A teacher approached me a few months before Girl's Day 2008 was to run, with a dilemma. Apparently, the girls from her school (grade 7-8) had not left a very good impression with the professional women they had visited the year before. The women stated that the girls came to their companies appeared overall to be disinterested and distant. They wondered whether the only reason the girls agreed to come to their workplaces was to get a day off school. The girls had not asked any questions or expressed any interest in what they had heard during the professional women's presentations. When asked, many of the girls admitted that they found the presentations boring and they didn't know what questions to ask in the Q&A sessions, so they didn't say anything.
The teacher came to me to ask how the project could be made more interesting using digital media. And, as happens so often, the solution did not lie in introducing all sorts of new media into the activities, but by changing the learning format to one which would encouraged collaborative learning.
The previous Girl's Day activities were so structured that the girls were sent off to various companies without previous knowledge of the companies or the professional women. The professional women introduced themselves, gave a presentation of their company and their particular job positions, carried through a Q&A session and then sent the girls on home.
This year's Girl's Day was structured so:
- Professional women introduced themselves and their professional field in short biographies and sent them to the school two weeks before the event.
- The girls divided up into small groups and chose which professional women they would visit and sent the women emails with their names and questions they wished to ask them during Girl's Day.
- The professional women had time to think of how they would respond to the questions and also created a list of their own questions that they could ask the girls when they came to visit.
- The different groups went to the different companies and interviewed the professional women they were allocated.
- The girls returned to school and each group made up a presentation that was a story about the professional women they visited and the profession these women worked in.
- Each group presented their presentation to the other girls, teachers and the professional women at an evening event.
Even though the girls did use media (cell phones, digital cameras, mp3 players (recorders), cc photo material from the Internet, and Open Office presentation program), and the use of media did motivate them to be more alert, this only played a peripheral role. It was the fact that everyone prepared themselves for the day and the fact that professional women created a dialog with the girls and not lectures that made the exchange so successful.