August 7, 2018

Why I Code Like a Girl

Why I Code Like a Girl from Alpha Squirrel Velvet Holmes

Today’s guest post is written by Velvet Holmes, Information Technology Literacy Teacher for Oregon School District in the greater Madison, Wisconsin, area. Velvet works with students and staff to integrate technology efficiently into their curriculum and learning journey. She is also a member of our Alpha Squirrels program.

I don’t teach statistics, but there’s a stat from Girls Who Code that always catches my attention:

Only one in five computer science graduates are women.

That’s a problem.

The tech industry is exploding, but too often girls are left behind. Something needs to change, and it’s going to start with me.

I’ve worked to create several programs in my school district that empower girls socially, academically and vocationally. I hope my story can inspire other teachers, educators and business leaders to create environments where women are included and inspired to contribute to the tech industry.

Words I live by:

According to a study by Google, encouragement from adults and peers is the number one contributor to a teen girl’s decision to pursue computer science.

It’s no question that social encouragement and modelling positive behavior and are huge when guiding young women, especially when it comes to career choices. So how do I do it?

By coding like a girl.

In 2016, the Code Like a Girl party made its debut in our district. It’s an afternoon of celebrating women in computer science. Inspired by Made with Code, a site created by Google, Code Like a Girl teaches our district’s young women in grades one through eight how to code during workshops and collaborative sessions.

Picture3

We’ve met speakers from Google and Epic Systems, been inspired by stories of real women working in the software industry, crafted binary necklaces and made many friends. It’s truly important and inspiring to see our girls learning vital skills in an environment where they’re interacting positively with each other and having fun.

At Code Like a Girl, our young women have:

  • Met special guests from Google, Epic Systems and Filament Games
  • Learned how to use HTML to create webpages
  • Explored how to prepare for jobs in the computer software industry

Student-coded website

We’re in the process of building a middle school program with Girls Who Code, a national organization that empowers young women to pursue computer science and engineering.

While creating these initiatives in our district, I’ve learned some key takeaways:

Be present.

Girls need the encouragement and presence of female role models that work in the computing field. It’s the most effective way we’ll get more women interested in tech jobs.

Trying is more important than succeeding.

The learning process is benefited most when students show up and try. It’s not about the end result at the finish line. The real benefit is if they learned a programming language or grew during the process.

Build your program from the bottom up.

We started small and used the devices available to us. We are persistent in our mission to get more girls excited about computer science and all the doors it can open for them.

Don’t give up!

I am always learning new things myself while teaching, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I may not be an expert coder, but I can encourage students and be a confident role model for problem solving and perseverance.

That may be the most important way to code like a girl.

December 8, 2017

Are we too late for computer science education?

This is the first of a three-part guest post series from Angie Kalthoff, Technology Integrationist at a Minnesota public school district. In this series, Angie analyzes where the K12 education system stands with computer science education. 

Students often get their first dose of computer science education in high school. 

For many, that’s too late.

Studies show that if students are not exposed to computer science by fourth grade, stereotypes about people who are not good at science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) begin to form. These social stereotypes deter girls and students of color in particular from entering the computer science field.

This is a problem.

Computer science introduces critical literacies, such as coding, and skills that are fundamental to the development of college- and career-ready students in the 21st century.

How do we fix this?

We can provide earlier access and opportunities while highlighting self-efficacy in computer science. Students should begin learning computer science as early as kindergarten. That will help build a diverse computing landscape.

Introducing computer science in kindergarten will help prevent education stereotypes from forming during the time when students are curious, learning about the world and developing their interests.

Why not bring more technology experiences into our primary classrooms?

Based on a study of classroom teachers’ experiences, the primary motivation for teachers to use technology is the belief that technology will make them better educators and positively impact student learning. 

While most teachers believe that technology benefits students, few of them successfully integrate technology into their curriculum in a meaningful way. My colleague and friend, Diana Fenton, is working to change this by introducing her preservice teachers to technology integration best practices and computer science education early in their college experience.

Resources
Teachers who are not able to take Diana’s class can use the following resources for professional development opportunities:

TPACK
Teachers who are currently in a classroom setting can follow the TPACK model for guidance on technology integration. By working together, we combine our skillset in the following areas: Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge, which encompass TPACK. My district encourages this type of co-teaching.

Challenge yourself
I didn’t think that I could introduce computer science at the beginning of the school year when I was a kindergarten English language teacher. That’s an important time for developing relationships and establishing routines.

Then I challenged myself to think of how one of those routines could incorporate a computer science station in small group rotations. I saw the progress we made with computer science integration and decided to introduce it even earlier the following year to see what we could do with a whole school year.

Coming Up...
Stay tuned! In the second installment of this three-part series, I share how computer science lessons are integrated into our classrooms and how they connect with state standards, the ISTE Standards for Students and the CS Framework. 

To dive deeper into the research, visit the following resources:

Google. (2014). Women who choose computer science—what really matters: The critical role of exposure and encouragement.

Mountain View, CA: Author. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-E2rcvhnlQ_a1Q4VUxWQ2dtTHM/edit

Huebner, G. (2017, April 20). Coding for Kids | 5 Reasons to Teach Kids to Code. Retrieved November 07, 2017, from http://blog.kodable.com/2014/07/07/5-reasons-to-teach-kids-to-code-2/

Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T., Glazewski, K. D., Newby, T. J., & Ertmer, P. A. (2010). Teacher value beliefs associated with using technology: Addressing professional and student needs. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1321-1335.

Young programmers -- think playgrounds, not playpens | Marina Bers | TEDxJackson [Advertisement]. (2015, January 20). Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOQ-9S3lOnM

1

About Us

Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. We create high-quality, budget-friendly screen mirroring and device management software that’s compatible with today’s most popular devices. To date, our software can be found in hundreds of thousands of classrooms, businesses and homes. Follow our blog for all the latest product updates, Squirrels news and technology insight!