Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Academy's New Cast: Sensitizing Software

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Academy's New Cast: Sensitizing Software

Article excerpt

Nichole Pinkard

Assistant Professor of Education, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Education: Ph.D., Computer Science, Northwestern University; Master's, Computer Science, Northwestern University; Bachelor's, Computer Science, Stanford University

Age: 31

Many don't think about it, but race and gender affect software design, just as culture influences the way we use technology. "The majority of software is designed by White men," says Dr. Nichole Pinkard, assistant professor of education at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. "Designers design based on their experiences. Some educational software just doesn't engage women or minorities."

Pinkard, who says her goal is to "help come up with a design process that is more explicit," is garnering attention for her research in this area, and she's going further - designing some educational software based on cultural backgrounds. Her "Rapping Readers" educational software has met with good response among minority beginning readers.

Pinkard, though majoring in computer science, also has concentrated in education and psychology. She says an early career challenge came in just finding a college program where she could combine the study of culture in education with technology.

But perhaps her biggest career challenge to date came when she was working on her doctorate and was looking for research funding. Most of the emphasis seemed to be on science and technology, not education and technology.

"I really had to work hard at selling myself and my proposal," she says. …

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