Yolanda, working towards equity in tech, USA

Hi, my name is Yolanda Payne. I work as a Research Associate at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The biggest reason that I’m so invested in technology is because people invested in me. They saw something that I was good at, showed me opportunities, and so, in turn, that was my philosophy in teaching.

I can’t draw, I’m not an artist, but I am a teacher. The computer gives me the tools to be an artist, it gives me the tools to create things, and I’m like, if that does that for me, then just imagine what it will do for kids.

There’s a children’s book called If You Give a Mouse a Cookie — well, that’s what it is for me with Raspberry Pi: if I can just get this Raspberry Pi, I can put a whole computer in a kid’s hands, and so Raspberry Pi gave me ideas, gave me a community, but it also gave me the confidence to know that I didn’t have to know everything. That spirit right there, I took back to the kids. Between the Code Club website, the different forums, they could find the answers to their own problems without me having to know everything. I was learning right along with them. We were all having fun. It was like the best teaching that I had ever experienced in twenty years of teaching.

I work with both students that were considered to be in special education and students that were gifted. And one of the biggest things that I saw that I don’t think people realise, especially about students in special education, they are used to solving problems. Even navigating the school system can be a problem for them. And so what I learned about technology with them is that they would often be the ones to figure out things before my gifted students did. It also enforces for me that we can’t be gatekeepers and keep technology from people because, ‘oh they won’t be able to do this’. You’d be very surprised at how real-life problem-solving skills flow very easily into computer science.

What I have come to realise is, if you have a spirit of adventure, if you’re curious, and you can take those aspects to your students, then the work and the resources that the Raspberry Pi Foundation provide you, it really does a lot of the heavy lifting. If you give a teacher a Raspberry Pi and show them these resources, they’re going to be hooked. So all you need are educators that are enthusiastic, willing to learn, and willing to lead. The amount of resources that you get from the Foundation that are at no cost or low cost, you can’t beat that when it comes to being an educator. It’s a wonderful thing to have kids where you have to kick them out of your classroom, instead of dragging them in. When you have to kick them out, then you know something is going right.