While it is now widely known that digital literacy – possessing the skills to understand, use, and create with technology – will be absolutely essential for today’s children to be successful in their future careers, there is mounting evidence that these digital literacy skills are being acquired primarily by boys, and that many girls are falling dangerously behind. The latest studies suggest that girls are far less interested in computer science and technology than boys, and women account for only 17% of the people who work in the technology industry. A recent New York Times article, titled How to Get Girls into Coding, also suggests that girls are less interested in taking technology classes and tend to sustain interest in digital skills for a shorter period of time.
In order to equip all children, and particularly girls, with digital-literacy competencies, there is a movement across the United States to teach coding as a core skill to elementary school children, right alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic. As part of this movement, Google recently introduced a $50 million initiative, Made with Code, that focuses on encouraging girls to learn coding skills.
However, Nitasha Tiku, the author of How to Get Girls into Coding, suggests that another strategy might work even better. What she found was exactly what I have noticed in my work as a child clinical psychologist: that one of the best tools for getting both boys and girls into coding is to simply let them play Minecraft. My observations are that Minecraft is so engaging, that girls (and boys) frequently seek out information about how to expand on the game with simple modding and coding activities. This comes in the form of watching videos on YouTube about Minecraft mods, learning programming techniques from Minecraft forums for creative uses of the game, and determining how to create and use different kinds of servers — all of which teach them a variety of simple coding skills. While these types of activities will not, by themselves, prepare your daughter for a career with Google, they will provide her with an early love of programming and technology, which is the most important first step for a lifetime of digital literacy.
To get some ideas about going beyond the game, we encourage you to refer to previous posts we have written about using Minecraft as a tool for teaching thinking and problem-solving skills and using them with your soon-to-be digitally-literate daughter.