There is a severe lack of women in the technology industry. Very few programmers are women and very few women hold senior positions in technology companies. This is a problem because technology is shaping the way we live and women risk being left out of the conversation.
Ada Lovelace was the world’s first computer programme. Ada Lovelace day takes place every year on 14th October to celebrate women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and encourage women and girls to choose this path. I took part in an event last week at Streatham and Clapham High School, an all girls school in London, to show the students some things you can do with code.
I decided early on that I wanted to do something with the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) provided by websites like Facebook and Instagram to show how we can use our own data and that of our friends. After a lot of preparation, time, refinement and help from some great volunteers I managed to get an hour long introduction to programming session ready to go.
I was scheduled to run the session for two different groups – one 15-16 year olds and one for 17-18 year olds. The younger group came in first. I hadn’t had enough time to set up all the computers with the skeleton code I’d prepared so I naively asked the kids to copy it from the network drive and open it on their machine. Lots of them opened it on the shared drive which caused lots of confusion. I also realised quite early on that we weren’t going to cover nearly as much as I had planned so I had to do a bit of on the fly rejigging to make sure we got to the big pay off of using their own pictures.
I managed to set up the computers for the second session so it went a lot better. We managed to cover a bit more and the kids seemed calmer, more relaxed and more attentive.
I don’t know if I managed to encourage anyone to learn to code. There were definitely some kids there that picked it up quickly and were helping others. Programming is a difficult thing to teach in an hour. At the start it’s weird, difficult and frustrating but once you get over the first few hurdles it becomes a wonderful skill to possess. It’s still weird, difficult and frustrating but the things you can do with it are amazing.
Before the day started I would have said I wouldn’t want to do it again. The preparation work alone was pretty full on. However after the second session I could still see lots of improvements that I could make to my presenting style and the material being taught. I almost feel like it would be a waste to not try and build on what I’ve learnt. If the school asks me back next year then I’d certainly say yes.