Eight weeks ago I started coaching 2 teams in the 2016 Search for the Next Tech Girls are Superheroes competition. This is a competition that involves groups of girls that plan, design and develop an android app to help the community. First the girls need to identify an issue in their community and this involves also defining their community (school, local, state, national, world). The girls also need to develop a business plan, a pitch video and an app demo video. This competition closely follows the Technovation challenge, so the groups are able to enter into this competition in the following year.
Each group also gained a mentor from industry. We were fortunate to have received 2 lovely mentors from Suncorp organisation. It’s great for the girls to talk to women in industry that have worked with IT. However, it has been challenging to make the time to meet with them online since the available time of students is minimal (I am at a school where kids are involved with a lot of extra-curricula, plus they are driven academically). We have also had some dodgy Skype calls that have not always worked, so we’re super excited that they are both visiting us at our school this week! 🙂
My Tech Girls Group 1: three Year 9 girls, close friends before the competition
My Tech Girls Group 2: five Year 8 girls, some were not friends previous to this competition.
Things I’ve learned so far:
- When you put a random group of 5 young teenage girls in a group they will not automatically communicate well! It has been very challenging to get the Year 8 group to communicate effectively.
- A school that wants to support IT initiatives like this needs to make IT a priority. The number of times a Tech Girl has not shown up for a Tech Girl’s meeting due to other commitments, such as Drama, Music or Sport, has been disappointing.
- We are using OneDrive for online collaboration and a place to keep all of our files. This has worked very well. None of the girls were overly familiar with OneDrive (or Google Docs, or any type of online collaborative repository), so I am really proud of how much they have learned about this way of working. Some of the girls have also used Yammer, texting and email to communicate personally.
- Two hours per week of meetings is not enough time for this type of competition when the members are NOT familiar with computer programming and developing business plans. Plus, one of those hours were used for Skype calls to our mentors. The problem with finding a meeting time that suits all members is a major issue!
- Separation of roles is a winner strategy!
- The Year 9 group naturally separated into the Dream Team roles: Hipster, Hacker & Hustler, lol! The Hacker, our ‘coder’, is awesome and she’s found some pretty cool ways to implement web databases and Google maps into the app. The Hipster & Hustler sometimes share roles, but mostly we’ve got the creative genius (that needs a lot of motivation but eventually produces good visuals) and the business writer (she also needs a lot of prodding but eventually she produces the work!).
- The Year 8 group were at first really slow to start and I blame a lot of it on the fact that they didn’t know each other and were too shy to talk. Eventually, I had to stop coaching and be the “teacher” by giving them roles & tasks to do. We have 2 primary Hackers or ‘coders’, and they’re doing a great job. Two girls are working on separate tasks that involve research and writing for the business plan. One girl is in charge of finding good informational content for the app and works closely with the coders.
- Exam period kills all creativity! During the 2-weeks of exams and when assignments are due it was really difficult to get anything done. Be aware of this and plan accordingly next time.