After completing our first semester of Wikid GRRLS in Detroit, I am happy and sad at the same time. I am sad to let my first cohort of Wayne State University Honors Students go. They helped so much in making the program work and to establish it at two schools. They were up for the ups and downs that research in the “real” world brings. They were enthusiastic and full of suggestions to enhance the program to teach girls and to make this an even better Honors Class at Wayne State. I am happy to learn that they got a lot out of the program, too. Read for yourselves. Below are two Wayne State University Honors Students’ reflections on participating in HON 4940 Teaching Girls Online Skills:
“The WIKID GRRLS program’s value cannot be understated. In my experience with the project, the endeavor carries tremendous benefits for all parties involved. For the participating schools, they receive a unique, free opportunity for their students. For the girls participating, they learn skills they may not learn elsewhere that they can use in the future as students in high school, college, and as adults throughout their lives. The team running the project is given insight to current young students’ lives and interaction with computers and the Internet. And, furthermore, the team participates in helping to counterbalance the gender gap prevalent within technology use, STEM fields, and Wikipedia.
The program aims to teach the girls skills that many students, regardless of gender, lack when using computers. Knowledge and research on the “digital divide” demonstrates that many students do not learn creative and problem solving skills through computer use at their schools. Rather, they act like a second mouse, a point-and-click operator who hardly scratches the surface of holistic computer use due to the structure of their curriculum. WIKID GRRLS does the exact opposite. By teaching young girls to use collective spaces online, the girls learn to create, edit, interact, and contribute to the Internet. Rather than viewing the Internet as simply a large display for mere consumption and mediocre repetitive action.
To be clear, the digital divide cannot be blamed on the schools themselves. Their circumstances exist as a result of misguided politics. But, in a time where public schools continuously lose funding and teachers are left forced to grapple with the pragmatics of teaching large classes, a free program aimed at small groups of students has significant impact. The benefit to the girls cannot be understated. The schools that participate also benefit from a chance to teach skills they would, most likely, be willing to teach if their situation allowed it. The community involvement the program produces, by bringing together students from secondary school and university, and administrators and professors from both institutions, alone proves its merit. Any effort aimed at producing intermingling, rather than isolation, between institutions within a given community deserves support.
If I could, I would wish to continue to work on the project. It has been an enlightening, uplifting experience bequeathing insight and humility to me. The method of communication, organization, and continuous pursuit of the goal at hand demonstrates the pure intent of the project’s creators. WIKID GRRLS is meant to be a research project, a tool and an aid. Yet, it is so much more.”
“This class was an eye-opening experience for me. Before, I didn’t know about the technological gap between schools so close together. There were adolescents going to school with multiple computers at home and down the road, some who didn’t have any computers. I knew there was a gender gap in terms of technological experience, but I never would’ve thought it was this large. For women to be so underestimated in their computer skills is sad. There’s almost half a population being neglected from education because of their gender. Who’s to say computers are for boys and girls should go out and socialize? Even though I didn’t have a chance to personally teach girls, knowing that my peers went out and helped to end the gender gap is uplifting.
There should be more opportunities for young girls to feel like they are equal to boys in all respects. A young girl should never be told she can’t do something because she’s a girl, that isn’t fair. I know life isn’t fair, but this is something that can be controlled. This is something that could be stopped permanently. Girls should be able to feel like they want to be engineers or doctors. They should feel comfortable pursuing any idea or dream they have even if it is a ‘boys’ dream. Being able to be a part of a group that works so actively to end the gender gap and help empower girls is a great experience. I’m proud to say that I helped young girls achieve any dreams they have. There shouldn’t be any doubt whether this program helps or not. I’m confident girls walk out at the end feeling more comfortable about engaging in ‘boy’ activities and learning more about ‘boy’ topics.”