Girls should be really good at coding.I’m quite convinced of this, even though I’m not really good at it myself and I just want to share a little something from my experience in the hope that it will help the teaching and learning part.
Parking me at a computer with one of those big red phone books with the black and white cover and the red letters was not the way to teach me and it wasn’t until I had a go at building something myself, that I figured out how to connect a database and make a cart that worked and did some basic things.
And before you say that I’m kinetic, or not a classroom learner, that’s not true because I’ve been tested for all that. According to my friend’s PhD research, I’m exactly 50/50 audio/visual which is bang on for most classical classroom and lecture style learning. So the person standing up the front with Powerpoint preso in a lecture or a conference is perfect for me.
What I needed was real world context. Yes, more audio and visual probably would have helped but I think we have to be careful about thinking that girls need floaty pretty pictures and boys can handle linear, gritty mechanical things. Context is the ‘why’ and this is the main thing I was missing. I had no context and no idea of what I was trying to make, or even really do. Context is really important to how I learn. If I get the business case up front, then I can move back and bolt something together (see what I did there). Going the other way and declaring things and passing things around in abstract form was a complete riddle to me.
It’s the same reason (and a big of odd self diagnosis here) that I was pretty good at algebra and crap at calculus. Algebra is often taught in word problems and solve for x. If three apples and two oranges cost $4 sort of thing- I can picture the apples and the oranges and get why you would want to figure that out. Going straight to 3x and 2y and then getting to the end of the course and saying ‘so you can work out how many apples and oranges you can buy at the supermarket’ doesn’t work so well for me.
I’ll give you another example. I was watching two young girls -about 8 and 10 at a guess, playing in a hotel reception. They were playing check-ins with one playing the guest and the other one writing down all the details on a real, paper hotel check-in form. I looked at the form afterwards and was surprised how well she had done at capturing all the correct information. She had put in variables for car parking, the three dogs that were also coming to dinner and their meal requirements (!) and all the customer information like name, address and email. It was clear that the girls had a good understanding of the business case for capturing customer hotel information on a form.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to then take the paper form and say:
‘how do we make it so when Mrs.Dinglebatt comes next time with her three dogs, she doesn’t have to fill the form in again?’
‘Mrs. Dinglebatt left her mobile phone charger in the room. How do we get her contact information so we can email and tell her we have it?’
’when Mrs. Dinglebatt’s dogs order room service- how do we make sure it gets charged to the bill so she can pay at the end?’
I think the girls would have got it, especially if they could see the process end to end with the reception person calling up information on a computer. Minecraft and other games are pretty great too, but I think we shouldn’t be afraid to use real-world problems and everyday situations to teach girls how to code in context because I think that could really help the little girls playing hotels to make the next AirBNB or Paypal.