Arizona Technology and Innovation: CompuGirls

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CompuGirls is a program for adolescent girls that combines learning advanced computational skills along with key areas of social justice. The program was founded by Kimberly A. Scott, Women and Gender Studies associate professor in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. Scott was named a STEM Access Champion of Change at the White House in February, and will discuss her program.

Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on Arizona technology and innovation looks at a Compu-girls, a program for adolescent girls that combines computational skills with key areas of social justice. The program was founded by Kimberly Scott, women and gender studies associate professor at ASU's school of social transformation. Scott was recently honored at the White House for being a stem access champion of change.

Ted Simons: Congratulations on that honor. Very nice.

Kimberly Scott: Thank you. It was a lot of fun.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about Compu-girls. Give me a definition.

Kimberly Scott: It is a technology program second airily, really focused on getting girls ages to redefine themselves and use technology in the process.

Ted Simons: I notice that it was -- the quote here was culturally relevant tech program for girls. What does that mean culturally relevant?

Kimberly Scott: Since then we have really thought about that and we talked about it being culturally responsive. We are trying to provide girls with the skills so that they can find themselves. So many of the girls come from under privileged backgrounds, girls from group homes. Girls who are TRUANTS, girls that are teen moms. So what we do is have lessons and activities so that the girls can question their identities and ultimately transform them and then in the process, further their communities.

Ted Simons: Is it a question of raising the bar or just making a different bar to hurdle?

Kimberly Scott: I think it is making a different bar. Not necessarily to hurdle, but a different bar in order to bring not only yourself but your peers into a different type of playing field.

Ted Simons: Encourages computational thinking. What does that mean?

I think it is a fancy way of critical thinking. Computational thinking refers to getting students to think more like a computer, but I think it is more like how to approach a problem in a way that makes sense. One of the young ladies said after her experience in Compu-girls, she may not be able to know everything how a hardware, software works, but she has the thinking skills to figure it out. And I think that is a great example.

Ted Simons: Is it the situation where some girls come in and you just know that they need to be convinced that he can do it? They probably can do it, but they need to be convinced that they can do it.

Kimberly Scott: In our experience, most of the girls know that they can do it. In fact, that's why they're there, but they haven't had access to the resources or the opportunities to do it.

Ted Simons: Yeah, so that is an important thing. As well as, again, I'm using some words from your stuff, techno social analytical skill. What does that mean?

Kimberly Scott: Yes. We are trying to get girls to be techno-social change agents. Not only seeing your identity as a leader in your community, an individual who can change the way the community functions and improve it, but use the technology to engage in that process.

Ted Simons: Talk about the technology. What is used?

Kimberly Scott: So, we use -- video documentaries. We use scratch, which is a software produced by MIT teaching the girls how to create games or simulations and we play around with virtual world, in which the girls create culminating projects.

Ted Simons: Talk about this -- open SIM technology. That is like Sim City technology.

Kimberly Scott: Yes, we have used Sim City.

Ted Simons: Do they enjoy this? Do you have to keep pushing or do you have to slow them down because they're so excited about it?

Kimberly Scott: They're typically very excited. When I first started the program in, I wanted to be enjoyable and I limited the time. It was the girls who said they needed more time. They would ask the mentor teachers to come in on Saturday and Sunday's.

Ted Simons: Good luck with that.

Kimberly Scott: Yes.

Ted Simons: The peer mentoring approach, what is that?

Kimberly Scott: What we do is as the girls progress through the courses, we teach them how to not only be accountable to themselves but to the group as a whole. And so part of that is having the girls identify their strengths and share it with the group and teach other group members how to identify their strengths.

Ted Simons: Again, is this the kind of thing that works in conjunction with regular schooling? Is it regular -- how does that dynamic play out?

Kimberly Scott: Here in the state of Arizona, and we are the mother site because we do have a site in Colorado. A couple of sites in Colorado. Here in Arizona, we typically offer our programming during school breaks. So, it's fall break. In fact, we have a group of going right now during spring break, and Colorado, however, they have integrated the program sometimes within the school in the eighth period.

Ted Simons: When you talk about under privileged girls, resource districts, what are looking at? What kind of girl, if there is such a thing, the typical girl involved in the program?

Kimberly Scott: And that's a really good question. There really isn't a typical girl per se. What we found is many of the girls have not necessarily come from two-family households. As I indicated earlier, some of them have come from group homes. They're in transition. Some of the girls don't attend school regularly because they feel that the school doesn't trust them. And then we do have some girls who are the stars. What we do is not accept a girl based on her GPA or her academic achievement but based on her willingness to engage in the program.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, how do you assess how they're doing? How do you -- are there tests? Are there guidelines out there? How do you assess?

Kimberly Scott: Oh, no, not tests. We do not do tests and I think that is part of the appeal. We do have mentor teachers who are following a curriculum that I co-created and there are specific benchmarks throughout the curriculum. Peer mentors, many of whom are individuals that have graduated from the program and come back and volunteer their time and they give a lot of one on one or one to five interactions with the girls saying how they're doing. We also demonstrate to the girls some of the more successful projects from the past, and they can gauge their progress based on their assessments.

Ted Simons: Do some of the more successful girls from the past come back and help out?

Kimberly Scott: Absolutely. Some of them come back and help out. Some of them also help to publicize the program. Recruitment periods, many of the girls both in Colorado and here will go out on the campaign trail, so to speak, and in addition, many of the girls have had the opportunity to present with me at national and international conferences.

Ted Simons: For those who come, maybe a fractured family in a way, but those who do have relatives or family, what kind of reaction are you getting from them when they see the girls doing this?

Kimberly Scott: Wonderful. The parents and care givers have been exceptionally supportive. At the end of each of the courses, and we presently have three courses, the girls organize a showcase. And we call -- a closing ceremony and we invite community leaders. In fact, you are invited if you would like to attend, and their parents and grandparents and grass top and grass roots leaders and we get some wonderful support.

Ted Simons: I know you mentioned was when this started.

Kimberly Scott: Correct.

Ted Simons: And this is your baby here.

Kimberly Scott: Yes.

Ted Simons: Was there one thing that got you off on this? I mean, obviously it is a great idea. It is a good inception, but was there one person, one thing that where you said I have to do this?

Kimberly Scott: There is many things, but I guess the biggest moment for me was when I was teaching in the the grade classroom back east in what was considered a high needs district. I was consistently and regularly depressed by how so many adults did not believe in the children. And in their disbelief, they prevented them, I felt, from many times having access to rigorous curricula, high expectations and ultimately to them fulfilling their achievement.

Ted Simons: Now you changed that, do you see the world having changed a little along those lines?

Kimberly Scott: I think the world has changed. I think that resonates with the point that occurred at the White House. There were of us doing very similar work in terms of trying to engage a broader community with access to stem.

Ted Simons: Congratulations again on the honor by the White House.

Kimberly Scott: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Continued success with compu-girls. You're doing great work. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Kimberly Scott: Thank you.

Kimberly A. Scott:Founder, CompuGirls;

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