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Raising a Technology Savvy Daughter

I was introduced to electronics at a very young age. I think I was three when I first started doing the simple stuff with electronics. I started working with computers in 2nd or 3rd grade. I had an assortment of electronic toys like Speak and Spells and other things that contributed to my learning. I have been very good about doing the same for my boys. For instance, they each have Snap Circuits SC-300 kits with which to learn the principles of electricity and electrical components. These are great kits that simplify building circuits. The 300 kit is the middle-of-the-road kit, and does a good job. We've been slowly working through it over the past year and I expect we'll do more as the winter months make doing inside activities more preferable than being outside. And to ensure they have a decent computer they can use, I went out recently and picked up a netbook that should be well suited for them.

My boys are 10 and 11, with the 11 year-old fixing to become 12. I have a four year-old daughter as well. I want to make sure that she knows that technology is an option for her. Those who have been at user groups where I've spoken know that I usually bring my family with me. I want my kids to know what I do. It's not just Daddy going somewhere and being gone for the night. We go together. And that's usually some bonding time, even if it's just over dinner at the Food Court. Soon I'm going to get my oldest to run the slides and execute the examples. It goes back to the days of apprenticing. He'll learn what it takes to talk to folks about what you're passionate about. He'll learn the details of doing it right. And he'll learn the technology his father works with. We'll then spread it on to his brother and even eventually my daughter.

Let's talk about my daughter for a minute. My daughter has come to see that technology is important to me. It's more than a job, it's a passion. And she has started to develop a similar passion. So just as the boys have their 300 kits, she has a smaller version, a 100 kit. She can do almost everything that we'll do together. And when me and the boys head over and do experiments with their kits, my wife and her sit beside us and do the same on hers. She has her own time on the netbook and she uses it to the maximum. She has her own portable game devices, she mixes it up with the boys on the Wii, and she basically does everything they do. The idea is that she understands that she isn't excluded from these things. When we do science, more than just circuits, she's in it, too. I want her engaged and involved. My father-in-law was so happy that he had grandsons, especially my oldest, who used to tear apart generators and boat motors with him. Unfortunately, he's moved far away to the Philippines, or he'd see that his granddaughter is following the path to being every bit a techie as his oldest grandson. I like that. She does, too.

And that's the big secret to putting her on the path to be a tech savvy daughter. I've tried to show her that technology is interesting and fun. Her experiences thus far have been encouraging. When it comes to what the boys are doing, I'm intentionally including her. She may not have all the same gear as they do, but she's pretty close. She has what she needs. She has what a four year-old son would have. And that's a big thing, she's not being treated differently because she's a girl. She's treated as a peer. That's a lesson I took from my high school. Everyone is a peer. She participates on her own merits, with allowances made for her age. But otherwise, she's on the same level as the boys. She has to do the experiments. She has to express herself. She has to participate. And my wife is an active participant in her learning process. She it's not just me and the boys. Mommy (who was once a computer science minor until determining computers hated her) is there, too, serving as an example and a role model.

But I'm not going to stop there. I've already mentioned to Jessica M. Moss (@jessicammoss) that I'd like to introduce my four year-old to her. I'd like to tell my little girl that Jessica does the same sorts of things Daddy does. If I get the chance to introduce her to others who are in the field, I certainly will. I want her to see other folks that might serve as role models. Mommy is a strong one, but she needs to see more than just Mommy. She needs to see that if she chooses to enter technology, she can be an integral part of her field. And so the more women doing technology that I can introduce her to, the better.


K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.


Posted by James Howard on 23 November 2009

Excellent read, I have a young daughter so I can relate to many of the thoughts you ponder, although at three months old I still have a little time to plan a IT curriculum for her :)    I totally agree that girls should be given the same tools to learn from as the boys, we all have to develop an interest from somewhere. Moreover, the problem solving skills which are subconsciously cultivated are useful life skills whether or not she maintains the interest in technology! Good luck with the protégé’s.

Posted by Steve Jones on 23 November 2009

Very nice, and I think I could do more as well. Girl Scouts ends up being more craft things and less technology. Though we have introduced all my kids to computers, they have their own, they can easily use my iTouch, PC, etc., I wonder if I should try more science and see if it interests her.

My daughter actually has met Ms. Moss and been up front, helping me present so she sees some of what Dad does.

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