Coquitlam school promoting girls in technology

Out of 90 students in Pinetree teacher Jon Hamlin's Information and Communication Technology Course, seven are girls.

Is that a problem?

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The Coquitlam secondary school teacher thinks so and so do career resource teachers, industry leaders and many others across North America.

Too many girls think tech is boring and uncreative, and they are staying away from high school courses that teach these increasingly valuable IT skills.

But tech's geeky image is inaccurate, say Grade 10 and 11 students who spoke to The Tri-City News about why they are taking technology courses at their high school. According to these girls, studying the intricate workings of a computer or learning how to program using code is creative and satisfying, and shouldn't be left to video game-obsessed boys.

"It is creative," said Dolly Dodari, a Grade 11 student, "but people don't see the connection between the hardware and the processes we use every day."

Below, Pinetree secondary teacher Jon Hamlin is organizing a Girls in ICT day at the school in conjunction with International Girls in ICT Day April. 23.

Jon Hamlin Pinetree Teacher

For these students, who are learning networking basics by taking Pinetree's Cisco Networking Academy Training, computers are amazingly simple, and binary code the combinations of 0 and 1 that tell a computer what to do is difficult to figure out but, once you do, it's fun and can be applied in many ways.

Though only three of the seven are learning coding, all the girls say they have enjoyed the technology course and may pursue a career in tech one day.

Hamlin is surprised that so few girls want to study ICT, saying, "They always, without exception, perform at the top of the class."

But he's not prepared to accept that so few girls are interested in this field. In fact, he has made it a personal mission to break the stigma. On Thursday, Pinetree will hold its first Girls in ICT Day, an afternoon of lunch, learning and networking with women who have successful careers in technology.

The April 23 event, running from 1 to 3 p.m. in the school library, is open to School District 43 girls aged 13 to 18.

Ten female business leaders, including representatives from UBC and SFU, Microsoft and Hootsuite will share their experiences. The informal afternoon will feature a question-and-answer session, focused group discussions and time to connect with potential future mentors over a free lunch.

"This is an opportunity to share their stories with students," he commented. "I want them [students] to have contacts and look at a way to move forward."

The event is taking place on International Girls in ICT Day and the Computer Using Educators of B.C. is sponsoring it, Hamlin said.

SD43 teachers are being asked to encourage their students to participate. Visit girlsinict.ca for more information.

@dstrandbergTC

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