “The world needs more students with tech skills!” Where are we in Charlotte now and where do we need to be?
We are making great strides in Charlotte in the conversation around technology and demand. There are many groups and businesses working to engage individuals in technology and show the many options that are available in the tech field. However, we still need to work on the rhetoric around “I am not a tech person” because we are all tech people.
We may be more on the consumer side of technology, but we each use some type of technology each day and can easily use our skills to be creators of technology. Where I see the conversation moving next is highlighting how computational thinking and technology are a part of every discipline and learning how we can see the connections and not see technology as a separate entity. It is imperative that our young people learn basic tech skills to be competitive in today’s workforce.
Q: Education has always been a part of your career and your passion. How did your experience teaching and working in administration bring the Dottie Rose Foundation to life?
The foundation came to life as I moved through my teaching career and there were not enough girls in my classes. I am a Career and Technical Education teacher and have been teaching computer science courses for the past 16 years. Through my work, I saw the gap occurring during the middle school time frame.
There is excitement and creativity in elementary school. Then, there is a change in middle school. The middle school age is an amazing opportunity to begin to show kids the “what if” of following a passion. I wanted to show through my work and the culture of the foundation that technology and computer science are a part of every passion and can make that “what if” become “I did or am doing!” We all have a tech genius, we just have to find our fit and we are helping girls do just that.[To this end, Jones founded The Dottie Rose Foundation (named after her grandmother) on February 12, 2018.]
Q: If you were given substantial funding, how would you further the Dottie Rose Foundation impact?
There are so many things! I want to expand my footprint and provide more programming to be able to interact and work with girls on an ongoing basis. Attending a summer camp is not enough, we need to continue to work with students to grow confidence, skills, and opportunity.
I would like to grow a program that includes: academic, experience, and mentorship.
Through the process, we as the Dottie Rose Foundation are a resource and place to grow in the technology field. I envision both a physical place to come and learn, an online platform, research, and conference/workshop opportunities for girls to get a whole person approach to a career in technology/computer science.
In addition, providing insight into curriculum development for K12 schools to integrate computer science across disciplines. Students need to see that all subjects contribute to the innovation of technology.
I would love to provide full scholarships to women wanting to move their education forward in the computer science field either in a traditional college or other educational courses.
Q: What are your thoughts on how schools are incorporating technology into their curriculum?
This is a hard question because there is lots of technology being used and most of the CMS schools have one-to-one technology, but we still have a long way to go.
What is happening more often than not, is the technology is not truly being integrated. There is surface use and the hardware provides an additional resource, but truly applying the power of the software is not always happening. However, we can create change through thoughtful professional training and other learning opportunities for our educators. Investing in the individuals that work with our students will provide the needed confidence they need to explore, discover, and implement new technologies and software.
Q: What do you own children think of your mission and accomplishments?
My children, Ethan (7) and Dylan (5), understand that I am an educator and that I work with computer science, but I am not sure that they completely understand all that I am doing with my work. I have discussed it with them and they have attended some of my workshops but mostly, I am just mommy.
Q: We hear you have some pretty amazing summer camps coming up! Please share!
We are really excited about our summer! We are having an Arts + Tech camp where we will explore the intersection of art and technology. Our Constructed by Girls: Wearable Tech Camp will showcase the STEM + Tech that goes into designing and creating a garment. Girls will learn from local fashion experts, create a pattern using 3D software, and have their garment produced for a fashion show. In addition, they will create a wearable tech accessory to match their garment.
Our last camp of the summer is a called Creating Your First App, where girls will learn how to design and code their own working app. We will walk through the design process to create an app that is both functional and has good UX design. All of our camps run 9-4, Monday-Friday. You can see more on our site dottierosefoundation.org
Q: Favorite Charlotte whatnots?
Park Rd Soda Shoppe is one of my favorites for a quick bite and a great cherry coke!
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