Smartphone short-film created by one of the Go Girls

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Session 7: Introduction to short filmmaking and video editing

We continued with our digital skills and digital storytelling phase in today’s session, which was focused on short filmmaking and video editing. Building on the previous task of taking pictures throughout their day, last week we asked everyone to shoot a short video clip (1-2 min) of something that happened in their day. We uploaded the short clips onto the PCs in Windows Movie Maker and watched what each other came up with before editing them. They learned how to cut and lengthen frames from their videos and how to apply different visual effects such as fading transitions.

We revisited the concept and practice of storyboarding and had everyone storyboard something else they wanted to film. Some decided to storyboard and film everyday activities such as teatime and walking down the street capturing essences of Autumn. Another young woman who is interested in electronic music IMG_1599production decided to storyboard a music video and will be using electronic music she has made as the background when she films it by next week’s session.

Everyone was enthusiastic about getting to use the computers and edit their videos. The iPads have arrived and everyone is really excited about them! We’re looking forward to seeing their creative potentials and everything we will be able to do and learn with them. Next week we will be finishing up with editing everyone’s videos.

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Poster session at the Department of Education, University of Oxford

The Go Girls were represented with this poster at today’s poster exhibtion at the Department of Education, University of Oxford!

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go_girl project poster at OUDE

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Session 6: “A day in the life of…” – Telling our stories through digital pictures

After our introductory life skills sessions over the past month, we had our first session of the digital skills and digital storytelling phase today.

In last week’s session, everyone had been tasked with documenting one day of their week by taking pictures throughout the day. Today, after the usual check-in and recap of last week, those who had completed the picture task uploaded their images on the seminar room PC and presented them on the big screen to the group, elaborating on the story these pictures told. We described what had prompted us to take these specific pictures, what they represented to us and why they were important to us, and how we had felt about the task of documenting a day in our lives.

We then moved on to the concept of storyboarding and watched two short video introductions on how to storyboard a short film. We learned that a storyboard is a visual representation – a drawing or an illustration – to map out the flow of videos, detailing camera angle, light, sound, movement etc..

Each person was then asked to focus on one small event in their stories, such as buying a loaf of bread, and to storyboard that (see picture). The events that the young women chose varied from an encounter with a difficult and demanding person, to putting on make-up before going to a party, to waiting in vain for a colleague at the railway station.

For our next session, we are tasked to create a short video clip with our mobile phones which we will then learn to edit. Everybody seems really excited and looking forward to our iPads arriving in a few weeks’ time, so that we can start to edit the films and record and mix our own soundtracks!

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Storyboarding

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Session 5: Addiction and Mindfulness

In today’s session, the last one for the life skills development and mindfulness phase, we focused on addiction. This topic again stemmed from earlier discussions we had this summer with our Go Girls about what they thought would be helpful for them. It was a really productive session with great discussion and important connections were made between issues associated with addiction and the importance of what we learned in our previous sessions.

Everyone was really active and engaged during today’s session. After going over the various things people can become addicted to we outlined the cycle of addiction. Then we read over a couple of scenarios and discussed what factors contribute to the cycle of addiction and what can be done to avoid it. Our activities today sparked a lot of discussion and reflection. It provided a good opportunity for our Go Girls tIMG_1378o reflect on their paths and to think about what is needed to stay on a path that gets them closer to their aspirations.

As I mentioned above, connections were made from our previous sessions, which was a nice way to see how they all tie together. Along with fostering healthy relationships, we agreed that open communication is crucial for anyone that might be facing hardships and feeling unstable or at risk of swaying from a positive path toward achieving their goals. Through sharing stories we were able to see how our environments can impact our daily choices but that we do have control over the choices we make and nobody is defined by their postcode.

Next week we are getting into the first week of the digital skills phase. Everyone has been tasked with documenting one day between this session and next by taking pictures throughout the day. We are going to use the pictures to introduce digital storytelling and each person is going to create their own storyboard with their pictures. Later during this next phase, they will be editing and creating short films on topics of their choosing. Everyone is really enthusiastic about this phase!

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Session 4: Dealing with Anger and Aggression

The themes and goals of our sessions for this first phase come from a combination of relevancy for the wider goals of Go Girl and the particular interests of our young women. This week’s session on dealing with anger and aggression was primarily inspired by the latter. While anger is said to sometimes be an appropriate emotion, often times anger and aggression can be an indication of subtle, wider issues. In fact, anger and acts of aggression continue to be cited as common characteristics among disengaged young people. Much like our earlier session on identifying and assessing our values and aspirations, it’s important to be self-aware by learning about what triggers us to become angry and how we handle it. Today we learned about the different types of anger such as passive aggressiveness and hostile or cold anger. It was a really productive session where we reflected on the things in particular that trigger these feelings of anger, how we react to them and what the appropriate ways of dealing with it are.  Everyone agreed that they had learned something useful in today’s session.

