2013 NCWIT Summit - Flashtalk, "COMPUGIRLS: What We Can Learn" by Courtney Besaw and Daysha Edgerton

August 14, 2013


Jeffrey Forbes:  Next we're going to hear from some of our younger speakers. Courtney Besaw and Daysha Edgerton are going to speak about COMPUGIRLS. They're both COMPUGIRLS graduates. They're going to tell us what we can learn from the experiences of two girls in a culturally relevant technology and activism program. [applause]

Courtney Besaw:  I'm Courtney. I just finished my freshman year at Arizona State University.

Daysha Edgerton:  I'm Daysha and I've just finished eighth grade.

Courtney:  We're here to talk about a program, a technology and social justice program called COMPUGIRLS that we are part of; and talk about some of the things that we learned in the program and some of the things that we could all learn from our experiences within the program. First and foremost, COMPUGIRLS are the culturally relevant technology program for girls from high‑need schools, which just means that COMPUGIRLS gives girls from low‑income schools access to technology that they don't necessarily have at home; while teaching them about social justice and how to positively impact their community.

COMPUGIRLS combines technology, social justice, and community activism. It teaches the girls how to research a social justice topic that they choose. It gives them the resources to create a new way of presenting their topic and then actually gives them the opportunity to go out in their community.

Daysha:  Why diverse girls? Because girls with less opportunities are less likely to get a job in a STEM field.

Courtney:  I'm going to talk a little bit about me. I come from a low‑income home. My mom raised my brother and I by herself, while going back to school and trying to work at the same time. She was doing a lot. We didn't have all the same access to the same technologies that a lot of other students my age had. COMPUGIRLS became a place where I knew girls were going through the same stuff that I was going through. They were always there to learn more about technology and learn about their communities, which was really nice for people to have that sense of community within the program.

Getting to learn how to program, how to create movies, was really neat also.

My favorite thing was Scratch because programming sounds really difficult. It sounds really hard, especially when you're a 15‑year‑old girl who has never even touched a computer like that before, besides to use Word. Programming was really neat to be able to do.

Scratch is the perfect tool to be able to do that with because it is really basic. It was made for the purposes of teaching younger students, which is really nice.

It was really simplistic, but it was also really good to be able to start on such a basic program. That was really empowering. To be able to learn to program while being a 15‑year‑old girl is really cool.

It was empowering to be able to do it with girls who were like me, who came from similar situations that I did. Then actually getting to go present our research and present our projects out in the community was intense.

COMPUGIRLS gave me a lot of other opportunities. They taught me the tech but they also gave me the opportunity to use my technical skills. I did an internship with the Morrison Institute for Public Policy. I got to teach and mentor girls at the Gila River Indian Community. Now I am a research assistant for the COMPUGIRLS program.

Daysha:  I thought, if I like technology I would get called a nerd and a loser by my friends, and they would make fun of me. I want to be cool like everyone else. My grandma told me about a program called COMPUGIRLS and at first I was like, "Psht! Are you kidding me?" Then she said it was for girls like me, and I was like, "Why not do it?" And then, we did an iMovie. I thought that was my favorite because I got to create what I wanted. I got to have control over what I wanted and I was passionate about doing iMovies. I did mine about child abuse.

Now I can openly talk about social justice Issues, such as the portrayal of women in the media. I just realized that the media portrays us women to be perfect.

I now know that I can do anything I set my mind to. Women can in general. Go out there and do it.

I did a child abuse project in Scratch about a girl who did drugs and alcohol to cope with her child abuse. Then she turned her life around and went to college and became a lawyer.

Look out because girls like me are going to change the world.


Courtney:  So some of the things that we can learn from our experiences in COMPUGIRLS, is that girls want to be in technology. They can do whatever they want to do. We can get more girls, especially girls of color and girls from under‑served areas in the technology, while creating the next generation of activists who are readily equipped to change the world around them. This is my favorite slide. Technology is everywhere. Technology is used in every single field nowadays. There is no excuse not to get these girls into technology and give them access to resources that they don't normally have. It's never been more important than it is today to do those things.

We know these things from our experiences with COMPUGIRLS.

Daysha:  We know this because we are COMPUGIRLS. [applause]

Courtney:  Thank you for having us.

Daysha:  Thank you.


Transcription by CastingWords