This is a big topic on my mind of late. There is some discussion of this in the comments on my Boring Projects post and well as some responses via Twitter. Joanne Cohoon left a comment on the post suggesting health related projects like Body Mass Indicator (BMI) might appeal to girls. She added “helping people” via Twitter with a recommendation for the DotDiva website for ideas. It’s at http://dotdiva.org/ not .com. I think that was a typo in the tweet.
Today I visited my wife’s 8th grade class to show them how to use Kodu to create/program their own games. One of the first questions from a girl was “can we use it to tell stories?” From a boy I got “can we make things fight?” Sigh Yes boys and girls do seem to be a bit different from each other. Middle school is when, in my experience, they are most different. Though of course there is a spectrum among both boys and girls so we do have to be very careful about pigeon holing anyone. It’s a fine line to walk at times.
I talked to a professor at Bryn Mawr where they use robots to introduce programming to college women and asked about that. He told me that his students do like robots. They like different kinds of robots than men do though. I saw younger girls making robots and a summer program at the University of Lowell some years ago. These robots were cute and cuddly and totally unlike the “fighting robots” a lot of boys seem to like to build.
The same is true of games. Girls like games. The largest demographic group playing online games is middle aged women. They just like different games than men/boys. This is something we have to take into account when designing game related projects to attract more girls (and some boys who are not “in to” the violent first person shooters we have come to associate with boys).
As someone who has never been a girl and who hasn’t raised a daughter I struggle with trying to design projects for girls. I think that more people in education (men and women) are working hard to make the environment more comfortable and even attractive to women. But I think many textbooks are still using the old projects.
That is something we (well I for sure) need to work on. I wish there were an organized effort to collect projects that work for girls/women. Not so much that they are designed for women to the extent of pushing males away but as an effort to find enough different projects that we can supply relevant, educational projects that are inclusive and provide a context that more people can feel comfortable with.