TITLE: K-12 Road Show Summit, Day Two AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 31, 2008 12:33 AM DESC: ----- BODY: 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" by Lecia Barker, 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 new AppEngine, 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 outreach. -----