Meghan Wilker

Coding Camps for Kids

Last week, I got an email from a dad who was looking for ways to introduce his 1st grade daughter to coding. I had a few suggestions (not all of which were specific to coding), which I thought others might be interested in as well.

The Works: https://www.theworks.org/events-and-camps/
More about engineering in general than coding specifically, but some cool options.
[Disclosure: The Works was the non-profit that my colleagues in Team Pegacorn were assigned to for the Overnight Web Challenge. Though I was a fan of the organization before that!)

Coder Dojo TC: http://www.coderdojotc.org/
Some co-workers of mine are just getting this up and running. Keep an eye on it (or become a mentor!).

Science Museum: http://www.smm.org/classes

Code Academy: http://www.codecademy.com/
Some of the lessons might be advanced for a first grader, but could be a good activity for parents and kids to do side-by-side.

DIY: https://diy.org/
A site for kids to complete Maker challenges, and earn badges. Just signed my daughter up for it.

She’s Geeky: http://shesgeeky.org/
An annual unconference for women and girls. Not coding-specific, but all about STEM. Encourages both professional women and school-age girls to attend.

LittleBits: http://littlebits.cc/
This is a toy, not a camp (and it’s a little spendy) but my kids love these. We have the starter kit — they’ve added more kits and projects since we bought ours.

GoldieBlox: http://www.goldieblox.com/
Another toy. I don’t have it, but a friend got it for her daughter (I think she might have backed it on Kickstarter). At first I HATED the idea of “toys for girls” but when I learned more about the engineer behind it, and her research, I started digging the concept.

What did I miss? Do you have any suggestions? Most of my class or camp ideas are based in or around Minneapolis-St. Paul, but feel free to share other suggestions from other cities and states in the comments!

Podcast #27: Keynote News With A Side Of Security

We’re excited to announce that we’re one of the keynote sessions for MinneWebCon 2011! Along with that good news, we’d also like to encourage other female speakers (and really anyone with solid, innovative content) to submit their proposals for this year’s event. If you’ve got something good to say, make sure you share it!

In Podcast 26, we mentioned a Firefox plugin called Firesheep. While we didn’t go into much detail, we did promise a deeper conversation about it in the next podcast. This is that podcast! Listen further to find out more about how the plugin works, and what it means for your information. While we’re on the subject of sharing information that you may or may not know you’re sharing, we also touched on the new Facebook Friendship pages. Do you know what Facebook is saying about you and your friends?

Additional Resources

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Podcast #13: Facebook Privacy

Lucky number 13! In our 13th podcast we take a look at a topic that never seems to go out of style: Facebook privacy. What do the changes mean to you? What are Facebook’s goals? Can you trust Facebook?

Listen Online


Summary

Seriously, by the time we post this there will probably be a new set of Facebook designs and rules — at least that’s what it feels like. In this podcast, we take a look at some of the changes Facebook has made recently, what they mean to you, what they mean to Facebook, and ask the question, “Can Facebook be trusted?”

If we could stress one take-away from this podcast it would be — every time Facebook makes an update, you should revisit your privacy settings. Read them. Ask questions if you don’t understand. Don’t end up in an uncomfortable situation simply because you didn’t take the time to inform yourself.

Other Resources

Meghan referenced a Clay Shirky video, which you can watch here. It’s about 45 minutes, but worth it: Clay Shirky: It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure.

A couple of interesting articles on this same topic were circulating on Twitter last week as well:

What do you think? Are we on the money, or full of crap? Was this podcast interesting? We felt like we were being boring, but we sure hope we weren’t!

Hit us up with questions in the comments, or over on our Facebook page (if you dare!).

The Problem With Pink

This weekend, I posted on Facebook and Twitter that my daughter and I “had a discussion about ‘boy colors’ and ‘girl colors’ today. I tried to explain that there are just ‘colors’. She wouldn’t hear of it! While she also admits to liking ‘boy colors’, it still rubs me the wrong way. Our first ideological disagreement!”

The reactions got me thinking. I’m posting it here because, if you stay with me ’til the end, you’ll see how it relates to technology.

Bear with me. I’m a wordy lady.

Boy Colors and Girl Colors

What I wanted to write back to everyone that responded to me on Facebook and Twitter (but instead turned into this blog post), was this: what bothered me about what my daughter said was not that she liked the color pink, but that at four years old she had learned that ALL the other colors (aside from pink and purple) “belonged” to boys. This attitude — that certain things are “for” boys and “for” girls isn’t as innocent or funny as it might seem. It’s a mindset that builds on itself and leads us to treat boys and girls differently, to have different expectations for them, leads them to believe that certain choices are better (read: more appropriate) for them than others and leads us, in adulthood to believe things about women and men that simply aren’t true.

