I have to give a hat tip to Pro Male/Antifeminist Technology for this 'grrl power' tech piece I'm about to fisk. This is an article about girls in technology doing Android apps. I can't make this up; I just can't. Here goes...
Don't be fooled by the old-school, cut-and-paste poster-board presentations that were propped up in the Intel (INTC) lobby in Santa Clara one evening this week.
What's wrong with old school presentations? They may be simple and prosaic, but they're effective. They're also immune to computer crashes and dead batteries.
Once onstage, the 11 teams of high school girls unveiling their mobile apps for the 2012 Technovation Challenge were totally new-school, stunningly savvy and digitized to the max.
Why weren't there any BOYS competing for these prizes, hmmm? I mean, men only invented the vast majority of life changing devices and products we take for granted today! Might there not be a reason for that? Isn't it possible that, due to their temperament and aptitudes, that men will invent more than women will or have?
Competing for the chance -- worth an estimated $15,000 -- to have their app developed and brought to the Android market, 520 girls in four cities around the country teamed up with tech mentors to brainstorm ways to put smartphones to good use. Following a theme of "science education," the 100 apps were winnowed down in regional playoffs, and Thursday it was time for the cream to rise to the top.
What cream is rising to the top here? Again, where are the BOYS in these competitions? If this were an all boys competition (and, all things being equal and-gasp-fair, this would be mostly boys), there would be a huge hue and cry; that's sexist-waaaahhh! Where are the women? This is oppression-waaaaahhhh! Ah, but when there are no boys in a competition in which they could and would do well, why that's all right; all is right in the world now that only girls are competing for these tech prizes.
"Our app is designed to change the way you consume, little by little, every single day," said Sonya Jendoubi, a 16-year-old junior at Lycée Francais La Perouse in San Francisco, showing off her team's Ecocitz app. By scanning grocery store products and learning instantly if the product is local, organic and comes in recycled packaging, Ecocitz "will help us fix our mistakes by focusing on people's misconceptions about what it means to be 'green.' "
I have a better, quicker, simpler, and easier idea: how's about reading the blasted label?! It saves battery power and money for the necessary data transfer. You want to change the way you consume? Pay attention and practice discipline-duh!
One by one, the teams took the stage Thursday in front of an audience of proud parents, teachers and mentors.
Some of the mentors had worked closely with the finalists, eight of whom came from the Bay Area. And for 10 weeks, women in computer sciences, programming and even venture capital volunteered their time and expertise to help the girls build self-esteem while they fine-tuned their concepts. The point of it all is girl power, said Tara Chklovski. She's founder of Iridescent, the science education nonprofit that runs the Technovation Challenge, now in its third year and growing fast.
Translation: the mentors held the girls' hands and did most of the work for them.
Oh, and what about 'boy power', hmmm? Men are treated as second class citizens; they're bashed and trashed at every opportunity; whether it comes to school, college admissions, hiring, or promotion decisions, females get preference these days. Who needs girl power? Girls are more than empowered these days. How about some 'boy power'? How about helping the TRUE disadvantaged in America's schools today: our boys?
"A girl's perspective is different and unique from the rest of the world," she said, "and the apps they've come up with reflect that. One's called 'Simply U,' and it's designed to prevent teenage pregnancy.
"The team saw this huge concentration of pregnancies in their area and came up with an app to educate girls about their options. You never see these kinds of apps on the market because there aren't girls creating them. We're trying to change that."
Here's a better idea: keep your freaking legs CLOSED! Ann Landers or Dear Abby had it right back in the 1980s, and they have it right now: for a woman, the only 100% effective contraceptive is an aspirin clinched FIRMLY between the knees. Abstinence works every time it's tried!
You know why a guy didn't come up with that lame-o idea for an app? It wasn't for lack of empathy; it wasn't for lack of a 'female perspective'; it wasn't due to sexism. No, it was because a guy would wonder why an app is needed to practice a common sense, preventative action-duh!
The pitches came fast and furious. Each team was allotted four minutes to describe their mobile app, the problem it was designed to solve, the competition already out there, and the marketing strategy they'd use to share it with the world. "Intoxication Station" from the Mountain View High School team took underage drinking head-on, with screen icons that brought up symptoms to tell how drunk someone was, offered first-aid tips and ways to get a ride home for a tipsy teenager, even help with hangovers.
Uh, shouldn't someone, particularly a designated driver, already KNOW this stuff? Shouldn't people already know the signs of drunkenness? Shouldn't people already KNOW the signs to look for before going out? Shouldn't someone know what to do before someone gets drunk out of their mind? What about the health classes students are required to take? I learned all this stuff in seventh grade, for cryin' out loud! Didn't these empowered girls have health classes? If so, did they-gasp-LEARN anything therein? Finally, can't someone consult sites like WebMD to brush up on this knowledge?
How did this app even get past the preliminary rounds? How did it get past the second round? How did this group make the finals in this competition? What need does this solve? What are people going to do, pull out their smart phone, pull up the app, and treat a drunk person on the spot? If so, how are they going to concentrate on doing so while looking at the phone telling them to do X? Again, shouldn't people have an idea of what to look for and what to do BEFORE a night of hard partying? I have to scratch my head at this one...
The "SATisfy" app helps students help each other study -- social networking style -- for their SATs, pairing up kids online by matching strengths and weaknesses. And "Niffler," the Monta Vista High team's learning game based on a Harry Potter character, helps kids learn their chemical compounds by maneuvering a bucket across the screen to catch the appropriate ions.
I have a better idea on how to study: get together in a group if you must! Oh, I know, I know; it's not flashy, new, or high tech, but again, it works. Can someone study online? Can someone play games online? Yes, but it's not the same as doing it in person.
