This past fall, Illinois Tech was home to what may be the first college course in the nation to teach the history of computing through women’s experiences. The course, designed and taught by Assistant Professor of History Marie Hicks, was recently profiled in Chicago Inno. The class centers on women’s experiences and shows how they change what we think we know about technological progress. In addition, it teaches students to get away from the fallacy of the “great man” or “great woman” model of understanding history, showing how historical change is the result of the contributions of large groups of people, rather than the product of the actions of a select few.
Hicks spoke to Chicago Inno’s Karis Hustad about how her students not only learned about women in computing history but also participated in the process of shaping it. Students did a wikistorming exercise in which they wrote missing women into computer history entries on Wikipedia and corrected Wikipedia entries that erroneously credited men with historical “firsts” in computing that were actually made by women. As part of their final assignment, students created public-facing class projects, such as podcasts, board games, comics, and online video games designed to teach the broader public about the history of women in computing in fun and engaging ways.
To read the Chicago Inno article, click here. To see, hear, and play some of the students’ final projects, visit the website of Illinois Tech’s Digital History Lab. And, to see an annotated version of the course syllabus that details the topics students learned during the semester click here.