Archive for July, 2010

How do you like our new website iwitts.org?

Today we celebrated the launch of our new website iwitts.org. This is the culmination of 6 months of team work. Tell us what you think of our new website here in the comments section – we’d love your feedback. And if you find any bugs use the contact us form – and let Christine our office manager know. I’m very proud this was an all women effort in the spirit of IWITTS.

Computer Programming: Lessons that Appeal to Women and Girls

peanut-butter-computer-programmingHere’s a fun way to teach students the building blocks of computer programming skills.

Esther Frankel, a computer science instructor at Santa Barbara Community College who attended the WomenTech training I conducted last week, has generously allowed me to share her version of the lesson.  It’s called peanut butter and jelly and apparently there a number of web resources for this “PB&J” programming exercise.

Esther says, “Even though many resources identify this as an exercise for grades 4-8, I’ve used it very successfully at the high school and community college levels. In those situations, I personally don’t ‘follow’ the instructions; rather, I have students pair up or work in small groups and exchange their instructions.” She adds that she has also used exercises such as writing the instructions for going from one classroom to another (as this exercise introduces other programming “control structures”.)

You can find the lesson on The National Engineers Week Foundation website.

The Peanut Butter and Jelly exercise came up in the context of the WomenTech training module I led on how to appeal to female interests in the technology classroom. Of course, this exercise also appeals to many males who don’t start the class already understanding programming logic.

Another tool for engaging girls and women in computer programming is Alice — a resource that Esther has used successfully and that IWITTS has featured in past newsletters. The Alice programming language was designed to teach students programming. It is especially appealing to girls because programming is introduced as a “storytelling” paradigm.  Here is more information on Alice, as well as the site where you can download it.  Alice, which comes courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University, includes instructional materials, tutorials and textbooks.

I really appreciate how much I learn from the participants in our workshops, and how much they learn from each other. While conveying IWITTS’ program and knowledge base is a central focus of the WomenTech Training, equally important to the experience is having participants share strategies that have worked in their classrooms and schools.

Do you have any classroom lessons on computer programming with special appeal for women and girls?  Share them here!