How to Get Girls Into Coding – NYTimes.com

Girls can code too.  So why does there continue to be a gender gap when it comes to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers? Let’s change that!

From the NYTimes.com:

WHEN I was 7 years old, I knew the capitals of most major countries and their currencies. I had to, if I wanted to track down a devious criminal mastermind in the computer game “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” On screen, the ACME Detective Agency would spit out clues like notable landmarks to help players identify the city where Carmen’s globe-trotting henchmen were hiding out. I wouldn’t learn how to pronounce Reykjavik for more than a decade, but I could tell you that its currency was called the krona.I was the child of Indian immigrants, and like any begrudging Bengal tiger cub, I penciled in fill-in-the-blank maps and memorized multiplication tables after dinner. I was much more motivated to learn about geography by chasing Carmen Sandiego on the family Macintosh Plus. I couldn’t confidently point to Iceland on a map. But I did become a technology reporter.

Natalie Rusk is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab who helped develop Scratch, an open-source programming platform where kids can code games and animation and then share projects and how-to tips. She thinks the next two years will determine whether coding can start to close the gender gap. “One of the key reasons to broaden participation is to get more diversity of who is designing these technologies,” she said. “It’s being presented as, ‘Learn how to program,’ ” she said, “but not, ‘What do you want to program? What’s your idea?’ ”

So what if, instead of trying to guess at what might get girls interested in technology, we looked at what’s already on their screens? While parents often worry about recreational “screen time,” some educators now believe that gaming could be a way to get girls interested in coding, and even to increase the numbers of girls in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — classes and schools. Reshma Saujani, founder of the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code, said, “We have to meet them where they are.”

“Students kept walking in asking to learn how to code wearing Minecraft T-shirts,’” said Stephen Foster, a founder of the San Diego-based organization ThoughtSTEM, which teaches kids ages 8 to 18 to code in after-school programs and summer camps. “Once it happened the 20th time, we started to realize, ‘Oh, hey, maybe these kids know something that we don’t.’ ”

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