As we continue to work to close the gender gap in tech at Girls Who Code, it’s important that we provide our students with new and innovative resources that support hands-on coding, especially for those who may not have access to resources and educational tools. That’s why we’re working with Apple’s Community Education Initiative to bring their Swift programming language to our Girls Who Code Clubs.
Girls Who Code celebrated our 10th Anniversary through CodeFair, a three-day event in New York City this past March. Throughout CodeFair, people connected with peers and tech leaders, learned about our programs and engaged with tech through engaging activations, including three Swift workshops hosted by Girls Who Code.
With support from Apple, our Curriculum & Instruction Team designed and led three Swift Activation Workshops, where students could explore Artificial Intelligence (AI) and code with Swift on iPads. Students could customize their own virtual assistant using our Girls Who Code Swift Virtual Assistant App or learn about the AI, Machine Learning (ML) subfield through the Rock, Paper, Scissors Activity using Swift Playgrounds.
Nearly 120 students from across the country participated in the three workshops. A Chicago Club at Kenwood Academy High School even visited us in New York City to experience the curriculum in person. “The main thing I liked about this experience was writing about the AI bias because I didn’t know that was really a thing,” said Taylor Lofton of Kenwood Academy.
This experience was particularly meaningful to us at Girls Who Code as we work to ensure that our students are prepared to learn new and emerging technologies, so we can better prepare them for a future career. Considering our country’s current focus on AI, we know that while the possibilities are exciting, biases and adverse effects inevitably emerge. A recent study found that AI Image Generators perpetuate gender and racial biases in their outputs — 97% of the images generated for terms like “CEO” or “director” were of white men, while terms like “taxi driver” or “maid” generated images of people of color. Half of the girls in our Girls Who Code community come from marginalized groups, and we know how dangerous these biases can be.
We want our students to be able to see themselves in the tech they use and learn the importance of having accurate, diverse representation in tech developments. So, in addition to hands-on practice with Swift, we took a deep dive into AI’s ethical implications and considered how bias could show up in the AI systems humans create. Students participating in our workshop were encouraged to submit to our Spring Humanize AI Challenge.
We’re so tremendously proud that so many students could join us at CodeFair, and we got to witness these learnings in real-time. Through workshops like Swift, our girls are learning not only how to use tech but also to detect any ethical implications that can come with it. Most importantly, our students had fun, too!
We want to give a special thanks to the teams at Apple who help support this awesome work!
Want to hear more about the Swift Workshop from our girls? Watch our testimonial video below.