TITLE: K-12 Road Show Summit, Day Two
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: May 31, 2008 12:33 AM
The second half of the workshop opened with one of the best
sessions of the event, the presentation "What Research Tells
Us About Best Practices for Recruiting Girls into Computing"
a senior research scientist at the National Center for Women
and IT. This was great stuff, empirical data on what girls
and boys think and prefer. I'll be spending some time looking
into Barker's summary and citations later. Some of the items
she suggested confirm commonsense, such as not implying that
you need to be a genius to succeed in computing; you only need
to be capable, like anything else. I wonder if we realize
how often our actions and examples implicitly say "CS is
difficult" to interested young people. We can also use
implicit cues to connect with the interests of our audience,
such as applications that involve animals or the health sciences,
or images of women performing in positions of leadership.
Other suggestions were newer to me. For example, evidence shows
that Latina girls differ more from white and African-American
girls than white and African-American girls differ from each
other. This is good to know for my school, which is in the
Iowa metro area with the highest percentage of African-Americans
and a burgeoning Latina population. She also suggested that
middle-school girls and high-school girls have different
interests and preferences, so outreach activities should be
tailored to the audience. We need to appeal to girls
now, not to who they will be in three years. We want
them to be making choices now that lead to a career path.
A second Five-Minute Madness session had less new information
for me. I thought most about funding for outreach activities,
such as ongoing support for an undergraduate outreach assistant
whom we have hired for next year using a one-time grant form
the university's co-op office. I had never considered applying
for a special projects grant from the ACM for outreach, and
the idea of applying to Avon was even more shocking!
The last two sessions were aimed at helping people get a start
on designing an outreach project. First, the whole group
brainstormed ideas for target audiences and goals, and then
the newbies in the room designed a few slides for an outreach
presentation with guidance from the more experienced people.
Second, the two groups split, with the newbies working more
on design and the experienced folks discussing the biggest
challenges they face and ways to overcome them.
These sessions again made clear that I need to "think bigger".
One, Outreach need not aim only at schools; we can engage
kids through libraries, 4-H (which has broadened its mission
to include technology teams), the FFA, Boys and Girls Clubs,
and the YMCA and YWCA. Some schools report interesting
results from working with minority girls through mother/daughter
groups at community centers. Sometimes, the daughters end up
encouraging the moms to think bigger themselves and seek
education for more challenging and interesting careers.
Two, we have a lot more support from upper administration and
from CS faculty at my school than most outreach groups have at
their schools. This means that we could be more aggressive
in our efforts. I think we will next year.
The workshop ended with a presentation by Gabe Cohen, the
project manager for Google Apps. This was the only sales
pitch we received from Google in the time we were here
(other than being treated and fed well), and it lasted only
fifteen minutes. Cohen showed a couple of new-ish features
of the free Apps suite, including spreadsheets with built-in
support for web-based form input. He closed hurriedly with
a spin through the
which debuted to the public on Wednesday. It looks cool,
but do I have time?
The workshop was well-done and worth the trip. The main
point I take away is to be more aggressive on several fronts,
especially in seeking funding opportunities. Several companies
we work with have funded outreach activities at other schools,
and our state legislative and executive branches have begun to
take this issue seriously from the standpoint of economic
development. I also need to find ways to leverage faculty
interest in doing outreach and interest from our administration
in both STEM education initiatives and community service and