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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Technology: You Go, Girl!

Bonnie Bracey Sutton

Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation

The Center for Excellence and Equity in Education (CEEE) seeks to promote greater participation of underrepresented groups in the sciences and to encourage academic excellence for all. It's where I learned lots of ways to use technology to interest my students -- girls in particular. Sometimes we look for projects that are specific to girls to encourage them to be online, but in a safe environment.

The American Association of University Women report, Tech-Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age, recommends a number of ways girls can be encouraged to take an interest in technology. If the changes work, the report suggests, the result will be not only a technology workforce that includes more women but also a more inclusive computer culture.

Let me know what you think about these sites:

Girls Inc., Online. Girls Inc., is a safe, secure, and free membership site that lets girls create home pages, interact with other girls, and learn about health and relationships, economic literacy, career exploration, and education. The site hosts chats with women in various careers, and more. Parental permission is required to join.

Beyond Nancy Drew: A Guide to Girls' Literature. This site has an annotated listing of books for girls written in the last 200 years. The books reflect the changing roles that were/are considered "proper" for girls. Roughly chronological, the listing is organized into subject headings such as Etiquette, Nurses, Girl Detectives, Tomboys, Working Girls, Heroines, and more. Almost all the books come from Duke University's Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collection Library.

Platform Shoes Forum. The mission of this nonprofit organization is to identify educational gaps for youth and provide solutions through community outreach and technology platforms. Erin Brockette Reilly and Vinitha Nair cofounded the organization with their model program, Zoey's Room, as a safe, social networking Web site aimed at girls ages ten to fourteen to increase their interest in science, technology, engineering, and math in a fun and creative community.

Whyville. This dynamic online learning community is geared toward children ages eight to fifteen. Of these users, two-thirds are female, a demographic that is increasingly difficult to interest in science and math. The creative team at Numedeon launched Whyville in 1999 and continues to add educational activities based on the inquiry approach to learning -- the theory that people learn better by actively doing and trying rather than passively reading or watching.

Alice 2.0. This program, shared by Caitlin Kelleher at a recent conference as a way to interest girls in computer programming, has the potential to revolutionize and reinvigorate computer science education in the United States in secondary schools and beyond. View her PowerPoint presentation, "Alice: Making It Easy (and Fun!) to Learn to Program," and check out Alice 2.0 and Alice Storyteller. Download Alice 2.0 for Mac and PC here.

Alice 3.0, a popular object-oriented, Java-based computer-programming environment created by Carnegie Mellon University researchers, is coming soon, and it will provide essential arts assets from The Sims, the best-selling PC video game of all time. Experts say that when the transformation is complete, the new programming environment will be in a position to become the national standard for teaching software programming.

Email Kelleher with questions about Alice.

GirlTECH. In response to a serious shortage of women in computer science and information technology, GirlTECH works to promote participation by girls and women through K-12 student and teacher programs, university-student admission and retention programs, and national outreach and awareness efforts.

Since its inception in Houston in 1999 through the National Science Foundation's Education, Outreach, and Training Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (EOT-PACI), TeacherTECH, the teacher-training component of GirlTECH, is now in five cities: Houston, Boston, San Diego, Chicago, and Washington, DC. TeacherTECH's goals are to equip teachers with knowledge and strategies that will encourage all students' full participation in computer technology, especially in scientific computing, and to enable teachers to effectively use and produce Web resources that support student learning.

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Sean's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Bonnie, thanks for the great article. I really am glad to hear that so much is being done to try and shrink the digital divide between boys and girls. Having just read The World is Flat, it is so apparent that we need to do all we can to create an interest in young people for math, science, and computer programming. In particular, I was interested to hear about Zoey's Room. I think anything that we can do to cultivate interest in engineering in young girls is a positive step.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree, girls should have the mindset that they can do anything boys do. Well put!

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