More than 500 engineers of health information systems gather annually for the HIT industry’s largest interoperability testing event, the IHE North America Connectathon. At the event, I asked one of Corepoint Health’s young female engineers how it felt to be one of the very few women participating in the testing, she looked around the sea of men and flatly said, “I hadn’t noticed.”
Does Programming Need to Be More “Girly” for Girls?
Jewelbots founder and CEO Sara Chipps tells Education Week, “There are a lot of tools out there for coding, but many are not as appealing to girls as they are to boys. Our goal was to find something that would inspire girls’ creativity in such a way that they would be motivated to learn to code.”
Aimed at “tweens”, girls 9 to 14, the new wearable technology is an easily programmable friendship bracelet that can be set up to vibrate or light up when a friend is nearby. It doesn’t take much programming to start, but can be combined with an app to allow more complex functionality.
Lisa Abel Palmieri, who spent five years building a nationally renowned coding and computational thinking program at Pittsburgh’s Ellis School, says that the best way to engage girls in coding and STEM is by making learning contextualized, “We should help them understand what the big picture is and how learning technical things can help improve the lives of others.”
Technology is a Tool
The way to get girls into tech is not to use the word tech. Same goes for boys. I’ve never met a girl or a boy who said: ‘I want to be an engineer when I grow up. I want to code all day long.’ Girls and boys want to be superheroes and rockstars. They want to make impossible things happen. They want to be rich and famous. They want to change the world. In the business world, we call this type of focus ‘Business Outcomes’.
We can have a conversation about outcomes with children, too. Focus on the goal, and the skills necessary to reach that goal. A little girl who wants to change the world by bringing education to every remote village on Earth can do so by being CIO/CTO/CMO/CEO of a technology company. Look for dreamers, because dreamers make things happen. Don’t label girls or boys.”
My niece spends a lot of time on her iPad – playing Minecraft and reading Harry Potter novels. Shopping for her 9th birthday was not easy. I wanted to find some hands-on activities she could make. I selected a pom-pom making kit and a kit for building a solar rover. The pom-pom kit was received as “cool”, but I was pleasantly surprised at her enthusiastic “Awesome!” as she opened the solar rover, carefully studying the box. Amongst the sea of pink clothes and girly gifts, my sister informed me, “She made something like this at Camp Invention.“
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