Archive for June, 2009

Take to the Sky

Spark Saturday“Miss, I think I want to be a pilot!”

I couldn’t help but smile after hearing Patricia’s comment and noticing the wistful look in her eyes after working the radio controls on a small single engine airplane. Just 15 minutes prior – after the 90 minute bus ride from Burnet Middle School to the Texas State Technical College campus located in Waco, TX – Patricia and her Club Girlstart colleagues were understandably antsy and distracted.  But once they got off  the bus and into the cockpit of a plane, the girls  were instantly engaged in their learning as it was happening.

This is the power of learning by doing. You could lecture  30 girls for 30 minutes about the awesomeness of being a pilot or airplane mechanic.  I’m sure those who were paying attention might leave with a vague interest in a possible career. But what if you gave each girl the opportunity to actually sit in the plane, ask questions, and see how the engine works? You will probably end up with more girls like Patricia taking the first of many steps into a  career in technology.


June 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm Leave a comment

Virtual classrooms rock!


Girlstart’s very own Interim Executive Director Julie Shannan recently graduated from Texas State Technical College with a certificate in Digital Media- making her the 1st student to graduate with course work done 100% in a virtual classroom. This is a fantastic achievement not just for the ever-changing world of formal education but for Girlstart. As the Technology & Program Coordinator, education via virtual worlds is something that I really embrace because of the opportunities open source and free virtual words provide us in offering creative, advanced curriculum for the girls we serve. Virtual worlds give us access to sophisticated free tools that allow us to offer our programs at much lower costs, without decreasing the quality of our curriculum.

The virtual world of education has a lot of minds to change, as people seem to think it is trying to act as a substitute for real life experience. With many of my family members and friends pursuing virtual degrees while maintaining challenging and rewarding careers, I can say that virtual degrees haven’t been a substitute but a supplement to real life-allowing working professionals to develop the skills needed for their organizations and personal career goals. This is especially beneficial for non-profit professionals, most of whom it seems tend to stay in the non-profit industry and choose to develop skills that will help them better serve their constituents (or at least the fabulous non profit techies I know in Austin).

Another wide complaint is that perhaps the online structure isn’t rigorous enough to compete with regular universities. Again, as a techie, I have yet to attend a university that offered the innovative technology courses online universities have been offering since the beginning. Many major universities are just now starting to weave technology coursework into more humanities/communication fields of study-something online universities are better equipped to do across all their course offerings.

After attending graduate school, I figured, I don’t want to be a professor, so there’s no point in continuing school and obtaining my PHd. However, the wide range of innovative programs offered at online universities have made me reconsider-if as a non profit techie, I could get a certification in Network Administration, develop my graphic design skills or add a new language to my tech repertoire, while still working and serving the Austin Community, why wouldn’t I?

Congratulations Julie on your awesome achievement!


June 8, 2009 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

HTML changed my life


I know that’s the dorkiest title ever but it is so true-the moment I discovered programming, I became braver about technology.  It felt like learning a new language, but one that allowed me to create, design and color while I spoke and it just really did feel magical. Once I felt empowered, I stared being incredibly gutsy-I started taking apart obsolete technology items in my home and messing with circuit boards, screws, anything I found inside, and started looking up how everything was connected and how it all worked.  It was exhilarating and inspiring and it was at that moment, sitting on the floor with the guts of my computer laid out all around me, when I realized that I loved technology and I could do anything I wanted to do.

If this “A-HA!”moment is something you’re wanting your daughter, niece, or any other special girl in your life to have-why not spend the summer engaging her in some fun Technology, Science and Math Activities? We’ve got free interactive lessons in all sorts of subjects on our special website for girls- and yes, HTML is DEFINETELY included!

Happy Summer everyone!


June 3, 2009 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

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