I recently attended an educators share session at the local Google office in my city where educators and Google employees get together to discuss new and innovative ideas in technology and education. It’s a great way to discover new and exciting ways to deliver curriculum to students and a great way to collaborate with other educators. I get excited every time I attend one of these because I get to hear about new ways Google is trying to improve how educators deliver content to learners!
It is here that I first took the leap into the world of code and the team at Google were there to support educators on their journey of discovery. At these sessions educators get to break off into groups for discussion on topics of interest and a topic that continually comes up is girls and coding. How do we get girls interested in learning to code?
I’ve taught coding in the classroom for a few years now and I also run a coding club at my school that is open to a number of different grade levels. If you were to see a picture of us in the yearbook, you may be surprised to see that three quarters of the club is female! I didn’t think much of this at first, until a parent of one of the club members approached me and pointed it out. She shared with me that she worked in the human resources department at Google and that it wasn’t typical to see as many girls interested in coding as there were in my club. She also talked about the ways Google is trying to change the female to male ratio in the profession and how happy she was that her daughter was excited to be a part of the coding club. As a human resources employee of a tech company, she could see how coding had become as a necessary skill for many professions and that students would need this skill in the future! Check out Google’s new initiative Made with Code, a program designed to show girls how computer science is relevant in their lives and to encourage more girls to learn code!
When an educator in my share session talked about the exciting successes he was having with his coding club at his school, he also shared that he was struggling with ways to get girls to show interest in joining his club. After he asked the group for some suggestions, I found myself thinking about my conversation with the parent of the female student and some of the factors that led to a higher female membership in my club.
Here are the suggestions I shared with my fellow educator as to how to encourage girls to pursue coding opportunities:
1. Use a program that offers lots of choice in terms of topic selection for projects. CS-First is great program run by Google that is very user friendly and has lots of choices that appeal to girls. It uses Scratch Programming to teach a wide variety of topics including fashion, music storytelling, gaming, animation and art.
2. Have a female as one of the club leaders if possible. Having a female that is in a leadership role sends a signal to younger girls that computer science is not a male dominated profession.
3. Allow girls to work together on projects. Girls are naturally social beings and love to collaborate! Working with others is also a safe way to explore something new and having a friend to work through potential hurdles with, provides a safety net for girls to take chances. Have a look at the Coding Buddy Book resource I designed as a way of introducing coding to students with a friend.
4. Have older female students in the school act as mentors in your club. The girls can be there to act as mentors to all students, however, they act as a symbol to new female students that these girls have become experts in coding in a short period of time. It also provides an opportunity for the older female students to take on leadership roles in the subject area, which in turn increases their confidence to pursue computer science as a profession.
5. Discuss some of the interesting job opportunities related to the field and invite some female guest speakers to speak about how their profession relates to computer science.
6. Allow lots of room for creativity and exploration. Encourage girls to see how they can express their creativity through coding programs. Allowing them time to explore, rather than simply complete a task or project, is important!
I hope some of these tips inspire you to think more about how we, as educators, can encourage girls to get involved in coding classes and clubs! Happy Coding!
Below are some coding resources you may find useful when teaching your coding program in your class or club!