Written by volunteer Stacy Huffstetler
A Note From Our Founder, Tracey Welson-Rossman:
When TechGirlz began 7 years ago, we knew the methods used to teach tech topics would be the key to inspiring girls to explore technology. We found from our early research, by 9th grade, girls were not interested in tech because they thought it was boring, not creative enough, and the stereotype of what a technologist looked like was not desirable.
Our best way to fight these misconceptions, was to create fun, interactive, and varied, project-based workshops that would be taught by professionals in the field.
At first, the volunteer instructor was also the creator of the workshop; now known as TechShopz. As we began to grow we needed more instructors. We formalized our methodology to create TechShopz the girls enjoyed with materials our volunteers would be able to easily download and use with support from a detailed workshop plan (often including a slideshow and supportive handouts).
This has been the secret sauce to our success of inspiring almost 10,000 girls and encouraging hundreds of volunteer instructors.
In October 2017, TechGirlz hosted its first workshop focused on human genetics – “Solving Genetic Mysteries with Online Tools and Family Histories.” This innovative workshop, hosted at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), taught girls how to use technology to identify genetic conditions. TechGirlz develops curriculum that focuses on how technology is used in many different fields, from traditional programming roles to blogging, video game development, engineering, molecular modeling and so much more! Introducing girls to the diverse spectrum of technology careers is the reason why TechGirlz teaches so much more than coding.
To support this broad focus, and supply the ever-growing demand for workshops, TechGirlz produces new curriculum on an ongoing cycle. While their goal is to release at least one new workshop topic a month, in early 2018, they have a whopping 13 new courses planned for release, including topics such as:
- A Day in the Life of a Web Designer
- Create Your Own Blog Using Ruby on Rails
- Generating Word Maps Using Text Mining
- Photography and Marketing
Given all of these new workshops coming out, how does Donna Cusimano, TechGirlz Program Coordinator, and Alicia Park, Curriculum and Outreach for TechGirlz, manage to create so much new curriculum in such a short amount of time?
Here’s a look at the process that Donna and Alicia support and facilitate along with a dedicated team of volunteers.
Step 1. Find an expert.
The process begins with an expert in the field who wants to develop the curriculum. For more complex or specialized workshops, finding the right person can be a challenge. Donna often turns to her personal network. In the case of the Solving Genetic Mysteries workshop, Donna discovered that Alicia has a friend in genetic counseling – who was also willing to be a volunteer instructor along with one of her colleagues.
Step 2. Build the framework.
After a consultation by phone to brainstorm and discuss the expectations for the workshop, the volunteer instructor starts building the curriculum based on the standard TechGirlz workshop template. The template guides them through the process of building the right content at the right level of detail and ensures consistency across TechGirlz workshops – which is key for the TechShopz in a Box approach.
Step 3. Review & revision.
Most workshop plans start a little bit more like an outline – with bullets and high-level instructions. The final product needs to look more like a recipe – something that anyone can pick up and follow step-by-step instructions to lead the workshop. Donna and Alicia work with the volunteer instructor to ensure that the plan is complete, feasible, structured, and accurate.
Step 4. Showtime!
Once the workshop passes the review phase, it’s showtime! TechGirlz pilots the workshop with a group of approximately 20 girls. During this session, they check for elements of the plan that need clarification and collect feedback from the participants and the instructors.
Step 5. Publication.
At last, the workshop is almost ready for publication. Before publishing the workshop as a Techshop in a Box, Alicia and Donna consider all feedback from the session. Keeping in mind, the focus on ensuring the workshop plan is easy for anyone with some genetic knowledge to pick up and teach to curious middle school aged girls. When edits are made by Alicia and completed, she will create a PDF of the final workshop plan and have it posted to the TechGirlz website library of Techshopz in a Box topics for anyone to use, free of charge! The overall goal is to publish the workshop within 1-3 weeks of the trial run.
As you can see, Alicia and Donna have the process of creating new curriculum down to a science. For the Solving Genetic Mysteries workshop, this process went off without a hitch, and the response was very positive. The workshop was sold out with 23 girls on a waitlist! The girls especially liked using “the tools that professionals use in their day-to-day lives” to experience what it “felt like [to be] a geneticist”. Best of all – “Solving Genetic Mysteries with Online Tools and Family Histories” is now available for download as a TechShop in a box on TechGirlz.org!
TechGirlz is always looking for volunteers to fill many roles, from curriculum writers to workshop instructors and teaching assistants. Want to become a TechGirlz Volunteer and inspire the next generation of women in tech? You can start the process by visiting our Volunteer Registration page and joining our Mailing List!