While mulling that over this week, I’ve also been looking for inspiration for decorating the kids’ bedroom. Yep, my son and daughter are going to share a room, at least until they’re old enough to complain about it. (Then, one of them will move to the spare bedroom in the basement.)

In looking for decorating ideas, I was struck by how everything — everything — is divided into stuff for boys, and stuff for girls. Girls’ stuff is pink pink pink pink pink (OMG with the pink!), and maybe some purple or yellow. Theme-wise, it’s animals, flowers, princesses and the like. Overall, it’s all very soft.

Boys’ stuff is every color that isn’t pink or purple. Boys also = robots, trains, cars. Boy stuff is  — in color and subject matter — BOLD.

Boy Toys & Girl Toys

Shopping for kids’ birthday parties over the past year, I’ve noticed that the toy aisles are divided, too. There are boy toys and girl toys. Boy toys are robots, trains, and cars. In other words, things to do. Girl toys are dolls, pets, cooking and cleaning stuff. In other words, things to take care of. (By the way, this really pissed me off when I tried to buy a pack of play food for a boy we know loves cooking in a toy kitchen. The only available containers were pink and purple. What?!)

Now, hey. I’m not begrudging anyone their pink. In fact, I’ve been known to enjoy the color myself. I just don’t want that to be the only option.

My daughter has princess stuff, dolls, and a play kitchen. But, she also has a toolbox and a train set. Last Saturday, she wore a pink dress and glittery shoes to a rocket class at the local science museum.

My son has trucks and loses his mind with glee when he sees a motorcycle drive by, but one of his favorite things to do is to give a bottle to his baby doll and put her to bed. The little kisses he gives that doll make my heart explode.

I’m not saying that like, “Oh, look at me — I’ve figured out how to break gender stereotypes.” But, I have made a conscious effort to create balance in our house. My daughter has a toolbox because I intentionally bought it for her. My son plays with a doll because I offered it as a choice that was equal to anything else he could choose. If all we offer our kids are toys that are prescribed for their gender, that’s all they’ll ever choose. And who could blame them? Their job as children is to learn about the world around them; what are we teaching them with all of this?

Further proof of my point? While working on this blog post, this story about the new Iron Man 2 toys at Burger King came through my Twitter feed. They’re offering “four lifestyle accessories for girls and four action-packed toys for boys.” Awesome.

Where I Get to the Technology Part

A friend gave me some gentle teasing about my Facebook comment above because my current profile photo on Facebook is computer engineer Barbie (hello pink and stereotypes!). But, I LOVE that there is a computer engineer Barbie and that she wears pink. It’s cool because the stereotype that computer engineers can’t be feminine is just as lame as anything else. Get it? You can be both. Nobody “owns” it either way. (Pamela Fox nailed this idea at Ignite Sydney this year.)

Honestly, despite my hand-wringing over my daughter’s color comment, there are lots of positive things going on for girls these days. Adventurous, popular characters like Dora the Explorer give me some hope. But, what about the boys? How long will my son play with a doll before other boys accuse him of acting like a girl? (And — gasp! — is there a bigger insult than to be called a girl?!)

I guess I’m having a moment where I find it striking and bothersome that we divide our boys and girls so early on and then wonder why those stereotypes persist into adulthood — why there aren’t more female computer programmers or male nurses or why women make .77 for every dollar a man earns, even in advanced-degree careers. 

Or how about why companies who appoint women to corporate directorships have unchanged or slightly worse stock peformance, despite the fact that evidence shows that “companies with high numbers of female directors, metrics such as return on equity, return on sales, and return on invested capital are substantially higher than at companies with very few or no female directors.” (quote from the Harvard Business Review) Translation: investors don’t believe women can lead.

My point is that those ideas start somewhere. They start small, and they start early. We soothe ourselves by saying “Oh, boys and girls are just different,” as a way to justify these strange little boxes we are putting them in at such a young age.

Who knows, maybe boys and girls aren’t as different as we think they are. There’s probably no way to definitively know what is the result of nature and what is the result of nurture. But I believe it’s a mistake for us, as a culture, to teach our children that girls aren’t bold and boys aren’t caregivers by only offering them choices that reflect those ideas. As silly as it may sound, it starts with something as simple as “boy colors” and “girl colors.”

I’d like to see us give our kids more credit than that. We’ll all be better for it in the future.

In the meantime, I still don’t know what to do with my kids’ bedroom.

