So I’ve been rather quiet on the blog front of late. This is because I’ve been working hard, not only at school but also on #include! We had our launch party last night at BCS London which went very successfully (a photo of the committee and some of the attendees is below) and I thought I’d share my speech from last night about how and why we started up this campaign.
“Good evening to all of you and a huge welcome to the #include launch party – we’re really happy that you’ve chosen to join us tonight in celebrating the launch of our working group and we hope you would like to work with us in the future to improve the diversity of students in Computer Science. It seems logical to begin by telling you a little about how #include started. Now this is really a story about how my life got flipped, turned upside down. So I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, and I’ll tell you how I became the #include chair.
(In West…no, only joking.)
Seriously though, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was all about a guy who got taken out of his comfort zone, away from the social norms he grew up with, and thrown into a very different situation. For some students, the decision to study Computing would create a similar upheaval in their world.
Last summer I was a mentor for Young Rewired State – if you haven’t heard of it, you really need to look it up straight away – and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of girls who attended the final. In the flurry of tweets accompanying YRS I came across a blog post by a 17 year old female finalist entitled “Why won’t girls code?”. I’d like to read you a short extract of the post:
“People have tried many approaches to get girls to code, many by trying to hide what coding is and tricking them. Not cool. That’s like when your parents hide your veg in your food when you’re a kid, and hope you’ll be ok with it until you get to the point where you inevitably realise what that funny taste is. Instead, we need to be honest and open – and instead of being ashamed of the stereotypical nerdiness, show girls what coding can be. Anything. If you know the syntax, you’ve got whatever you want just a compiler away.”
This post blew me away. The lack of girls in my classes at school suddenly went from being a nagging irritation towards the back of my brain to a really urgent problem we as teachers needed to be involved in. We are in a position of power – it’s during those early years that girls are forming ideas that liking coding is weird and being interested in computers is nerdy.
Now, through a fortuitous coincidence, Sam Bail from Manchester Girl Geeks was also at YRS and we had similar ideas at the same time – why didn’t we work with Computing at School to try to improve the situation? Sam added yet another element into the mix – she pointed out that it was not just girls who were feeling marginalised from Computing, and that in fact the uptake of the subject from male students in minority groups was equally poor. We got together on a Google hangout and the rest, as they say, is history!”
More photos from the evening are on the #include Facebook page:
On to the next event – watch this space!