Computer Science in Education: Women and Men Brains


The subject title "Women and Men Brains" sounds like promotional messaging for zombies. =^)

 

Liz tweeted out this article:

 

https://www.witi.com/articles/1096/Advice-for-Google:-Don't-Fire-Men...Convert-Them!/

 

It states that women and men think differently. Is that even true? You can see that idea in the image:

To be honest, there are severe debates about whether this is true, that women and men think so differently. Some folks argue that the study didn't include enough people.  And even if the conclusion is true, it isn't true for everyone. There are bound to be exceptions: men and women can be very diverse.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to introducing diversity of thought style into our education methods, even if that inclusivity is really just including people who think differently, regardless of gender.

We want girls to be comfortable coding. That's what we're doing at Microsoft with our "Every Girl Can Code" projects. We want to give young women an environment they're comfortable with: the Computer Science ("CS") software, curriculum, tutorials, clubs, workshops, and ultimately CS classes. But we need to make sure that girls can thrive in learning computer science, regardless of how they think.

We seek to produce a more collaborative environment than an isolated and competitive environment. For someone who thinks more systematically, rather than relationally, I think there are a lot of tools and content out there already. In other words, we seek to add more diversity into the methods of teaching kids to code. As we build more collaborative and communicative environment and tools, it seems to work well for the girls, as well as for many boys. Our tool improvements are also being used to help boys learn to code.

 

Here are some examples of what we're doing:

 

  1. http://aka.ms/SmallBasic - Not only is it easy and fun, but Small Basic also has more social features than most educational software, and I think it's the only social tool that teaches text-based programming. And we're only starting out as we pursue social features.
  2. IGNITE Coding Clubs - This is part of our Hackathon this year. We're bringing social clubs to the girls in their schools, on their terms. Why should CS only be for classes and workshops? It should be for all girls to share with their friends! Would girls want to give their friends a chance to make $100K in their careers and turn their lives around? Most girls would go to bat for their friends like that. (And note that learning to code can lead to tech jobs; there are many jobs at big technology companies that make a lot of money, but they aren't all developer jobs... so think of it as learning Computer Science in order to open up more opportunities... not to become a developer. For example, girls could become a Marketing Manager (same job they'd get otherwise) and make 3x more money working at a big technology company, simply because they know how to code and thus know that audience and market.)
  3. Coding Workshops - This includes all the workshops we've been doing (we taught 700+ High School and Junior High students this year in about 10 workshops). They sit at round tables so they can see each other and chat with their friends. We place an amazing Microsoft employee at their table to chat with them and connect. And we put some amazing Microsoft employees at the front of the room to tell full stories and relate to the students.

 

That's the goal. That's where our baby steps are taking us (with Small Basic, IGNITE Worldwide, and our "Every Girl Can Code" workshops with partners like IGNITE Worldwide, Technolochicas, Game On (from CWU), Microsoft Reactor, and DigiGirlz): to give girls what they need to embrace CS. Whether boys or girls, we want diversity of thinking represented. All the tools and content are ready for the systematic brain pattern. It's the shift to the more social and collaborative environment that we are focusing on.

 

And that's exactly what Microsoft, Small Basic, IGNITE Worldwide, and our other partners are doing.

 

Thank you!

- Ninja Ed

Comments (3)

  1. Paul Topping says:

    This is the right attitude, IMHO. While I don’t want to dismiss all the points made by gender politicians, this whole man vs woman thing is not productive. While people argue whether certain male-female differences are due to nature or nurture, we should assume that people of all genders should just learn to code (or whatever skills interest them) and see what happens. Good things is my guess.

  2. Also see this related article from Liz Bander: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/smallbasic/2017/08/28/you-can-be-a-girl-who-writes-code-and-wears-makeup/

    It’s an inspirational look at the simple fact that girls don’t have to pick between makeup and coding. You can have the best of both worlds! Everybody is different, and that diversity is a great thing.

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