Inspiring Girls to Pursue Computer Science

IheartCS

Future Self Project by 2nd grader

We constantly hear about the lack of diversity in the tech industry and are bombarded with stats about how few women and minorities are pursuing CS degrees. We started Embark Labs to not only combat that trend, but to inspire kids as young as 7 years old to explore computer science in a fun and meaningful way. If we are to really improve learning outcomes for students we must start early and provide guidance for kids to express themselves and become creative problem solvers through building things. Fred Wilson, a well-known VC and vocal advocate for CS education in New York City captures this well when he said,

We need to invest in STEM (or STEAM) programs that work in the K-12 system…from elementary school, through middle school, into high school, and we need to guide these young people to a pathway that can give them challenging work and a good income throughout their careers.

While most educators despise tests we really value authentic assessment that demonstrates student learning and mindset shifts. So naturally it made my day when a mother of an alumna of our Spring Academy shared the results of her 2nd grader’s ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’ project that she did at school. (I prefer calling this the ‘Future-Self’ project for many reasons, but I digress…)

It is amazing to see this 7 year old reflect on her experience at Embark Labs, mentioning real CS concepts like position, orientation and loops. (Take 30 seconds to read her report because it will bring a smile to your face.) Her mom goes on to share,

Your program has definitely left its mark in a most positive way, thank you so much for the work you do to bring this type of education to kids of this age.

We believe real education change happens one student at a time and creating transformational experiences like this have a truly lasting impact. While current employment stats may be bleak, feedback from our community shows us the future is bright!

(A few remaining spaces and scholarships are available for Embark Labs summer programs in Mountain View and Menlo Park. Enroll today!)

Envisioning the Future of Learning

School’s out for the Summer! I had the pleasure of advising a class in the Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) program through the School of Ed at Stanford this spring quarter, Ed 333B: Envisioning the Future of Learning. The course was co-taught by two of my favorite LDT Alumni, Dan Gilbert and Ami Mehta, who framed the class around two key questions “What should every 11-year-old girl in the world know?  How might we make that happen?” taking into consideration how technology will evolve over the next ten years.

To provide real world context for applying business, design and learning approaches to these questions, we conducted three 2-week long design challenges with real clients from Castilleja Girls School, Khan Academy and TeachAIDS. I was excited to bring some of my experiences from Khan Academy into this class, leading a challenge focused on rethinking how to distribute digital content to empower learners all over the world. The students came up with some creative yet practical approaches and I’m looking forward to piloting this project in partnership with Teach-A-Class and Living Values in Nigeria in the coming months. (Stay tuned for a future post on the launch of my next endeavor.)

The last class held this past Thursday night was a true culmination of the previous exercises exploring business, design and learning approaches, where the students lead the group in their own unique design challenges. What made the process even more special was the presence of some inspiring LDT alumni like Kim Jacobsen, co-founder of Junyo and local edtech community members, like Neeru Khosla, founder of CK12. However, the guests who really contributed the most were Shivali and Sahil, two Bay Area teenagers who not only provided useful perspective on teens going through the education system today but were energetic and vocal participants in the challenges.

I would love to see more classes like this in the School of Ed that are applying learning & design theories to real-world problems and engaging alumni and community members in the process. I’m glad I was able to be a part of this course and hope to stay connected to these students and projects in the future.

Girl Up (United Nations Foundation)- Uniting

Girl Up (United Nations Foundation)- Uniting Girls to Change the World

Educate Girls, Change the World

I’ve heard the staggering statistics around the dismal state of girls education around the world many times, but they still shock me.

  • India: only 11% of girls get a college education
  • Cambodia: 4 out of 5 girls drop out of school when they turn 13
  • Nigeria: 60% of all out-of-school children are girls

When thinking about how to solve massive global problems like breaking the cycle of poverty, sex trafficking, stopping the spread of AIDS (…the list goes on), so much of this can be addressed by focusing on educating girls.

10×10, a global nonprofit, is embodying the collective impact approach to ‘provide rocket fuel’ to the already established movement to educate and empower girls around the world. As a long time supporter of Room to Read, I was so pleased to see them as one of the partners in their portfolio.

I’m so grateful that I got to see Holly and Tom share their message at the Legacy Venture event today and am inspired to think about how I can get involved. In bringing this back to the edtech world, I think there are some real opportunities to use existing and emerging technologies to further this collective mission and am optimistic about continued progress. Onward!