Meet Them Where They Are (Case Study 3)

An Engaging Way to Introduce Computing

To educate girls about information technology and potential careers in the field, the Girl Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council in North Carolina runs a Girls are I.T. program, sponsored by a National Science Foundation research grant. Through its two key components – an educational website and a mobile technology bus — the program aims to increase access to technology by meeting girls where they are, both geographically and experientially. Since its inception, the bus has reached over 5,200 girls, many of whom are in rural locations with limited exposure to technical experiences.

The Mobile Technology Classroom features 12 workstations designed to showcase technology and technology careers in ways that tend to appeal to many girls. For example, four hands - on activities explore how technology helps people live better lives – (see detailed descriptions below). In each activity, girls are encouraged to imagine the future of technology based on the program component they’ve just completed. The girls then upload their ideas to www.girlsareit.org, a website that presents the history of technology and highlights women who have exciting IT careers.

 

EXAMPLES OF HANDS-ON ACTIVITIES OFFERED ON THE MOBILE TECHNOLOGY CLASSROOM

Nanotechnology

Girls explore how a nanodevice is built, what “nano” means, and how tiny nanodevices will be used in the future. Using laptop computers, they create four different nanodevices – light emitters, oscillators, mesh fabric, and DNA Scaffold.

Assistive Technology

Girls “see” and “talk” using computer software and hardware designed to assist the visually-, hearing- and speech-impaired. They begin to understand how technology aids those with disabilities, software’s limitations in this area, and the need for continued progress.

HTML Webpage Design

Girls learn to create and edit a web page with HTML code. They then design a web page for their troop or for a local non-profit in need of a website.

Wireless Sensors

Girls operate an explorebot, similar to the Mars Rover. From their laptops, they see what the robot sees and maneuver through various terrains located in the back of the bus, learning how technology enables us to go places that may not be safe for humans. The missions include New Species Discovery, Earthquake Search and Rescue, and Shipwreck in the South Seas.


While this unique program might be difficult to replicate, educators can increase girls’ access to IT through curriculum that adapts several key components:

  • Use hands-on activities that solve real-life problems and/or call on girls existing knowledge and interests.
  • Build in strategies for reaching girls with limited access to technology (e.g. remove geographical or other logistical barriers).
  • Develop all-girl activities that are collaborative.



Resources

  • For more information about this program see the Girls are I.T. website, www.girlsareit.org or contact Heather Doyle, hdoyle@hngirlscouts.org.
  • For more information about other Girl Scouts of the USA technology programs see www.GirlsGoTech.org.
  • Case Study Contributors: Girl Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council, and Girl Scouts of the USA

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Authors: Lecia Barker and J. McGrath Cohoon