What do girls know about coding? Way more than you think!
We are just under a month away from our 4th Annual Hackergal Hackathon with over 4,500 girls registered from 10 provinces coast to coast! As schools across Canada get their girls ready for the largest all-girls hackathon on December 12th, I had the exciting opportunity to see our program truly come to life at Cornell Village Public School (CVPS), a growing, diverse school community in Markham, Ontario.
Last week, the champion educator and 30 new Hackergals sat down and talked to me about their experience coding and why it is important for girls to play a bigger part in technology today. The energy in the room was buzzing and I got the chance to see how the learning really comes together.
Meet Ms. Stuart, a champion educator of Hackergal, facilitating our program at CVPS with the support of an engaged team of teachers. Ms. Stuart is the Technology Lead Teacher (TLT) at her school and a new Hackergal educator this year. Ms. Stuart spent some time telling me about her experience (so far) this year.
Kumiko: Now that you are coding every week, what surprised you about coding?
Ms. Stuart: Although I have done other coding programs, I wasn’t sure if I was prepared for the intricacies of Python as a coding language. But what surprised me the most was how quickly the girls picked up the lessons and were able to follow the instructions and debug the programming. When the girls are stumped, they jump at the opportunity to help each other. If you were to walk into the coding club at recess, you would see every girl working so hard and so focused on their coding. When the bell goes for them to leave, they don’t even move!
Kumiko: What is the impact of creating a community of girls who are learning to code?
Ms. Stuart: The impact of having the girls together, is you get to create a space with different students, some that are more introverted, some more social, and you can see them work together in new ways, problem-solving every challenge and having shared celebrations over their successes. You can hear the girls say “Yeah! I did it too!” and “We did it together!” This program instills a sense of confidence in the girls as they go through the challenges together and see their own ability to learn something completely new. That’s something that these girls can take out into the real world and apply to their daily lives.
Kumiko: Beyond the hard skills of Python programming skills, what soft skills have you seen developing in the girls?
Ms. Stuart: The girls are definitely learning to prioritize by looking at the code and understanding what is the most important part to focus on. Flexibility has been really important too — when something unexpected happens in their code, the girls are learning how to adapt, instead of giving up. I see the girls persevering and trying again and again in different ways. Collaboration has become a huge part of their growth, especially as we get ready for the hackathon.
When I asked the girls about their interest and experience in computer science, they spoke about their range of exposure to coding, from no experience at all, to having learned a bit from their parents who work at some of the biggest tech companies in North America.
Kumiko: What is challenging about coding and what do you do?
Ayanna (Hackergal Participant): Sometimes I just don’t know what to do, so I started to think about what I’ve done before and think about how I can bring that to what I’m doing now, which does make it a lot easier.
Kumiko: What’s your favourite part about this program?
Ayanna: When you think about coding and when you look at us girls, you’re like oh, they’re just working, but when you’re doing it, it’s not just working, it’s having fun and learning at the same time.
Kumiko: What skills are you learning beyond the coding?
Dhara (Hackergal Participant): We don’t usually get to see the other girls in the school, but coming here we get to talk to other people, ask for help, and communicate with each other.
Kumiko: Why it is important to girls and women to learn code?
Dhara: Men are in technology, but for women, there is not a high percentage. Women and men think differently, so if we combine womens’ and mens’ ideas that would be equal and make a difference.
What really stood out to me about these Hackergals was both their enthusiasm and their self-awareness when it came to technology. They may not be armed with all the hard facts nor the statistics, but these girls are learning that what they do in their coding club is part of something that really matters, something that’s important within and beyond their coding club, and something that can, as one student, Kyra (Hackergal Participant) said herself, “break down the stereotypes in technology.”
If you’re interested in featuring your school and showcasing your girls, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I would love to share your stories too.