The annual CuriosITy dinner – which was hosted by Bresica House School on 30 May 2018 – gives grade 11 girls who are taking either CAT or IT an opportunity to network with women in the IT industry. This year, a series of hands-on workshops took place prior to the dinner to provide the girls, and their teachers, with an opportunity to try out a range of digital tools.
174 girls and their 50 teachers who attended the workshops were each able to select three 40 minute sessions from the following options:
- Explore Merge cubes, Metaverse and Expeditions
- VJ Robotics STEAM activity
- Get going with an Hour of Code
- Explore Sphero
- Lego Mindstorms
- Lego WeDo
- Access Microsoft software for Mahala!
- Get Scratching
- Green Screen
These short workshops were just long enough to expose teachers and learners to a range of new tools and to whet their appetites for exploring technology and coding beyond what is included in the school curriculum.
As part of the Microsoft #YouthSpark project, which aims to introduce basic computer science into more schools, Megan Rademeyer of SchoolNet SA offered the Hour of Code as one of the CuriosITy sessions. These workshops proved to be very popular with learners and teachers who are taking CAT as a subject, but whose schools do not offer IT. Having seen how fun it is to complete simple coding activities, learners were eager to run Hour of Code sessions at their schools. Teachers from schools that offer IT noted that the Hour of Code could be used to encourage more grade 9 learners to consider taking IT as a subject for matric.
Nomusa Keninda and Ntombizodwa Gininda, representing the Mpumalanga ICT Club, presented workshops that introduced learners and teachers to Scratch programming. This simple, free tool is another great way of introducing the basics of coding to young learners, and we trust that many teachers will use this simple form of programming to promote computer science at their schools.
Bonolo Sedupane of Microsoft SA showed girls and their teachers how to register for Mahala Microsoft accounts. The girls were excited to know that they can get free access to Microsoft software, a Microsoft email account and online storage and said that they would be sure to also get their friends connected. Teachers from schools that have not signed up for O365 for the whole school were interested to learn of another option that they could use for their learners to access software.
Through the Microsoft Philanthropies YouthSpark Grant, SchoolNet SA was able to sponsor four girls and their teachers from ten under-resourced schools to attend the CuriosITy workshop and dinner. We know that the opportunity to try out a range of tools, and to get excited about using new technologies will go a long way towards ensuring that more girls with an interest in technology consider pursuing careers in STEM subjects.