GirlTech: Coding

It’s been a busy school year (is there any other kind?) and I have spent a significant amount of time on the club I started this year for high school girls, called GirlTech. For months now, I have been meaning to post a series on this blog on the components of GirlTech and how I am implementing them at my school, in case this helps any other teachers out there trying to start similar clubs.

Part 1 of the GirlTech club (for background on the club, read here) is Coding. Girls are learning about computer programming, starting from the very beginning. Our school offers much in the way of design courses, but nothing of computer programming (yet). So for our first year of the GirlTech club, we started at the beginning:

Code.org hosts a studio where students can complete a 20-hour beginner course. They log in with a username and password, and are tracked as a group. This made it easy for me as the club leader to track their progress. As GirlTech is a co-curricular, I didn’t want to plan lessons, or even have the club feel like being in class (best way to lose them, right?). The Code.org block programming was a perfect start, and many of them stayed on the art modules for longer than necessary, enjoying the creative process.

After they finished the beginner course, students were ready for text-based programming, so we switched to Codecademy. I allowed students to choose their programming language, but asked that they explore with a partner so that they could learn and code together. I don’t think many of them followed this advice, but in our group of about 10 girls, we had students learning Javascript, jQuery, HTML & CSS, Ruby, and Python. Not a bad start!

All of this took us up to about January, although some of them have continued to dabble in coding in their free time. At the end of the first semester, grade 12 faced major exams and all of the girls started engaging in part 2 of the club: Leadership. As that part increased, the coding decreased. I think this is an acceptable development, especially as the leadership component is already having positive effects in the school community! We also have had some great experiences for part 3 of the club: Mentoring. There is more to come on both of those in further posts, so stay tuned.

Now in April, we have returned to a focus on coding and the girls have decided on a group project: they want to create an app. Our last meeting turned into a spontaneous design session, where the girls brainstormed the requirements for the app they are developing, and then agreed to meet more often in order to get moving on the project. We have even roped in another techie with more programming experience to help with the app development. Their inspiration is contagious! I look forward to seeing where the project leads them, and how the club develops in the next year.

2 Replies to “GirlTech: Coding”

  1. That is fantastic that those ideas are evolving naturally from the students! Seems like their experience with this club really had an impact.

    A “design thinking” protocol might be useful for them next time they meet to get them really thinking about how to make the best app that directly meets the needs of their audience.

  2. Hey Ruth,
    Sounds like a successful year! There are two easy-to-use platforms for app development that I have seen, App Inventor and Touch Develop. Someone with a foundation in programming should be able to navigate either with aplomb.

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