Why do students need to get together to study anyway? I would do it once in a while or for a group project, but I normally studied alone. Here's all you need to study: a quiet place, a table/desk, paper, pen or pencil, and the required books. Oh, and some discipline would come in handy too; you have to make up your mind that you'll study at the same time on the same day. That's it! Where does social networking enter the picture?
But MarkyMark, I don't have a quiet place to study; my home life is bad; it's noisy at home and I have no place to study. Okay, what about using the school or local library? What about using the park picnic tables on a nice day? What about using the tables at the local Starbucks? What about taking advantage of study halls or gaps between classes?
"The idea," said Anupama Cemballi, 17, team member and junior at the Cupertino school, "is to help make chemistry fun. Chemistry can be really boring in class, but our app makes it interactive."
Many classes could be more fun and interesting if taught in the right way. For example, history could be more fun if it focused less on dates and more on the people involved in a particular event. Shoot, some events are better than any soap opera or drama you'll see on TV!
Science could be more fun too if its relevance were tied in to the real world. For example, physics, when one thinks about it and its ties to the world, is interesting stuff; it's neat! For example, by learning about rotational motion, one can learn WHY figure skaters pull their arms and hands in as they launch their jumps. It's all about conservation of angular (i.e. rotational) momentum; as they pull their arms in (i.e. decrease the radius), the rotational speed (the rate at which the skater is spinning) has to increase, so that angular momentum is conserved.
I can think of an example too. I was watching a figure skating event some years ago. This female skater launched a jump, but she fell. It turned out that she under-rotated, so her blade wasn't aligned with her direction of motion. I said to myself, "I'll BET she didn't pull her arms in far enough, so she didn't spin enough." Sure enough, when they showed the replay and the commentator spoke, this is EXACTLY what happened! Not only did I know what happened; I knew WHY. Why did I know? Because I'd studied physics. No apps were needed for this. All that was needed was to ask one, simple question during my studies: what is the parallel in the real world? How does this relate to what I see in the world around me? What's really needed is to change the way in which the subject matter is presented, and for students to study better. Ah, but we can't market an app for that now, can we?
This sort of thing is what you get when you don't reward good teachers, or reward those who WOULD be good teachers. Educational reform is needed, but that's another topic for another day...
Cembali said even if her team didn't nail first place they still planned to get their app into the Android market on their own. "And eventually," she said, "we hope to partner with tech and education companies, maybe even Sylvan Learning Centers, to get our app out there."
Good luck, let's see what happens. The market will speak, and it will let them know if there's a need for this app.
While some of the teams relied on the code-programming prowess of their mentors, others figured out how to develop the apps on their own, even using YouTube do-it-yourself videos on writing code. For most of the teams on hand, their initial app was clearly just the first step in a longer journey. The girls behind Niffler were already planning to add more games to help high-schoolers master their science lessons.
Translation: even the top girl teams didn't actually WRITE the code; they borrowed others' ideas, and they copied their coding techniques.
Oh, and see my above comment: we don't need more games to help students master their science lessons. No, what we need is good, old fashioned hard & smart work. You know, study diligently every day with books, pencil, and paper handy to work out problems? You know, master mathematics, the language of science, first? Without mastery of mathematics, no one can or will understand science, because the hard sciences ALL make use of mathematics. Once math is mastered, one can easily learn science. Again, if one asks about how this ties in with the real world, one can learn a lot! Ah, but we couldn't market an app for that now, could we?
But it was the team behind "Froggy Cut" that seemed to be shooting the highest.
Oh, this is good! You'll see in a minute...
The girls at June Jordan School for Equity in San Francisco addressed a long-standing biology class problem: how to avoid cutting up all those frogs year after year, thus saving money and frogs' lives. They came up with an app that virtually dissects the slimy amphibians, allowing students to tap into the magic of digital animation to do the dirty deed right there on the smartphone's screen.
Sorry, Girls, but there are certain things in this life that, in order to learn and master, one must actually DO them. If you want to learn to swim, you have to get in the water. If you want to learn how to ride a bike, you have to saddle up. If you want to dissect frogs, you have to cut 'em open. Sorry, but for some things, there is NO substitute for practical experience.
I didn't like it; I wasn't particularly good at it; but, dissecting frogs was nonetheless valuable for me. How? I realized that being a doctor was NOT for me! I knew that, if I ever went to med school, that I'd have to do a whole lot more dissection, and not only of frogs; I'd have to dissect dead cats and cadavers too. I don't think an app could teach this. An app couldn't teach one to handle a scalpel or other medical instruments, either. Again, in order to learn some things, one has to DO them for real, not on some computer, tablet, or smart phone screen-duh.
"Approximately 2.5 million frogs are dissected in high school biology classes every year," said one of the team members, pitching her heart out to the three judges. And without anyone questioning her math, she went on to posit that "with each frog costing $4, that's $10 million spent on frog dissection annually. Our app will cost each student $1.99. So we can save the schools $5 million and we can make $5 million."
Where does she get these numbers? Furthermore, how does she figure that their team will make five million? They'll earn five million in REVENUES, but what about profits? What will be left after expenses, such as for legal and marketing? What will be left over at the end of the day? Shouldn't these students know these things already? Shouldn't they have learned or figured this out before giving the presentation? Where's the 'grrl power' here?
Furthermore, what's to say that these girls will capture the entire market for frogs? What's to say that some school districts won't continue using frogs and doing dissection the old fashioned way? What's to say that there won't be competition from other apps doing the same thing? So how can these girls say that they will make five million dollars? Would it not have been more accurate to say that their POTENTIAL market is worth that much? Where is this superior, female intelligence I keep hearing about? Where's the 'grrl power'?
And that's a win-win-win ... if you include the frog.
Whatever. Where were the boys in all this?
That concludes my fisking of this piece. Have a good day now...