How do we get teenage girls interested in "techie clubs" and not see them as "geeky clubs"?
In the Primary years I have observed that it is cool to be a "tech wizard" or "tech angel" or have a "genius hour", however, something shifts for teenage girls when they enter Secondary School. Partly I see girls with diaries more chocker than my own and between sport, dance, drama, future problem solving and other various clubs they simply don't have room to squeeze anything else in. Lunchtimes are precious social times to chat, hang out and to get a bit of chill out time amid the busyness of the school day.
I understand all this but I can't shake this desire to learn with our digital natives and utilise their expertise across the school in terms of providing leadership opportunities in a field where our students are often leaders. I love finding out what technologies the girls enjoy using and believe that, as teachers, we can harness that knowledge to make learning an engaging and authentic experience.
I have had a couple of different roles over the past two years (Library and e-Learning Centre Manager & Digital Learning Facilitator) that have taken me outside of the traditional classroom environment. Within these roles I have tried to kick start a number of e-Learning initiatives for our girls such as: techie brekkies, tech angels, genius bar... I was starting to feel a little despondent as nothing seemed to take off... or not really! As a PE teacher it was always easy to get numbers for Netball or Tennis... As an English teacher - no problem getting a debating team up and running so where was I going wrong?
I started chatting more to the girls in an informal way and tried to really work out what might swing the techie club from being a geek club (the feedback that I received) to something fun, exciting and a bit cool. So, I targeted Year 9 and launched "Gadget Girls". I didn't really have any idea how it would work but I put it out there as a girly group to come and play with gadgety things (here is the flyer that I sent out).
What's happening now...
We have Gadget Girls every Thursday lunchtime and it's rocking! Here are a couple of game changers, making Gadget Girls a success over the other flops (or as Ewan McIntosh - @ewanmcintosh would say First Attempts In Learning)
Keep it light, fun and social. If it's in the lunchtime the girls want to chat and eat. Which brings me to my next point...
Bring food - a box of Favourites was hugely appreciated by my girls.
It's important to have a few cool techie tools to get things kick started so that the girls feel that they are going to get something out of the group. As we're a GAFE school I started with that and introduced them to a few things that they hadn't been exposed to. They're loving Google+ and we're playing with the idea of a little monthly Gadget Girls episode - using Live Hangouts on Air.
So, the biggest challenge has been overcome (getting the girls there) then it's important chat to them (or rather listen to them) and find out what they like and let them take reins. Instagram and photo sharing are top of the list for our girls. We have set up our Instagram account and are about to get going with it. We also plan to do some cool things with photos and Makey Makeys. I'm not sure how this will work yet but the girls will problem solve and we might need to skype Tim Carr from Mindkits (@MindKits) to help us along.
A few other little extras:
Have music playing
Set yourself up in a nice environment - we are in our beautiful Library and e-Learning Centre. It's a fabulous space where the girls like to hang out.
Be visible! I had a couple of girls join because the saw us through the glass windows having fun. One of them said "What's this girly group? It looks fun, I want to join".
I know it sounds funny but make sure the girls like the name. Gadget Girls was a goodie for our girls. After a few get togethers I asked if they liked the name and whether they wanted to change it. I got a thumbs up from all - it's a keeper (thanks to @juliePeterson for that one).
All in all I am letting the girls steer Gadget Girls in the direction that they want. It's really easy to tell if I have a suggestion that they don't like... largely by the silence! So we move swiftly along!
Technology failed us this week and we couldn't get Google hangouts working (not to mention I forgot the Favourites). I was feeling like it was all a bit of a disaster really but it was a lovely moment when I heard the girls say as we finished up:
"I love Gadget Girls"
"Yeah I look forward to Thursday lunchtimes"
"It doesn't matter if it doesn't work, it's fun just finding out about all this stuff"
I'm relieved it's not all about the chocolate!