Q&A with Dr. Ronah Harris, AP Psychology and US Computer Science Teacher, Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart

Interview by Taylor Smith | Photographs courtesy of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart

Describe your educational background and what led you to Stuart Country Day School?

I have my doctorate in technology and learning, from Teachers College, Columbia University. Here at Stuart, I am able to apply my educational background and my academic research, which included topics on how we use technology to expand our creativity, and innovative thinking, into the work I do here at Stuart supporting high school students. The girls at Stuart are college bound, and in addition to learning context, the skills I integrate into my courses are grounding students with learning theories, ideas about how to make products, and the design thinking process.

Why is it significant to combine and teach the fields of art, craft, design, and technology to young women?

The intersection of technology, art, craft and design will set the stage for our future innovations. In so many ways these topics have already driven traditional product development (automotive, consumer and communication devices, the internet), and will lead to inventions in fields that are just emerging such as 3D printing, robotics, nanotech, and AR/VR.

Young women are poised to offer a new perspective to these fields. Crafting and design in particular enhance fine motor skills, dynamic multidimensional thinking, and problem solving and are present in the arts, crafts, and design disciplines. While we have tended to diminish the value of these traditional skills (sewing, metal, wood, etc.), while highlighting the other academic skills, I can see that we have to find a balance. I have found the closest approaches in the tenets espoused in the maker education movement — and in that space, as with most of technology, women are not leading the conversation. I want to see that change.

I want my emergency room doctor to know about my aliments (the content), and to sew great stiches (a tangible skill). But I also see the same skills translating into the design of amazing prosthetics, and other augmented and digital products. The traditional crafts and arts are as important as learning computer science and other new technologies.

Discuss your efforts towards diversity in technology as it relates to your work at Stuart.

I have always thought that our humanity has many challenges. From global climate changes, to our needs for a very growing and aging population, or needs for more renewable resources — we have a lot of problems to solve. I believe that we cannot afford to lose one voice, or one person, who can contribute to solving these issues.

Diversity to me is about ensuring that all possibilities are explored and that we don’t overlook the potential for the next Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein to participate in bettering our human condition. We throw away potential genius through institutional hurdles, and cultural barriers. We tend to ignore those who do not fit the ideal caricature of those who we feel should be an inventor, or scientist, or genius. There is greatness in all parts of our society and we cannot afford to overlook those potential contributors because they come from poverty, are born a female, or look other than what we have historically seen in the media.