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Sorry, I realized I sent this as an email and really wanted to just start a discussion. Novice mistake :)

Hi All,

I'm a middle school robotics teacher and noticed that in the 2 years I've been teaching this class, it is REALLY hard to retain female participants.
Has anyone done any studies or work on gender difference and how to get female students involved in technology?

As a female in tech, I keep asking what would make me choose this class and then build from there. I would love to enroll more females and maintain their interest in the curriculum. In the past 2 years, I've tried to focus more on the community aspects and interpersonal side of the class, but it's tough getting the girls signed up. I've read a lot about the difference in how males and females learn and am trying to keep that in mind while writing the curriculum. BUT, I need the girls to want to sign up for the class in the first place.

I am curious as to what others think and know about eliminating some gender biases during middle school. Any ideas?

Thanks,
Andrea

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Andrea,
We are in Rye, NY, which is about 40 mins north of NYC. I guess it will depend upon schedules – either classes that are in 3-hr time synch or maybe LA lunch overlapping NY end-of-school-day, or something along those lines.

What is your email? Mine is: laurie_bartels@ryecountryday.org We can make a point to touch base in early September.
Cheers, Laurie
Laurie,

Yes. The after school - lunch thing might work out. Let's email and see if we can come up with some ideas for communication.

my email is ameller@windwardschool.org.

Best, Andrea
What a great discussion! I teach in a girls' school so that's part of the battle right there. I do have a hard time keeping students involved. In 4th and 5th grade they are freer to try things like this out but above that they get involved in school musicals and other commitments. There is also a coolness factor that takes over in 7th grade. I had to pull teeth to get 3 7th graders to go to Robo-Expo last year to show their automatic toilet paper unroller (Green with only 2 sheets at a time!) and keep reassuring them that the risk they were taking was worthwhile. And they did see it as a great social risk.

At Hewitt we've been able to get a robotics course in place for all 9th graders and hope to continue opportunities for robotics and other programming for those interested in 10-12, but it's just beginning. Hve to go to class, so will send more thoughts later.

Erik
Erik,

Yes, the "cool" factor. This is so true. I've spent the past year researching this for my thesis, but in the art field.
MS is such a tender age. Trying to gain the independence yet still needing some direction. I'm so glad your 7th graders went to the Robo-Expo! That is awesome. Did their classmates think what they did was cool after the fact? Sometimes I notice that at first students think something is "nerdy" or "uncool," then after they see the results, the product, the rethink their original thought. The cool thing is that some really important developmental stuff happens in the process of preparing for an even such as FIRST or Robo-Expo and later in life they WILL be thankful.
Where is Hewitt? And for what geographic area is the Robo-Expo advertised? That sounds really interesting.

Best,
Andrea
We're in Manhattan on the upper east side and Robo-Expo is a robotics event organized and hosted by The Nightingale-Bamford School (robo-expo.org). It think it's in its 5th year. It is meant to be a non-competitive environment for students in independent schools in the city to present their robotics projects and participate in a larger community of robotics enthusiasts than just their school. I know those girls had a good experience at the event but I do wish I had asked them afterward what they thought. I didn't want to publicize their participation much among the grade, though, as it could backfire for them.
Erik,

The expo sounds REALLY cool. I'd love to have something like that out here in LA to get the kids connected to a larger community. Other than the LEGO FIRST competition that happens in the fall semester. We are running the course in the spring too, but I always have trouble getting the students to recognize that they are part of something larger. A spring expo would be an awesome way to share community. Thanks for the info!

And yes, I get that, as adults - no matter how cool we think the kids accomplishments are, we need to recognize the social side of MS. That is so true.
I wanted to mention that while this isn't for robotics but for the larger question of getting middle school girls into computer science there is the Storytelling Alice project (http://www.alice.org/kelleher/storytelling/). It's a program designed specifically to entice girls at that age by providing a relatively easy to learn scripting environment for 3D objects, including people. The idea is that since girls like to create stories (although a blanket generalization, it's backed up with the developer's dissertation research) they can use a drag-and-drop scripting environment to make characters interact, creating their own narrative and watching it come alive on the screen. It only runs on Windows and is tricky to install properly but I've been using it this year and the results and enthusiasm are worth it. See here for how to install: http://metatek.blogspot.com/2008/10/how-to-install-storytelling-ali....
Erik
Hi Erik,

Ah yes, I recall reading a bit about this awhile ago and then being disappointed that it only ran on Windows. When a Mac version comes out, I'll be first in line to try it out!

Cheers, Laurie
Cool! I love the idea of having students create stories. I am going to check this out.
Dear Andrea,

I am interested in learning what you teach in a robotics class.

Robert Adanto
Hi Andrea,

I know this is really late--I just joined! But I have a couple of ideas. One is possibly using Scratch (a free programming environment developed at MIT) plus lego robots. You can write programs in Scratch that control the robot and the robot can also control things in Scratch, which is really fun. I'm also working with the women's college across the street from us and having their students come over and help with the robotics club. So you might try connecting with a college. There might be students in CS who are interested in K-12 education. Hope that helps.

Laura

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