DigiGirlz: Teen Girls Build Community, Online and Off (Part Three)

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Jan. 30, 2009 I met Lynn Langit of Microsoft DigiGirlz last year at my first ‘She’s Geeky’ and saw her determined passion and creative desire to offer 13-19 year old girls exposure to technical career opportunities firsthand. So THIS year at She’s Geeky Lynn and I sat together at lunch and yakked in nanosecond updates trying to cram in all that’s going on with both of our upstart organizations before UNconference guru Kaliya Hamlin’s voice would signal reconvening in the ‘don’t miss a minute’ sessions… (e.g. the cool morning session on virtual worlds ranging from Second Life health sims to learning disabilities online, to solutions-building ways to use the VW space beyond ‘coinage and consumption)

Granted, Microsoft is hardly a ‘fledgling org’ but what Lynn and her team are trying to do within the legal walls and hallowed halls of corporate Microsoft is literally like launching a visionary startup

Lynn is an IT passionista and whipsmart developer/evangelist for Microsoft’s scalable programs like DigiGirlz Day and the teen growth of DigiGirlz high tech camps globally. (she’s now officially the curriculum coordinator for girls)

Lynn’s intent on building an online community that connects girls in profound ways for mentorship, peer to peer best practices new gaming platforms like Kodu (to design, build and play your own games) and in essence, leveraging ‘The Girl Effect’ in fresh new ways…Examples?

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She had a huge hit with their ‘mobile phones and movies’ DigiGirlz camp (I told her they need a Mobile Mania tag to quick click the subject matter into girls’ brains fast) and they folded in SongSmith to appeal.

SongSmith is essentially, “smart karaoke” where kids sing into a mike, and it creates backup musical accompaniment to match a singer’s voice, then share/compare to create their  own music videos…

Big leap from singing into a hairbrush in the mirror, eh?

DigiGirlz brings in teen girls as mentors, interns and camp counselors, and is able to draw from the Microsoft research to cut to the chase of ‘what works what doesn’t’ in terms of targeting teen girls and (don’t shoot the messenger) ‘girlifying’ the concepts into relevant online environs that appeal for going beyond USING media and instead CREATING the code, development, and conceptual ‘what ifs’ for solutions-based thinking.

loganFormer DigiGirl teen Logan Olson (’06 at left) shows how she turned her love of fashion and style into a spirited recovery from anoxia (brain injury from heart attack) using digital technology to see her vision come to life—Inspiring!

And yes, cynics, I realize the video on their site may be ‘too slick and Microsoft-PR- department-ish’ from a production standpoint, but the thought is raw and real and VERY authentic as to how digital technology can help those with disabilities overcome, re-entering life with resiliency and tenacity!

Another great example Lynn Langit mentioned this year for teen girl potential in ‘dev camp mode’ (girls as developers, not just players) is  Microsoft’s new Kodu junior game creation platform that I mentioned earlier.

koduKodu (formerly known as Boku for the Xbox) debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year, turning heads with a 12-year old girl showing its simplicity and usefulness in teaching programming and logic skills to kids by enabling them to actually edit and create their own games.

It was quickly touted by USA Today as an easy way for EVERYONE to design games, even kids as young as 8 (MS is testing it here with third graders as the KoduClub at Explorers Elementary.)

One side of me thinks,

“…Cool way to engage girl gamers to create what THEY want to see out there raising the bar away from some of the violent/misogynistic crud” …

…And the other side says,

“… I’m all for IT expansion in career paths, but I’m not sure getting kids hooked up to screens at age 8 (programmers or not!) is what I want to embrace as a lifestyle for kids…”

But hey, that’s a higher arching question…

And since THIS is a series on ‘she geeks’ and teens in tech I’m going to stick to the subject matter at hand and wildly applaud the notion of learning and innovation, removing judgment of nature vs. nurture in absolutist terms.

Think ‘creativity’ and ‘problem-solving’ universally…

crayon-physicsAfter all, using STEM in fun games and applications is a great way to open up solutions based learning in a huge way too…

Think Crayon Physics, (which, by the way, took the 2008 IGF Grand Prize at the Independent Games Festival) or Lego MindStorms robotics opening up alternative ways of learning in community hubs, connecting kids with kids.

For a closer look at Kodu, there’s a solid recap on Joystiq asking pertinent questions about its value, and the requisite pithy commentary by gamers about the community concept in the Destructoid.com discussion group of geekery, and Odeo has the visual clips and Kodu demos from  creator Matthew MacLaurin discusssing the future of computing and community…

Now, back to DigiGirlz and the growth of their ventures…

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Lynn’s going to be in the U.K. and Sweden soon bringing some of the NSF tween/techno offshoots of cool programs like  ‘Girls Build’ and engineering programs depicting how ‘Women Build’ (they’re hitting this from two levels, senior techies and teen she geeks in IT) as a show-n-tell of the value of embracing fresh communication styles with hands-on, visual methods.

Did you know Microsoft actually uses Legos for ‘serious play’ to structure models that represent opinions in their global and regional conferences as icebreakers and speed networking?

Sounds very ‘Apple’ for a ‘PC’ world, eh?

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Lynn’s got over a decade in her pocket as a tech trainer, so my guess is this will be wildly successful since so many of us are trying to deploy ‘The Girl Effect’ to create a Girl Revolution to counter-attack the vapid values and ‘body as toy’ degradation of females in the media zeitgeist which is imparting that power comes from appearance versus brains.

Smart girls rock.

We’re ALL eager to go going beyond gizmos and ‘stuff’ and instead impart useful solutions-based uses for technology that literally solve a problem.

Whether that’s for the planet or the pocketbook, or both, she geeks have the opportunity to shift the girl evolution of lousy self-worth into using great minds for what matters.

nmgWhich reminds me, Fem2.0 begins on Monday, and Girl Media Maven Nancy Gruver founder of New Moon Girl Media will be live-blogging some of it for us here at Shaping Youth because my daughter’s still flu-bound so I’m grounded. (p.s. the plenaries will evidently be live-streamed at this link here on Monday 2-2, so check ‘em out!)
Next up in our teens in tech series, Scratch, PicoCricket and the PicoBoard and other MIT Media Lab cool creations for kids to explore…

Plus, the Teens in Tech Conference with 15-year old co-founder, Daniel Brusilovsky (say that three times fast)…

Ahem…Will “She Geeks meet He Geeks!?” This could be interesting, and a good recruiting ground for us here at Shaping Youth on the intern front (hope so, anyway)…

Part Four tomorrow…

Related Resources on DigiGirlz

DigiGirlz Space (Windows Live)

Talking Green IT at DigiGirlz N.C. (Little Miss EnviroGeek)

DigiGirlz Program “rox their sox” (Workplace magazine)

Contagious Curiosity (SoCal Dev Gal=Lynn Langit’s blog!)

Encouraging Girls to Pursue IT Careers (eLearners.com)

Launch for DigiGirlz Norway (Women & Technology.eu)

Microsoft Works to Expose DigiGirlz to Tech (Black & Married w/Kids blog)

Day in the Life of a DigiGirl-Microsoft’s wmv snapshot

And I know I’ve posted The Girl Effect before, but I just LOVE it, so here it is again in case you missed it! DigiGirlz are just one of many potential offerings in maximizing this magic…Enjoy!

The Girl Effect.org: 2.23 minutes of powerful media!

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Comments

  1. Well it’s good to see that you’re using proper grammar.

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