A Customised App to Attract Female Teenagers to Coding

Reference Format: Spieler, B. and Slany, W. 2019. A Customised App to Attract Female Teenagers to Coding . In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Gender Research (ICGR’19). April 11-12, 2019, Rom, Italy.

Bernadette Spieler, Wolfgang Slany
Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria

Abstract: The number of women in IT-related disciplines is far below the number of men, especially in developed countries. Middle-school girls appear to be engaged in coding courses, but when they choose academic majors relevant to their future careers, only few pursue computer science as a major. In order to show students a new way of learning and to engage them with coding activities, we used the learning app Pocket Code. In the “No One Left Behind” H2020 European project, the app was evaluated in several school subjects. An evaluation of the attractiveness of the app shows that students were motivated by Pocket Code’s ease of use and its appealing design; however, girls rated the app less enthusiastically.

To appeal to female teenagers in particular, a tailored version of the app “Luna&Cat” has been developed. This customised version stands in contrast to the “one size fits all” solution Pocket Code, which may discourage certain user groups. For apps to have a higher chance to appeal to a specific target group, it is, among many other points, necessary to optimise their store listing on app stores, especially as we found that app stores are the most effective way to reach teenagers. Thus, this paper covers the following research question: What customizations are necessary in Pocket Code to reinforce female teenagers in their coding activities? To answer this question, a focus group discussion was performed. This discussion first brought insights about our target group and suggested names and designs for the new app; and second, allowed each student to make proposals for their desired games. Later, these game ideas were analysed, graphically designed, and further developed together with university design students. By showing female teenagers games designed by other young women in their age group, we help them to get ideas and inspiration to code their own programs. This is important because most girls have the feeling that the games they play are not created for them. With this customised app, our aim is to reach and build a user base of interested female teenagers who want to learn how to code.

Keywords: Gender, Gendered Tools, Coding, Social Inclusion, Learning Environments

Link: https://arxiv.org/abs/1905.10065