Category Archives: Wikid GRRLS

Wayne State U Honors students can teach Wikid GRRLS for HON3000/service-learning requirement


Did you know that women are only 13 percent of Wikipedia contributors, that is, the people who write and edit the articles? Wikipedia’s gender gap affects what is (or isn’t) part of “the sum of all human knowledge” that the popular online encyclopedia offers.

You can be part of closing this huge gap. Register for HON 4940 for Fall Semester 2015 and teach middle and early high school girls in Detroit Public Schools online skills. HON 4940 also fulfills your service-learning/HON 3000 requirement!

You’ll teach in schools close to our WSU campus with a pre-prepared curriculum. We’ll meet weekly to discuss progress & blog about experiences. We’ll also collect data on how such interventions can encourage girls to contribute to projects such as Wikipedia.

Be part of closing Wikipedia’s gender gap!

If you have any questions about the class, on how to register or have trouble registering, don’t hesitate to e-mail Stine Eckert at

Hooray for Wikid GRRLs receiving Wayne State University grants

We are very happy to learn that Wayne State University and the WSU College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts support our Wikid GRRLs project and its associated research with grants. They will pay for transportation for teachers in our program to go and teach middle and high school girls online skills in Detroit Public Schools. They will also be used to purchase supplies for participants — to show them that they are appreciated and recognized in their efforts to navigate the wiki world. We are looking forward to launching our curriculum in five Detroit Public Schools this fall.

If you are a Detroit Public School with middle and early high school girls, have computers or a computer lab with working internet and are interested in participating in Wikid GRRLs, please e-mail Stine Eckert at

If you are a Wayne State University student interested in teaching the Wikid GRRLs curriculum or to help with research and organization, please also e-mail Stine Eckert at

The international perspective on STEM


Plenty of studies and arguments have been presented that tell us that it is neither good for society nor the economy when women and girls are not working in STEM fields. Based on UN data, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton’s No Ceiling project offers a summary of how STEM plays out not only in the United States but also how it compares internationally.

Worldwide, the percentage of graduates with a bachelor’s degree in science who are women range from 25% in the Netherlands to almost 50% in Argentina. The United States is in between, with 41 percent. The article highlights that worldwide only 20 percent of computer scientists are women. That is, women and girls miss out on working in one of the fastest growing and highest paying fields.

While girls start out strongly in school regarding math and science skills, confidence and interest fade when they reach secondary school levels, as the article details.

Hence, it is especially important to keep girls engaged in computer science with fun projects and encourage them to consider tech jobs as lucrative careers. Our free Wikid GRRLs curriculum works to keep middle and early high school girls engaged in the process of learning online skills and to consider a job on the back side of computing. We build confidence and remind girls at this particular time in their lives that a career involving technology is a viable option.

We are working to bring our free 10-week afters school program in Detroit Public Schools. If you are interested in working with Wikid GRRLs, e-mail Dr. Stine Eckert at

“Dilbert’s” Scott Adams: How many women do we need in tech?

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has treated the gender gap in tech careers in many of his cartoons, sometimes subtler, sometimes more bluntly. Perhaps you remember the comic strip about “his mother.”

Recently he shared his perspective on the gender gap in plain prose, suggesting a goal of 33 percent women in technology careers.

While not all parts of his blog post make complete sense (which he acknowledges), he does provide his observations as an insider, especially of the start-up culture:

“Pause for a moment to let that sink in. I didn’t say I have met few women in those types of jobs, or not as many as I would have expected. I am saying I have literally met zero. None.”

He presents three interconnected reasons: women are not encouraged to enter technical fields; networks are key for success but women appear to be cut-off as men mingle among themselves; and sexism, discrimination and old-boys networks “make technology an unfriendly place for women. My observations support that.”

Thus, striving toward 33 percent is not a bad first step toward gender parity in STEM. As Adams suggests, encouraging girls and women to enter tech jobs is the first step before they get build and interact in networks.

Wikid GRRLs believes, based on studies, that we need to start early to get girls at least thinking about these fields for future careers. We need to encourage girls already in middle school to learn and hone computer and internet-related skills and to consider computer science and related areas as viable job options. With our curriculum we introduce girls to the idea that they, too, can be  part of the back space of online structures and online content. We hope to get started in five Detroit Public Schools this fall. Stay tuned!

If you are a teacher in a Detroit Public School, especially around the Wayne State University campus, and are interested in working with Wikid GRRLS, contact Stine Eckert at

Barbie struggling as computer engineer? A sad story that luckily can be fixed

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It is sad, very sad indeed, when a book that is supposed to empower girls sends the opposite message. In its series of Barbie: I Can Be… Mattel hit another low in portraying Barbie as too dumb to handle computers. In Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer, as reported on Daily Dot, she manages to infect her laptop with a virus, tells readers that she needs her guy friends to do the coding for her computer game, and needs little sister Skipper to reboot her computer. Little sister Skipper in turn is not able to back up her files.

