SciGirls Code: Designing CS Playlists for Girls

SciGirls Code from Twin Cities PBS is a connected learning project designed to increase the participation of middle school girls in computer science. Our pilot, which is now in development and will run during the 2017-18 school year, will engage girls at 16 sites across the country in hands-on robotics, e-textile, and mobile app development projects. Our coding venture joins a collection of STEM education programs that make up the SciGirls enterprise, all of which originate from SciGirls, an award-winning PBS Kids show that encourages tween girls to engage in STEM.

Funded by the National Science Foundation’s STEM + C program, SciGirls Code was looking for a digital platform to help fulfill the connected learning aspects of our project. The opportunity to be a part of the DML Playlists for Learning cohort is both ideal and inspired because the LRNG platform is built with early connected learning research in mind. Additionally, designing alongside the other awardees who are also interested in expanding on this early work makes for very productive company!

Over the past year, our project team has been determining specific technologies to use in each strand of the project, while also creating a curriculum that features unplugged activities to support computational thinking and tech-focused activities in robotics, e-textiles, and mobile apps. The technologies girls will use include: Oxobot, Sphero, Hummingbird (robotics), LilyPad (e-textiles),  App Inventor and Tale Blazer (mobile Apps).

As we organize these experiences, our team is devising playlists that will enhance the F2F coding experiences. We are building four playlists—three featuring mostly local XPs for girls (on the topics of robotics, e-textiles, and mobile apps) and one featuring mostly digital XPs for educators (on topics including resiliency and pair programming as well as gender equity strategies in STEM and computer science). The playlists will debut to the educators this spring, as part of professional development training for the project. Participating girls will begin work on the playlists in the fall.

We are also mindful of the connected learning model and how to best realize it in our work.  Additionally, we are figuring out what we want to know about girls and playlists along with what the greater field might find meaningful, because we are fortunate to have evaluation and research work associated with SciGirls Code. We hope to establish some top-line best practices for engaging girls with playlists and digital badges, especially relating to their participation in STEM and computer science.