It has been crazy and fun working at Girls Who Code this past month! Part of working at a non-profit with a start-up environment is that part of every person’s job is expansion and publicity. So, when the press calls at eight in the morning saying that they want to come and shoot in the afternoon, everyone stops what they are doing to pull that together; and the press has been here a lot. CBS, The New York Times Magazine, and many other press organizations have come and filmed our girls and written articles about Girls Who Code. For the big names, we had to pull together events and everyone did something to contribute to each one. It was a blast to see everyone work together to make these events happen at the drop of a hat.
I also enjoyed expanding the curriculum to cover a wider array of topics while teaching the same content knowledge of programming. Previously the girls learned to program with projects that dealt only with video games, graphics and mobile/web development, and a few projects that don’t have significance in their lives. I added artificial intelligence and cryptography to the curriculum. While Artificial Intelligence was previously in the summer curriculum, Cryptography was not found in Girls Who Code curriculum at all. It is not a topic that many people know about, but I think is really cool. The way that math and computer science can be manipulated in a way to make the internet a safer place is beautiful.
One challenge I had here is that most of the math in encryption schemes we use today uses very advanced mathematical methods. So, for levels one and two, I had to use older encryption schemes, like the Caesar Cipher and the Vigenere Cipher. These ciphers are fun and use algebra, but they are not current because they are easily broken. To combat this, I have students solving some challenge questions that ask students to think like cryptographers. I hope that by adding cryptography into the curriculum, I will add breadth to the topics covered and to get more students interested in how computer science affects them on a daily basis.
The New York summer programs start next week. My job then shifts: instead of spending all my time on the computer planning lessons, I will get to be in classrooms and work with the girls and teachers. My job will be to help teachers understand lesson plans, scaffold lessons, and assess student work. The experience I gained student teaching and in all my classes will be very useful here. Additionally, it will help me work through all of these skills for myself before I get back into teaching this coming year. I actually just accepted a position at the High School of Language and Innovation in the Bronx teaching math. I am very excited to start!
In my new position at Girls Who Code, I will have a very good model. I have seen Ashley lead conference calls with the West coast teachers. She is very good at pinpointing parts of the lesson that give students a struggle. The other day, one program’s lesson did not go as well as we’d hoped; the problem was that students were not so interested in the assignment. Luckily that was the first program to enact the lesson, so that very day she created a new lesson to cover the same content in a more meaningful way. She had distributed it to teachers by four in the afternoon so that other programs would not face the same problem. This is one great example of how she took feedback and made the lessons better. As I’ve stated many time before: I am so glad to have Ashley as a true model and my boss.