It’s difficult to understand how such narratives can still pop up given the gender gaps in STEM fields, including computer science. These gaps have become pretty common knowledge. Just recently, NPR’s Planet Money detailed the increase in women in computer science to 35 percent in 1985 to then steeply drop to just 17 percent in 2014 because of a complex entanglement of factors. Another example is Stanford University President Hennessy who recently argued for getting more women working in technology.

As slow as Mattel is on catching up on the trend of properly empowering messages for girls, as quick are women to fix such disturbing sexist narratives. Miranda Parker, computer education specialist, and Casey Fiesler, doctoral student in human-centered computing, inserted the right, feminist messages into the pink dolls’ mouths: “You can like pink and be a really good computer programmer.” The fixed book is available as a PDF for free.

Our Wikid GRRLs project and Wayne State University’s Go GIRL project send the right messages: girls can code, girls can do sciences, study and work in STEM fields, can run wikis, can contribute to knowledge online, can confidently express themselves and their concerns publicly online.

If your school, library, or community center is interested in using our Wikid GRRLs curriculum to teach middle school and early high school girls online skills for knowledge projects, e-mail

A big shout out to Dr. Sally Roberts at the @WSUGoGirls project and Dr. Monica Brockmeyer, co-founder of the Go Girl and associate provost of student success at Wayne State University, for bringing these stories to our attention. 

Wikid GRRLs is also starting in Detroit

wikidgrrlslogo-resized3.jpgThat’s right, Wikid GRRLs is planning to launch its program also in Detroit. We hope to start teaching our curriculum in Detroit public schools in fall 2015.

Wikid GRRLs aims to bring a series of 10 workshop sessions, lasting 45-60 minutes, as an after-school activity into four to five Detroit schools. Schools need to have existing computers/computer labs with working internet connections. The workshops will be limited to 12 girls per school, with a separate teacher from the Wikid GRRLs team at each school. In its inaugural Detroit program, Wikid GRRLs aims to teach 48-60 girls.

If your school is interested in bringing the Wikid GRRLs program to your middle or early high school students, please e-mail Dr. Stine Eckert at 

Tim Schaffer, 1972-2014

Tim Schaffer with Barrie Students on May 6, 2013

Tim Schaffer with Barrie Students on May 3, 2013. Photo: JN

Yesterday we were informed by Allison Druin, Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland, that our original FIA Partner, Tim Schaffer, who enabled us to win the grant in 2013, has passed away, his life cut short at the age of 42 by an electrical accident at his home. This is tragic news for his family and for the school, and largely for the whole community of people of good will like Tim, even those who might not have had the chance to know him.

Tim Schaffer was the director of technology at the Barrie School and he was instrumental in bringing about our after-school workshop even before we had clearly defined lesson plans. He met with Stine and me before the workshop started at the beautiful Barrie campus in Silver Spring and he helped us develop the curriculum and gave practical tips drawing on his experience as educator and technology expert. I distinctly remember the first time Stine and I drove to Barrie after winning the grant, completely wide-eyed, and impressed by the school’s sprawling and green campus, I remember how nervous and full of anticipation we were at this moment when for the first time there was a chance, a real chance unfolding in front of our footsteps as we made our way to Tim’s office, that our brainchild would become something in the world. And Tim was the bridge who made this possible.

Throughout the duration of the seed grant, which was also active in three other schools, Tim was especially helpful to me, as I was designated to teach the workshop at Barrie. Every time I went to Barrie he was there and always ready to help if the technology wasn’t working properly. At some sessions, he participated fully, acting as a second teacher, helping the girls on specific tasks they were getting stuck on. Then, on May 3rd, we held a final two hour session with both the girls and their parents, which was largely thanks to Tim who organized it and helped me plan it. This final session was a great success as the parents got to learn from their daughters specific online knowledge-creating or sharing-skills, and we were able to hand the girls certificates and presents in a very uplifting and celebratory atmosphere.

Tim was very much a part of the continuing legacy of WikidGRRLs and wanted to be informed about our future endeavors. He would certainly be glad to know that we are now working on establishing a partnership with a middle school in Baltimore and expect to be sharing the curriculum with them in thi fall. We will miss Tim so dearly. I attach the testimonial that he had kindly sent us for the final presentation to the Future of Information Alliance (FIA) and Deutsch foundation partners, as he could not make it in person that day. This little audio clip is precious to us now, not so much for the content, but for the bittersweet impression of Tim’s presence amongst us that it can create, at least for this fleeting moment. May he rest in peace.