Small Basic: Teaching Girls to Code! — What are we doing and where are we headed?

Small Basic is focusing on teaching girls to code. As we build improvements like the online version we describe in this video, the improvements are also beneficial as we teach boys as well as girls. This video shows how we're headed toward an online version, more social/collaborative features, and we're building out curriculum to teach girls how to code in workshops. In the nearer term, we're also working on (1) shipping Small Basic 1.3 (Desktop, with bug fixes, new translated languages, and improved error messaging), (2) building a Small Basic certification course for teachers (on Microsoft in Education), (3) creating a Small Basic Coding Clubs curriculum for girls to lead coding clubs at school, and (4) taking Small Basic open source, so that the community can help us improve it.

Here is the transcript:

From 2000 to 2012, there has been a 64% decline in the number of women majoring in Computer Science! In 2014, only 17% of Computer Science graduates were women! And in 2015, the entire tech sector was only 25% women!

We're working together to make this more inclusive, to empower everyone, and to create opportunities for all!

We picked Microsoft Small Basic, a simple but powerful syntax language and IDE that includes a kids version of IntelliSense, and a Help pane that teaches you as you go! You don't need to be a developer to use it. You just start typing... and go!

Small Basic is Gradual. You can click Graduate to move your code into Visual Studio Code, where you can continue learning Visual Basic, JavaScript, C#, Java, Python, and more!

We're updating Small Basic to add tutorials into the UI, to teach girls the way they learn, with a story and content they enjoy. Second, we're creating a Web version to be compatible with all devices, and adding more sharing features to allow girls to share code and collaborate with their friends. With the Small Basic Web version, you don't need to install anything. You can just use your browser. And you can maintain your privacy. You don't need to log in, create an account, or share your identity to share your program with friends.

We offered 3 workshops at Bring Your Kids to Work Day, where we taught kids Small Basic and had a lot of fun! We collaborated with a local professor and learned that women skewed toward a comprehensive information processing style and guided learning experiences. Girls were able to follow the tutorial or experiment on their own.

We picked a language that was easy for parents to learn so that they could help and encourage their kids.

What can a girl be if she starts coding at age 9? (Quotes from girls...)

  1. A computer engineer
  2. A builder
  3. A doctor
  4. A vet
  5. A fashion designer
  6. A nurse
  7. A computer engineer just like my dad
  8. The President
  9. A software developer
  10. An NHL player

...Anything she wants!



Thank you for joining us on this Small and Basic journey!

- Ninja Ed


Comments (4)

  1. EllieK says:

    Hello User Ed,
    I think this is a great idea. I am saddened by this data point mentioned in the transcript:
    “From 2000 to 2012, there has been a 64% decline in the number of women majoring in Computer Science.”
    I have no idea why that would be the case, as schools and corporate culture has been very encouraging to women, to study and do work in STEM in general now, especially compared to 10 or 20 years ago.

    Even though I don’t know why there is a decline, I have seen the same statistic cited in a wide variety of other publications and media reports. In 2014, an ACM education study had similar findings. My undergraduate and graduate schools, Swarthmore College and Stanford University, both published historical comparisons of graduates by major, stratified by gender. There are many more women majoring in fine art, sociology, gender or womens’ studies, education and psychology now than there were in 2000. The number of women graduating with bachelor’s degrees in math, physics, engineering and computer science has decreased.

    1. Ellie,

      Yes, you would think so. The reasons why are debatable. But I think women are getting Social Science and Communication degrees, targeting nonprofits to make a difference in the world. But with those degrees, they often don’t get a job or end up making the difference that they set out to. So they have their hearts in the right places.

      Microsoft is dedicated to teaching girls to code.

  2. Great video – well done speaking to the story elements in the curriculum that explore and build as the students learn.

    Excited for the next version of SmallBasic!

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