Friday, June 1, 2012

Mini-Course 2012: What Made Them Want to Try Computer Science?

Each year, I like to share some of the results from the surveys I give out at the beginning and end of my mini-course (see also info from 2010 and 2011.).  They help give insight into what the current generation of middle school girls is thinking when it comes to computer science.  In this post, I focus on why the girls wanted to take a course on computer science and games in the first place.

The students answered the question "What made you want to take this course?" on a paper survey the very first day before we started on any of the course material.  Here are their responses:
  • the name of the course caught my eye and science has always been on of my favourite subjects
  • I am interested in science, and I would like to learn about computers.
  • I chose this corse because I enjoy learning about computers and technology.
  • I decided to try this course to better understand how games work because I play a lot of them and I'm amazed at how they work. When I was little, I'd spend hours thinking about inventing my own game and that would be like. Here's my first step.
  • I am good at computer stuff, but I don't want to be in a course with all guys (it has happened before)
  • Taking programming at school and might be interested in making games in the future.
  • I like going on the computer a lot and it's only girls so maybe I will make new friends.
  • An interest in technology, computers, gaming, etc.
  • I am interested in computer science and want to learn more
  • Just for girls, im curious about computer science, how do you make games?
  • I thought it would be fun to learn about (more) the thing that I use so often. Learn about lots more things to do on the computer.
  • I thought it would be fun and a great learning experience.
  • I wanted to take a course that involved some aspect of dealing with computers and different softwares.
  • I find computers interesting and love to explore them. I also thought this would be a great experience.
  • The reason I made this decision because I like to create stuff, and I wanted course that would combined all of my hobbies
  • I wanted to learn more about computers and making video games.
  • I listed this course because it sounded interesting and I wanted to learn more about it.
  • I wanted to take this course because I was one of the students "not placed." This course was the only one that appealed to me and it had space! Yay!
  • My optional course at school is "Exploring Technologies", so I looked at a couple of Tech-related courses (as well as science), and I was placed in this one.
  • I decided to take this course because I've had an interest in video games for a long time.
  • Just for girls, im curious about computer science, how do you make games?
  • It looked interesting.

From the responses, there are a few interesting things I wanted to point out:
  • Many of the girls specifically said they wanted to know more about computer science.  This is the first time so many used this term.
  • There was a lot of mention of using computers and/or playing games often, and thus wanting to learn more about these technologies.  I think this is really great, since so many girls and women are happy just being consumers rather than producers.
  • There were a couple of mentions about the course being just for girls.  One student said she's been in courses where it was all guys, and the other mentioned hoping to make some new friends.  According to the two course surveys (the second of which is done at the end), everyone is glad there are guaranteed to be other girls in class, or even that the course is just for girls.
  • Finally, I'm happy to see how many are simply interested in learning something new.  I wonder if their curious nature typically carries through to the end of high school.
These responses give insight into the fact that games really are a good draw for many girls, but that computer science is really starting to be a draw in itself.  They also suggest (as in other years) that making the course all girls is still worthwhile.  It seems that a 50/50 split might also work well (and has for some of my colleagues), but I do like the ability to freely discuss the issue of women in the industry in the all girls class.


M.S. said...

Very insightful. Thanks for posting!

Renee said...

Great to hear!

Eugenia said...

Thanks for sharing this insight, very interesting to see such a variety of responses!

I was especially intrigued (and a bit saddened) by this comment: "I like going on the computer a lot and it's only girls so maybe I will make new friends." I wonder if she's had difficulty meeting people in other classes with high guy-to-girl ratios. Having good friends can make such a difference in a class, I'm glad you're giving them that opportunity.

Gail Carmichael said...

I actually saw the mention of making friends elsewhere in the surveys as well. I think it goes to show that the social aspect really is important for girls (which is something we kind of know anyway).

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