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What Makes Girls Fall In Love With Computers And Code?

Stashed in: Awesome, EdTech, XX, Computer Science, Girls Who Code

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Wilson offers up some examples of initiatives tackling the problem full time, including Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code. He also referenced TechCrunch’s interview from this past October’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing with Dr. Maria Klawe, who has nearly closed the gender gap at the elite Harvey Mudd computer science department since she joined the college as president in 2006.

There's a strange attitude by Paul Graham that worships founders who code... if to imply that founders who don't code are lesser.

So perhaps the best way to get a girl interested in computers is simply to put them in front of her as often and as early in life as we do for her male counterparts — and even more importantly, encourage her to approach computers as a producer, rather than as a consumer. As Maria Klawe put it in the video, “One of the things I hate about the current state of things is people think of technology as something you use, but not something you create.”

Think of technologies as RECIPES to play with, not food to consume.

I think the big difference here is that boys and girls are different in how they play.  Boys tend to have action fantasies where girls tend to have _interaction_ fantasies. GI Joe will attack Cobra behind the couch, whereas Raggedy Ann becomes a psycho-empathic self projection. This is by no means a hard rule and there's a large amount of overlap (i.e. if a young girl asks what a doll _does_, immediately go buy her LEGO!), but if we want more girls to become engineers, we need to come up with toys that teach problem solving while still being true to how girls tend to play.

My nieces love LEGOs. More LEGOs!

Make programs targeted to what girls like, this will create interest, and make them dream of doing it even better, and as Geege said, introduce them to it earlier in life ;)

And also make it okay to not have to be a coder to be a founder of a successful startup!

So, I asked my friend why there were no girls in his startup. Why didn't he hire them? Where were they? It took me a while of being around tech before I noticed the absence of girls. 

He said, "I want to hire them. They don't apply." He later told me, "If you're not producing them, you're not helping me!" 

I teach history... and I have the antiquated tech in the classroom to prove it. But what I do is throw them on CodeAcademy or show them some stuff. I make no allowance for gender, but it's true, my guys are the gamers and hackers. The girls... not so much. Just not interested. I have to sneak it in. I take my bloggers and writers and try to transfer those skills to other areas and opportunities, and I've done a weekly dose of #GeniusHour to encourage the spirit of creation. Genius Hour originated from Google's 20% time--the premise is give them time to create something with a connection to the class--there are parameters. I've used this concept loosely around solving the problems of society--I'm teaching Current Events. 

Students get graded for the process of trying to make something. The iteration isn't the grade, it's the design thinking and process that is. It's the first year I've done it... The reward is that I've promised if and when any student is ready I'll connect them with "real people who are doing this stuff." And those "real people" (aka, you guys) are more than happy to connect with students with vision. I show videos and feature teen innovators whenever possible--show them they don't need to finish school to start innovating. That's a big misconception they've been sold along the way.

One of my favorite projects emerging is a team that wants to create a geo app that shows people where donation spots, shelters, and soup kitchens are. This is one I'd like to see... No girls on that team though... although the teams are permitted to shift and morph (replicating hiring/firing/splits in real life) so maybe there will be. I'll encourage it. 

Genius Hour is a good idea. And he should be actively looking for people to encourage to apply.

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