I gave a talk to the Digigirlz yesterday and it was a blast. It was 25 high school girls that were on the Microsoft campus all week learning various technologies to promote women in IT. The girls are nominated by their teachers for aptitude and attitude and these girls had both in spades.
Vijaye Raji and I were giving the talk, me primarily the pretty front man while he drove the slides, typed the code and made sure I didn’t get things very wrong (he knew the environment and the language far better than I). We were teaching general programming basics using a variant of BASIC that was especially well suited to new programmers. We spent two hours showing them how to do turtle graphics and how to write a game (Pong) all from scratch and we all had a blast doing it.
And these girls were sharp! I’m used to pacing material for rooms of adult software engineers, but I didn’t have enough. I had to take feature requests from the audience and figure out how to implement them on the fly while they followed along, programming their own versions of the game as we went. They were hands on the whole time and eventually I enlisted their help to tell us what code to write. Mind you, this was a language they’d only learned minutes before, but they didn’t have any trouble at all.
They laughed and asked questions and answered my questions and were engaged the whole time (well, most of them — some were seduced by the siren song of the high speed internet connection : ). I figured I was doing OK when one of the girls asked me if I ever thought about being a teacher.
“Naw,” I said. “I hate kids…”
They didn’t buy it… : )