Geek Camps for Minnesota Girls (and Boys!)

Geeky reader Sandra from Minneapolis said, “I heard a provocative rumor that you have, or will be starting, a summer camp for school age girls.  I have a soon to be eight-year-old daughter who is crazy into computers and I’d love to give her some extracurricular opportunities.  Are the rumors true?”

My, that is a provocative (and awesome) rumor. I wish it was true!

At this point, we are focused more on adults and working professionals and have not ventured into much content for young girls. Not that we don’t have the desire, but with full-time jobs and both of us with young kids at home — we have to focus or risk going crazy.

With that said, here’s what I know about right now for geeky kid camps in Minnesota:

Computer Camps for Girls in MN

DigiGirlz: High tech camps by Microsoft. There don’t appear to be any Minnesota camps running right now, but this may be a good spot to keep an eye on.

Digital Media Academy (U of M): Sadly, all of the kid sessions are currently closed, but it might be something to keep in mind for the future.

Eagles Summer Camp (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math (STEAM) Focus): This appears to be free for all Minnesota students entering grades 6, 7, or 8.

Geek Squad Summer Academy: Camps run by Best Buy and Geek Squad employees on a variety of techie topics.

Giant Camps (Online Camps): For ages 10-17

iD Tech Camp (Macalester College): For boys and girls 7-17.

Science Museum of Minnesota: I have my four-year-old daughter signed up for a rocket class this spring!

Help Us, Readers!

Do you know of any computer camp opportunities for girls in MN (or any other state, for that matter)? Let’s get our girls to geek out this summer!

Product Review: Corel Digital Studio

Hi, we’re the Geek Girls and we’re Macs. But, hey — we know that 90% of the rest of the world are PCs and we love all our friends, regardless of platform. We recently received a copy of Corel Digital Studio to review (and a copy to give away!) so we dusted off our PC and checked it out for you.

Interface

This little suite ended up surprising us a quite a bit! At first glance (and during installation), it seemed a bit overwhelming, but once you really get into the program it becomes easy to use and navigate. 

Features

Digital Studio includes a photo editor, video editor, burning element, and media player, all of which are easily accessed via a Desktop Widget. The widget proves to be very helpful when working on projects requiring all of those features, or just a little bit of a lot of functionality.

Photos

Grabbing and editing photos with Corel Digital Studio is surprisingly easy. You have the ability to import from a variety of sources including your computer, camera, mobile phone, webcam, scanner, and other devices (like an external hard drive).

 Once your photos have been imported, you can create albums and projects like a photobook, a greeting card, a crafty collage, a handy calendar, a family slideshow, or a backup disc. Finally, you can share your photo projects via email, Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube right from the interface.

We liked the templates that allowed us to quickly and easily make a family album or fun and totally personalized greeting card.  With Valentine’s Day right around the corner – Corel Digital Studio is a great way to give your loved ones what they really want – something thoughtful and from the heart.

Video:

 

Your videos work much the same way.  Just like photos, you can import video from a variety of sources including, your computer, a video disc, camera, mobile phone, webcam, TV tuner/capture card, a tape-camcorder, internal memory-camcorder, or other (like an external drive). 

Once you import a video, you’ve started your video project. It’s easy getting started with the pre-existing video backgrounds and themes.  We used one to make the test video below. After you create your movie you can export it into a number of file types, all of which come with a great description of the best place to put the files when you’re done (if you’re not file savvy this is a very helpful piece of information). 

Once you have your file saved you can share share it in a variety of ways, put it on YouTube, send via email, save it on your local drive, drop it on Facebook or Flickr (it’s not just for photos anymore). The one function during the save/share process that we weren’t so enamored with was selecting where to save your file. The user experience around this feature was just a little awkward.  But we managed.

Summary

For the most part we were impressed with Corel Digital Studio.  Mostly because it is perfect for our audience.  The interface is intuitive and easily navigable by folks who don’t spend their whole lives playing with video. If you’re looking to add a lot of special effects, or you have really specific editing requirements this little program might be too simple for you. But if you want to jump right in and start using your photos and videos in new and creative ways and share them with friends and family then Corel Digital Studio is for you!

Giveaway

The nice people at Corel gave us a spare copy that we can give away. Drop us a line in the comments and tell us why you should get it and we’ll pick a winner using Random.org.  And because we want you to feel the love, the cut off for the drawing is Valentine’s Day (02/14/10) at noon CST.  So comment now and comment often.

 

Here’s a sample video we created in just minutes:

 

UPDATE: 

Contest is over and #6 is our winner.  Jon – send us an email to claim your prize.