All that changed on March 18, 2014, when I received an email from Khan Academy that began with the following:
Dear jeff.elkner,Excited by the generous offer, I logged into Khan Academy to explore the new curriculum (Intro to JS, 2014). I found a new introductory programming course that is interactive, visual, and multilingual, available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. The videos that accompany the tutorial are narrated by young, hip sounding female voices, a plesant change from the old white men that have almost exclusively been the faces of programming education in the past.
Did you know that just 18% of computer science college graduates are women? That's crazy when you consider that by 2020, the demand for graduates in computer science will be double the available workforce.
But together we can introduce all our students to coding and ensure that female students don't get left behind.
Thanks to Google, U.S. public high school teachers can now earn over $1,000 in DonorsChoose.org funding when their female students complete our Khan Academy coding lesson.
For every female U.S. public high school student that completes the tutorial, DonorsChoose.org will send you a $100 giftcode for your classroom. As an extra bonus, they’ll also send you a $500 gift code when four of them are done!
This afternoon, Mayra, the web development student, will complete the curriculum. Yanina and Daniela, the independent study student and student aid, are working together each day as they make their way forward. They are each about half way finished. Carmen, my geometry student, will take longer, since she doesn't have regular class time to work on it.
Well aware of the disparity between male and female students in computer programming, I've made conscious effort to take affirmative action to get more women into our web development program. This has resulted in some success, with a dual-enrolled college program the Summer before last with half female students. Last Summer, with less sustained effort, the percentage of women in the Summer program dropped. The difficulties women have in getting into this field are well documented (Margolis, J., & Fisher, A., 2002), and I am committed to doing whatever I can to help make my computer programming classes available and welcoming to underrepresented students.
It is great to see Khan Academy developing what appears to me to be a very successful strategy to begin addressing the issue head on. Our school will now have a group of four female students who have been made to feel special because they introduced themselves to computer programming. The are quick becoming a "team", sharing stories and supporting each other in learning. I am truly grateful to Khan Academy for making this happen!
ReferencesIntro to JS: Drawing & Animation. (2014). Khan Academy. Retrieved April 22, 2014, from https://www.khanacademy.org/computing/cs/programming
Margolis, J., & Fisher, A. (2002). Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. Cambridge: MIT Press.