Fixing the diversity problem in school tech clubs with open source tools.
This is MINET, the Technology and Design club of The Mother’s International School, New Delhi.
Look at the photo more closely, remove all the old people who are standing and what are we left with? 15 boys and 1 girl. For a club that prides itself for making tools that help people barely has girls as members.
So, the only girl at MINET with her some of her friends started The Girl Code. An open source non profit organisation that hosts workshops for girls in senior secondary school like they can break the stereotype and realise that programming isn’t just something that boys do, it’s something for everyone to solve problems with.
So we created a small Django webapp, opened registrations and ran from pillar to post to convince our juniors to register; and they did, ~30 of them!
But before we started we set some ground rules on how we’ll be going by teaching the curriculum that we decided upon;
- This isn’t a normal classroom or lecture hall, you’re encouraged to ask questions in between.
- Age doesn’t matter if you don’t understand something and someone younger than you does, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- The mentor to student ratio should be as small as possible, in the case of this workshop it was 1:5.
- If you’re getting bored or don’t know why we’re doing something, let us know. It is the mentor’s responsibility to make them realise the beauty in what they’re doing.
- If a mentor doesn’t know something, they’ll be honest about it. They will also find out the answer to the question and let the students know. We’re highschoolers after all. 😛
And the response was amazing. Watching their eyes light up during the first few days when they realise that they could create complex figures with simple rules on TurtleBlocks made my day. I had the same feeling when I saw Conway’s Game of Life run for the first time, and I didn’t even make that!
Towards the end of the workshop everyone made and showcased their project. They realised that programming is for everyone, not just for guys sitting in a dark room, with random green characters flying all over the screen.
We recently opened registrations for the Programming department at MINET again and The Girl Code did make the impact that we were looking for.
Looking into the girls that applied.
Hopefully by next year we’ll be having a ratio closer to 1:1. But let’s just step back for a moment to see what just happened here. A highschooler saw a problem in her school tech club, looked into why the problem existed in the first place, Made a program to solve it and finally fixed it and while doing that she inspired to do the same. To me, that’s real programming.