When Sandra Met Ada…

Well, actually, Lerner author Sandra Markle never met nineteenth-century computer programming pioneer Ada Lovelace—though I suspect she’d have loved to. I’ve got Sandy’s permission to profile her in my blog entry for Ada Lovelace Day, which honors pioneering women in science and technology.

Sandra Markle (below right, surrounded by some of her books with Lerner) is definitely a computer pioneer. She’s an award-winning author of over 200 nonfiction books for children. She was among the first to write books that helped children understand computers DSC_0162 copyand how to use them in their everyday lives. She also wrote extensively for teachers helping them find ways to effectively use computers in their lessons.

Then Sandy took the next step—a giant one for computer-assisted learning. In 1996, as the recipient of a National Science Foundation Artists and Writers grant, she went to explore Antarctica. While there, she produced and delivered On-Line Expedition: Antarctica, an interactive learning package complete with live chats from the frozen continent. This was one of the first such programs that enabled children to use computers to virtually explore and investigate. That same year, she was the lead journalist for 24 Hours in Cyberspace, reporting from on board an icebreaker in a remote part of Antarctica’s Ross Sea.

Early on, Sandy recognized the tremendous need for quality instructional materials for schools that were bringing computers with Internet access into elementary classrooms. She set out to develop an Internet-based curriculum—another first. Lack of money was an obstacle, but she studied how to write a grant and on her first try successfully secured a $500,000 two-year pilot grant from the National Science Foundation. The result was Kit & Kaboodle Science Curriculum, which was used by over 500 schools in all 50 states plus eleven countries.

In 1999, for her computer pioneering efforts, Sandra Markle was named one of the Women of the Year by Women in Technology International. She continues to search for new ways to use the capabilities of computer technology to empower children to be investigative learners. Meanwhile, she also continues to write powerful, engaging stories about people and animals.