Next week we’re focusing on addiction and mindfulness. It’s the last week of this first phase before moving on to digital storytelling and media production skills. Our numbers are growing and we are all looking forward to the creative work ahead!

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Session 3: How Values Shape our Relationships

An article we recently tweeted discussed the importance of understanding the processes and forces shaping our values and aspirations in the context of “coding culture” which connects nicely with a key aspect of this first phase of Go Girl. There is plenty of literature out there that discusses the differences between women and men’s aspirations and how this influences their choice of life paths including fields of occupation and educational attainment with women often having lower expectations in terms of pay and education level. This often goes uncontested making it even more important to develop awareness and to assess where our values and aspirations stem from. In this vein, our first couple of sessions have covered values, aspirations and communication skills. This week we continued with self-awareness practices and life skills development.

This past week we focused on different types of relationships and what it takes to nurture positive relationships in our lives. One of the exercises we completed during the session entailed a relationship poster {see below} with a ship drawn on it where we wrote out characteristics needed for healthy relationships in the ship and what makes for unhealthy and unsustainable relationships in the water, ultimately causing our relationSHIP to capsize. An important take-away from our discussion on relationships was the idea of establishing boundaries for ourselves within the workplace and at home. We discussed how women often have a harder time setting boundaries and being able to say “no” to more work when we already feel overwhelmed. This is important to be aware of, especially for women seeking careers in male dominated fields like most of the tech sector.

GoGirl

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Session 2: Communication Skills

Today’s session was focused on communication skills. Communication is fundamental for us to not only express our interests and aspirations but also to help foster healthy relationships, which is next week’s topic. It’s been shown that level of educational aspirations and attainment is positively related to consistent communication with a close support network (Smith-Maddox, 1999).

We completed several activities to distinguish the different types of communication and how listening is a crucial aspect of effective communication as well. We identified which type of communicators we felt we were such as thoughtful/analytical versus straightforward/direct and an important observation one of the young women made was that it really depends on the context and our relationship with those we are talking to and that we don’t neatly fall into one category over another. We also went through a list of “communication shut-downs” that work to shut off lines of communication. We discussed our own experiences with these and the repercussions associated with shutting off communication with one another.

One key take-away from this session was learning that drawing boundaries is particularly important in our everyday lives and how women struggle with this more than our male counterparts in professional contexts. This has wider connections with technology-related fields more generally making it all the more relevant for our Go Girls. Hopefully, by learning the different ways to communicate and how the importance of developing these skills helps us foster healthier relationships, our Go Girls will have the positive impact on educational attainment shown in previous research.

Smith-Maddox, R. (1999). The social networks and resources of African American eighth graders: Evidence from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988. Adolescence, 34, 169–183

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Session 1: Values and Aspirations

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We’re officially underway with the first phase of our project, which is dedicated to learning about each other and our values and aspirations. We had our first meeting since returning from summer holiday just last week. During the session we did various activities geared toward understanding the difference between intrinsic and monetary values. We each made our own “values poster” {see pictures below} where we listed what was valuable to us. Common themes were friendship, fairness, kindness, and family. We also went through envelopes of prewritten values and aspirations such as “being successful in sports” and “having a dependable friend” and ranked them from most important to least important. These were useful exercises that helped us to reflect on what was important in our own lives, which can be used to help guide and understand our aspirations. This week we are going to continue with the aspirations focus by filling out some aspiration surveys and discussing with one another. The rest of the month is dedicated to self-awareness and life skills before we move on to the next phases, which have a technology focus and give the young women opportunities to be creative with digital technology by creating videos with their smartphones. We’re currently seeking more young women to join the team and are actively reaching out to our wider networks to encourage more participants.

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Identifying values in our lives

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Ideas of life skills and topics to cover in phase one

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go_girl: code+create workshop at Said Business School for IT Staff

Niall Winters introducing the go_girl project in a workshop at the Said Business School to IT Staff at the University of Oxford.

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Introducing go_girl: code+create

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 12.19.50go_girl: code+create is a project at the Department of Education, University of Oxford, jointly run by Niall Winters and Anne Geniets. In line with Oxford’s targets in its Access Agreement with the Office for Fair Access, this interdisciplinary project complements existing programmes aimed at widening access (for example: UNIQ and Learning centre), but tackles the problem in a fundamentally new way using technology. For details about the project, please see the “About the Project” link, and also see our outline on the Department of Education’s Learning and New Technologies Research Group Blog.

This research is supported by the University of Oxford IT Innovation Seed Fund.

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