Monday, March 02, 2009

Getting girls interested in IT

I’m at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center for an event on how technology can support innovation in education in Europe. We’ve had a morning of speeches, presentations and videos including meeting a team of Digigirlz from the European School in Brussels.

During the event I gave a short presentation (scroll down) but it inspired me to summarise and pick out the main issues:

• Make technology accessible / access personal technology: help girls to get preferential access to PCs and equipment e.g. through girls IT clubs. Another idea is to look at their personal gadgets (e.g. mobile phones, iPods) and explore with them how they can use them in a more sophisticated way.

• Increase their confidence: a lot of girls have good grades in maths and science subjects, so are well prepared for IT and programming subjects. But female teenagers in particular lack confidence, and even with good grades will think they are not up to scratch. Help them understand you don’t have to be perfect!

• Show how leisure IT use can be helpful for education / careers – encourage students who have their own blog, or are digital photo enthusiasts, to understand that this is can be adapted for education and career purposes. Help them to know that this is a skill that others may not share.

• Help them meet realistic role models: IT is notoriously stereotyped in the media, so it’s a good idea to help them meet people who can inspire them in career choice. Why not take them to a local IT company to have an afternoon Q&A with a young, female IT professional? If you can’t physically go, try doing an online chat!

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