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Encouraging women and girls to take up computer science as a subject and career, is perhaps a greater challenge than to get Computer Science / Computing on to the UK National Curriculum. Microsoft runs a number of programmes, such as DigiGirlz that actively encourage woman and girls to take up careers in Computing.

Recently I was asked to nominate an outstanding teacher who is a role model for encouraging girls to develop an interest in coding and computer science, the name that instantly came to mind was Nicki Maddams from Hartsdown Technology College in Margate. Nicki attended the ‘It starts with a Spark’ event last week. I will let her describe in her own words her experience.

My Day at Decodedimage

The day began with looking at the history of programming, introducing people such as Ada Lovelace (first female programmer) and Alan Turing. We then moved onto the history of the Web and were given an introduction to the main languages we would be using, these being:

HTML – The markup language used to give webpages their content.

CSS – The language which dictates the design of a website.

Javascript – The programming language used to control what happens within a page or app.

We got to grips with these languages one-by-one and each point was introduced gradually in a very simple and easy-to-understand way. I already had knowledge of HTML from my college days many years ago but it was great to refresh my skills and gain an understanding of some of the new tags that are now used. I was particularly keen to understand how CSS is used in conjunction with HTML and I now fully understand how the two operate together. Lastly, learning Java Script was really useful as most of my programming experience in the past has been with Visual Basic. Java Script is particularly useful as it is compatible across many devices due to it running within a web browser so is fantastic for making cross-platform applications.

The app we each built consisted of an HTML and CSS front-end that runs within the browser. The app then uses JavaScript to display a different message depending on our distance from a specific location, in this case, Decoded HQ; this used the built-in GPS on the tablets and mobile phones. You can take a look at my app here.

Following the day’s events we were then invited to attend a ‘T-Party’ afterwards where we were able to meet and network with other women in the world of IT. Is was great to meet so many different people and hear about the various jobs available in the industry. This will be great for me to share with my students in school, particularly the girls who often don’t think about the IT industry as being a potential career path.

The training was run by a new company called Decoded who offer the ‘code in a day‘ course to both groups and individuals. They have also been working on educational resources for teachers through O2 Learn and I can’t wait to see their ‘CodeCards‘ when they become available. I really can’t praise the training enough, many of the ladies on the course with me had no programming background at all and were still able to get to grips with the task at hand which is incredible; programming isn’t generally considered an easy topic!

I have definitely taken lots of ideas on how I can deliver this topic to my sixth form group in school soon. Their task is to build a game so I am going to show them how to develop the same application as I built here, except they are going to extend this into an educational game to help new students find their way around the school. They will utilise the GPS features of tablets or their mobile phones so they can create an interactive story-style game in which they are told to go to different parts of the school to reveal the next part of the story. Who knows some of them might even add obstacles around the school as well to avoid! (Thanks to Alex from Decoded for the interactive story idea!)

I’m planning for my sixth form intensive programming day to take place in a few weeks (and we’re even going to buy-in Dominoes Pizza for lunch). I will post an update once I have returned from the Microsoft Global Forum in Prague,where I will be presenting my Virtual Classroom Tour, Kodu in the Klassroom.

You can find out more about many of the programmes and events Microsoft offers by joining our Global Teacher network –Partners in Learning is Free to join at www.pil-network.com