Presentation given at the Leadership Exchange

I have an educational partnership with Girl Geek Academy. They are a group of 5 women who all work full time in other IT  roles and also run Girl Geek Academy.
Girl Geek Academy is a global movement encouraging women to learn technology, create start-ups and build more of the internet. Our face-to-face programs currently run in Melbourne, New York and San Francisco. They have a big goal of teaching 1 million girl geeks to build technology and create start-ups by 2025. They create educational experiences that bring female hackers, hustlers, hipsters and start up enthusiasts together to learn, teach, share, form teams and build the internet. They have 5 main areas #SheHacks, #SheMakes. #SheJams, #SheMakes_Games and LadieswhoLinux.​
Their programs increase the number of women with technology skills. Girl Geek Academy is designed by Girl Geeks for women who want to learn more about technology and aspire to a Girl Geek future. They invite Girl Geeks to learn and teach through our workshops, intensive weekends, online courses, hackathons, game jams, meetups and maker fests. I am a member of Girl Geek Academy having applied and been accepted at the start of this year. Since then I have worked with them and attended workshops.

Girl Geek provides workshops that are an inspiring, engaging and fun. I was so impressed and truly overwhelmed by the spirit, creativity and intelligence that I saw at #SheHacks that then translates to bona-fide expertise and careers for the women. I wanted to work with them and contribute to what they were doing but I also could see how a partnership with them could benefit the educational program at school particularly in STEM, Coding, 3D and VR all areas that we had been focusing on. I felt that there would be mutual benefit from working with them.
 So, I contacted Sarah Moran one of the CEO’s who I had met at #SheHacks as we had hit it off that day and pitched an idea. I have been teaching Prep IT for the last year and a half and this year I piloted some of the new Project Zero Visible Thinking Routines with my prep class. K has piloted the new routines this year (lucky us). In doing this I was amazed by their capacity and intellectual ability. I feel that in trying to routine Prep – Year 2 we limit and stifle them thereby teaching them to not think to their full capacity. Children at that age are at their cognitive best, open to everything having not yet been exposed to the peer and social playground “rules” that do change them later on. They have no fear of being wrong, or acting a bit silly, or trying new things, or not even knowing what the lesson is even about!

I had been teaching Coding using Code Studio to them and they were doing very well being able to understand algorithmic thinking, program structures and could use code block.
I felt that the best way to address the worldwide problem of the lack of women in IT especially programmers was to get to girls at this age. So I pitched a draft version of what became  #MissMakesCode
Knowing that if Girl Geek could partner with me on this then together we could have a big impact and build a lasting program. I designed a one-day workshop that would build the confidence and ability to understand our world at its basic level of binary data. 
Activities on the day focused on skills and strategies to develop algorithmic thinking and creative problem solving. Practical hands on tasks where all levels of success are recognised, ensures that all girls who participate will fast track their journey in computer science and coding.

The event was a massive success with media coverage in the Age, in the US, twitter, Code Spark and its affiliates. From our work together Sarah and I have planned more programs under Girl Geek to continue to build on what we started. With the overall goal one that is close to both of our hearts – to increase the opportunities for females in IT. We have applied for funding to scale #MissMakes across the country and to work together at my new school in the area of Makerspaces with a 3D Printing focus. The grants have been Digital Literacy School Grants (DLSG): Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies and Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Programme Application Form. We prepared the applications together under Girl Geek Academy. 

Business and education experts agree that STEM education better prepares students and opens the door for greater career options. A STEM-based education is important because some element of science, technology, engineering and/or math is evident in most well-paying jobs. A recent article in Network World stated a majority of the highest-paying university majors are in engineering, led by petroleum engineers with a mid-career median salary of $172,000. Even for those without a degree, the National Science Foundation reported technical STEM jobs often are among the best paying and most stable jobs—with incomes twice that of comparable workers in other fields. To ensure schools can support STEM curriculums, technology companies need to provide more than their fair share. If we want to improve the fundamental issues facing our country, we must devise new ways to increase involvement, such as business’s partnering with educational institutions of all levels and sizes.

Recent research and articles published of late are strongly encouraging businesses to get involved in education and partner with schools to mentor future technologists, entreprenuers and business leaders. Schools too need to be proactive and make the connections and build the relationships. The entrepreneurial spirit that we want to develop in the students we teach that has them demonstrating a true passion for building something great from nothing and being willing to push themselves to the limits to achieve big goals, we need to develop in ourselves first.When we can role model this and bring these partnerships to our schools then we will be successful in growing the mindset that is needed for the future; one that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement.