Computer Science: Some Shocking Stats

In the wake of yesterday’s post, I received a flurry of emails and resources from all over Montreal. From articles about coding initiatives for women in Finland to the following info graphic from the people about how the U.S. are not preparing their youth for the jobs that are currently available:



I was curious to see if we could find some stats on computer science in Canada, and after a quick search I found this article from Maclean’s dated September of this year. They only make one mention of the computer science field:

Health related fields are almost exclusively female, with 82 per cent of all graduates in 2007 being women. In fact, women dominate in all fields except for three: architecture and engineering, math and computer science, and protective and transportation services. However, the only category that saw a decrease in the share of women is math and computer science, which has been accompanied by a similar decline among Canadian males pursuing those fields. It is a trend that has been offset by a greater proportion of international students, mostly male, studying math and computer science.

Hmmm. I guess it isn’t so much different North of the border…



Mile End Hour of Code

Note: This was a personal initiative. This was not affiliated with the school, though I am in the middle of organizing a coding club for our students beginning in January).

For the past year, I have been increasingly convinced that every kid should learn to code.

Here are some of my talking points on this subject:

  1. Computers are ubiquitous in our life.
  2. Yet most of us have no idea how they work.
  3. It is going to be increasingly necessary to know how they work even if you are not in a computer science field.
  4. Yet learning how to program is not a required part of our curriculum (though our multimedia guru gives all the girls who take his class a very very solid background in coding,not all girls take his class, alas).
  5. Many of the most interesting, flexible and highly paid jobs are in computer science.
  6. Yet the number of women going into this field is lower than it was 20 years ago. Articles such as this one from the NY Times confirms this:

In 1990-91, about 29 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer and information sciences went to women; 20 years later, it has plunged to 18 percent. Today, just a quarter of all Americans in computer-related occupations are women.  -Catherine Rampell, NY Times article

Now this seems like a laudable goal, right? Except for the fact that I know absolutely nothing about coding. This I am trying to rectify- I have been going through the Code Academy Tutorials (I am in the middle of learning about javascript) and I have been fiddling with building a website. However, my pace is akin to that of plate tectonics. If I wait until I know enough to teach someone else, I will be an octogenarian.

However, I am pretty good at organizing. And, more importantly, I have friends who know how to code. And even more importantly, they are just as keen to get other girls excited about coding as I am.

In conjunction with Tricia Campbell and Maja Frydrychowicz  (both teach computer science at Dawson College) we organized a workshop for teens this last Sunday to coincide with the Computer Science Week Initiative, Hour of Code:

Mary Martha from the Nouveau Palais let us use her lovely restaurant and Eric from the Atwater Library’s Digital Literacy Project supplied the computers.

We began with an offline activity entitled, My Robotic Friends. Here is a good video that describes the activity:

Our 4 participants (hey, we have to start somewhere!) broke up into two teams and wrote their code, while Majabot stayed behind the counter. Both groups worked on the same configuration of cups. What was interesting is that though they ended up with the same result, their code was a little bit different. It was a great introduction to the concepts of algorithms, functions, etc. They were also introduced to the concept of de-bugging when the robot did not do what they expected.

Then we moved on to the computers and Khan Academy’s introduction to javascript:

We skipped the videos, and went straight to the Crazy Face activity. Tricia and Maja gave the girls a few guidelines and instructions and were on hand to help them through any difficulties they were having. but really, it only took a little bit of guidance for them to take off on their own.

Our hackergirls at work!

Our hackergirls at work!

A few of the questions asked were:

1. Say you want to make your own code (not part of a tutorial) where do you put the code?

2.How does the code get on to the web?

3. Can I do more?

Although we only had a few participants (it is a terrible time of the year for kids- exams are coming up and holiday duties abound) the feedback was very positive. They all said they would be interested on having a more regular event in the new year. I think the best kind of model for this would be to have a space where the kids can either work on their own projects and have access to mentors when they get stuck as well as a more structured activity for those who don’t quite know yet how they can utilize their new found skills.

Hopefully, this story will have a sequel!

(This article was also printed with a few modifications on my other blog, inparentthesis)

Digital Citizenship: Metadata Made Simple

As I have mentioned several times in the last couple of weeks, I am in the process of collecting resources in order to build a digital citizenship program for our school. The idea  is to start with the basics: netiquette, basic safety online, etc. Then move on to bigger topics such as cyberbullying, online identity, positive self- branding and, by grade eleven start tackling the bigger issues surrounding privacy. Below is an amazing video by the Guardian explaining what governments do with the data they collect.


I came across it while reading the article below from the aside blog. The author gives some suggestions about how these issues can be presented to students. One of the means they mention is using popular TV shows. This resonated with me, as I have just started watching Homeland with my daughters. Despite some graphic content and questionable take on Islam (which in itself is another talking point) it is a great way to question the ethics of surveillance and all the surrounding issues of privacy. We end up having some interesting discussions at the dinner table…

See on Scoop.itipadyoupad

Innovative design crosses over all aspects of education. The American Society for Innovation Design in Education, or ASIDE, seeks to infuse curriculum with new approaches to teaching and thinking.

See on

Can iPads help students learn science? Yes.

I saw the article linked below and yesterday and was intrigued by the following quote:

A new study by Smithsonian researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows that  grasp the unimaginable emptiness of space more effectively when they use iPads to explore 3-D simulations of the universe, compared to traditional classroom instruction.

Read more at:

I am curious to know if science teachers are using the iPad in this way and if so do you agree? I would also like to know which apps they used to teach the scale of the universe- which are the best? Do you have a favourite?

See on Scoop.itipadyoupad

The scale of the universe can be difficult to comprehend. Pretend you are going to make a scale model with a basketball representing the Earth and a tennis ball as the Moon. How far would you hold the tennis ball ‘Moon’ from the basketball ‘Earth?

See on

Grade 7 Mindful use of Social Media Presentation

Yesterday I spent two hours with our grade 7s talking about the good, the bad and the ugly of social media. The students were very engaged and couldn’t wait to share their stories. They were also very shocked by the video I like to show about their digital dossier (see below). During the recess break, several girls came to me to show me their social media profiles and asked me if they were safe. When asked how important their privacy was to them, they all answered very high and even mentioned steps they have taken to secure it.

Below is the material I used for the presentation. I tried to keep it very simple, and had three main categories: Be Aware (of what you post online), Be respectful (of others but also yourself) and Be Healthy (mindful also means balanced!).

Here is my Prezi (pretty much the same as last year with a couple of modifications). Once again, I tried to embed it and it didn’t work. This is starting to be an anti-embedding epidemic and it is very frustrating. So here is a screenshot – you can click on the image to bring you to the actual presentation:

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 9.08.51 AM

Here are my speaker’s notes:

2013 Grade Seven Social Media Presentation Notes

And here is the thinglink to the videos and info graphics I used (I posted it yesterday!). Or you can view them directly below (youtube embedding still works. I am so confused…):

On Digital Dirt:

On the Digital Dossier:

On internet addiction:

And last but not least, the info graphic on posting photos:

Infographics_Post a Photo_letter_051712_letter size

During the presentation, I asked the students to think of  a few rules that could guide their own behaviour for each category. These rules I have formatted into a contract. We plan to have a solemn signing ceremony (including the students as well as their teachers) next week before exams.

Here is Grade 7 Mindful use of Tecnology Contract the students came up with:

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 9.31.23 AM

However, every time I do this presentation, I am struck by how it is just the tip of the iceberg. Follow up is essential if we are to reinforce these behaviours. I am planning some more activities in the winter and spring terms in order to continue and hopefully deepen the conversation!

Thinkglink: A Five Minute First Attempt!


Thinglink: Free

Thinglink: Free

Lisa Johnson, the Techchef4u guru that I have cited countless times on this blog, has been on a big Thinglink kick lately, as evidenced in this post. And if she likes it, it behooves me (yes- behooves- another word we don’t hear enough in my opinion) to give it a whirl.

Now this was another tool that I couldn’t understand what it could do for me until I tried it out. Since I have a very busy schedule today and my mind is on an upcoming social media workshop I am going to give in an hour, I thought I would try with a simple image and link the multimedia resources I am going to use in the presentation. Here is the link (for some reason the embed function would not work- that always makes me mad)

This is just a static image- but if you click on it it will bring you to the interactive image)

This is just a static image- but if you click on it it will bring you to the interactive image

This took me about 15 minutes and I did it all on the iPad. From downloading the app, to creating an account, to finding my image and my resources, it was super easy! You can also use your desktop or your mobile phone.

A possible application could be for history classes. I was thinking of a recent documentary I saw recent;y about the feminist punk group in Russia, Pussy Riot, who were jailed for protesting. I was thinking that a thing link would be a great way to highlight different human rights violations or conflicts happening in the world today. The students would find an image of the world or a certain country and then place their points on the right place on the map.


Can you think of other uses in the classroom?


Evernote-Breaking through the wall

Evernote Free


Sometimes I have unexplainable mental blocks for certain things. For example, anything with the Oprah Book Club selection sticker on it. For some reason, the very fact that a book is plastered with that sticker will ensure that I do not read that book unless under duress (of which book club counts as duress). And of course, the moment I finally pick the book up, years after the hype has died down and all my friends who highly recommended it can’t remember the plot line, I discover how amazing it is and can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner.


Treebeard the Ent. “…we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say. “

I have the same phenomena with certain apps and social media. I have already written about my reticence with Twitter ( I think I am altogether to Ent-like to enjoy a medium that restricts me to 144 characters) I pushed through the wall and figured out how it can be useful to me.

Now it is time to scale the Evernote wall. A few things has made me re-visit Evernote:

1. This article about an iPad workflow (will have to tackle edmodo next)

2. My husband asked me about it last night as he is being encouraged by his work to begin using it.

As it so happens, I have been playing with it for the last week in order to figure out how it can be useful to me. I am giving a Digital Citizenship workshop tomorrow and thought that would be a good project to gather information, especially since I plan to build on the workshop with other ideas.

And lo and behold, it is useful ( I know, I know. I am so darn slow.) I can access it on my desktop, iPad and iPhone (in fact,my family and I spent a few minutes last night dictating limericks on Evernote and watching them being transcribed automatically into our notes).

I created a notebook called Mindful use:

1. Tap Notebooks

2. Tap Edit

3. Tap new Notebook


So far, it has been useful as a bucket for all the websites and resources I find on the topic:



But you can also add lists:


I also emailed myself the text I wrote for it last year as well as saved some of the infographics I use:





You can also share your notebooks with other people, which makes it ideal for any group work:



The dictation function is helpful, especially when I am using it on my phone or iPad (not so much on my desk top). But on the desktop, you have the option to use the Evernote website clipper, which allows you to save only a snippet of a website not the whole website itself. This is useful if you only need a chunk of the info.

Okay. Fine. I am now an Evernote convert.I would be interested to know if you use Evernote and how and what you use it for!