Bridging the Gender Gap in Computer-Related Fields
Girls and women continue to be under-represented in technology-related fields. Our program gives girls the encouragement, motivation, and skills needed to pursue opportunities in these areas.
From the earliest grades, Linden girls are taught to use technology in safe, ethical, and creative ways, and are encouraged to view themselves as producers of technology, not just consumers or end users. Therefore, girls learn programming skills in each grade. We begin with the basic logic that explains how computers “think,” and progress toward creating programs using fun and friendly interfaces that allow girls to build code using graphic tiles, and finally work toward text-based code (such as the Python language) in the middle years.
Media literacy is an important part of the computer studies program. Integrated with topics in Health, English, and Social Studies, our program asks girls to consider how and why digital media affects the lives of girls and women around the world. Our students become critical viewers of the media they observe online. They also learn to use a variety of digital tools to express their own voices, including word processing software, design and layout tools, spreadsheets, slide-shows, audio-editing software, and movie-making programs.
As their age and experience progresses, girls discuss how to interact with social media in healthy and ethical ways, and learn to manage their digital lives (such as passwords and files) in order to develop good habits. Keyboarding skills that allow girls to type and use the mouse and other peripheral devices in healthy and efficient ways are also important parts of the program. The program is ever-evolving based on new technology, current events, and the interests of our students.
Linden also offers a weekly Programming Club, where girls mentor each other as they acquire new technological skills. The Club focuses on electronics, robotics, and programming on both graphics and text-based platforms.
Safe and Responsible Computer Use
Students at all levels are taught safe and responsible computer use. At the earliest levels, this includes understanding the importance of passwords, protecting personal information, and avoiding unsafe online behaviors. As students progress in technical understanding, they are taught to better appreciate the nature and type of dangers online—for example phishing, Trojan horse, bait and switch—so they are more aware of these risks and how to protect themselves. At higher grades, students learn about technical concepts including encryption and TOR, and their relationship to safe and responsible computer use.
Students are encouraged to reflect critically on the ethical dimensions of technology. This includes, for example, debating whether our laws are sufficient to protect privacy online, or debating whether we have struck the right balance between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of users.
At later grades, students are introduced to professional level programming languages such as Python and Java, and are introduced to data structures and algorithms. Code maintenance and product development principles are taught in order to foster professional coding habits. Upper level students are able to analyse problems and design and build suitable software solutions.
Advanced concepts such as natural language processing and artificial intelligence are taught at higher levels. Some other programming modalities in the program include NXT programming for robotics and HTML and CSS for web design.
Throughout the grade levels, students are introduced to a wide suite of office tools, including word processing software, spreadsheet software, file management software, presentation software, communication software, and organizational tools. Linden girls are taught to be confident and skilled with any standard office software they may be expected to use in their professional futures.
These many tools are used to make creative products such as social justice posters, “history minute” videos, holiday greeting cards, workout soundtracks, movie trailers, magazine parody covers, “culture jamming” images, video tutorials, and websites.