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Mother/Daughter Tech: A Conversation between a Mother and Her 8-Year-Old about a Young Girl’s First Foray into Technology

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Tamara R. talks to her daughter, Devyn B., an 8 year-year-old girl born and raised in the Silicon Valley, about her exposure to technology. Devyn is a third grader at an International Language Immersion School where she has become fluent in Mandarin. Devyn’s parents have worked in high-tech for decades, and she is the big sister to five-year-old brother, Dylan.
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Tamara:  So Devyn, you went to your first Technical Conference, Dare 2B Digital for Girls at the Oracle Conference Center. What did you think of it?

Devyn:  It was fun!  I liked how they had lemonade and snacks everywhere, and the different rooms to go into set up to try different things. I also liked the tote bags they gave us with all the little gadgets inside. I especially liked the USB bracelet.

Tamara:  What did you think of the technology you saw at the conference, the conversations taking place about technology and all the girls that were there?

Devyn:  All of the girls I met were nice, and smart too. Most of the moms stayed in the big room downstairs, but I’m glad you went to every room with me. They gave us a box lunch, and when I asked you what that was (pointing behind herself), you said it was a server. I thought that’s where they kept the hot lunches, and was wondering why nobody was eating the hot lunch from the server. That made you laugh like crazy, but I didn’t know why you were laughing so much then.

Tamara:  What did you think when I told you that it wasn’t a hot lunch server, but a server rack for storing large amounts of data?

Devyn:  It actually looked kind of like our hot lunch servers at school, and since we were all eating I just thought it was a food server. I didn’t know about computer servers until you told me and then showed me the server farm in the other building.

Tamara:  So what do you think about a server farm now?

Devyn:   Now I know farms aren’t just for growing food or raising animals. I think server farms hold tons and tons of information, and I want to know who has the biggest server farm. Now, I also know why you were laughing so much, and it was pretty funny if you knew what kind of server that really was.

Tamara:  What was your favorite thing at the conference, and where would you like to have spent more time?

Devyn:  I liked making the iPhone app. It was really cool when I copy-pasted that long strand of code and made the background color change, especially when that long code line didn’t say “change from green to pink.”  It was like gobbly goop and just did it. But I know the instructions were in there, in a different language that just looked like gobbly goop to me.

Tamara:  How do you think the instructions got there and it knew to change the color from green to pink?

Devyn:  Well just like we speak English and I speak Mandarin, the computer speaks a language too. Someone who understands the gobbly goop wrote those lines, and it said to change from green to pink in computer language. I just only need to know which line to grab to make the changes I wanted to see happen, that’s all.

Tamara:  Wow! That’s very cool. So you can make any machine do what you want it to do?

Devyn:  I’m not sure if I can every time, (thinking out loud) maybe. But someone can.  It can be done, you just have to speak the language or know what line has the instructions to make the change.

Tamara:  Your recently participated in a video game challenge with Black Girls Code.  What did you think of that experience?

Devyn:  It was fun. All the girls made it fun. I think I liked working with the sound the best. You can make any sound you want. It was so fun making things up. I made my Fire Breathing Rubber Ducky speak Mandarin. If the person playing the game understood then they could move the ducky in the right direction. Otherwise they would have to make a guess.

Tamara:  So now that you are a member of Hacker Scouts, how do you like it and what have you learned?

Devyn:  I think the boys kind of smell, but I got all of the girls to be in one group with only one boy and it doesn’t smell at all. We’re all still working on our first badge. I learned how to solder, and I learned how to make a robot out of a toothbrush. It’s called a brushbot, and if you make a bunch you can have a brushbot derby! 

Soldering is really fun too. You have to be careful because the solder is really melted wire and the iron gets really hot to melt it. I like how fast and strong it makes things stick together, not like glue. Once it’s soldered you can’t pull it apart, so you have to be careful that things are going where you want them to go. I soldered at the Maker Faire too. That was a fun booth to visit.

Tamara:  The other day when I was putting sun block on you, you were looking at the bottle and asked what USB stood for. I thought you meant UVB, which was printed on the bottle you were looking at.

Devyn:  I know, but I was talking about the USB key I use to put my book reports on. I know what it does and how to use it, but I didn’t know why it was called a USB. 

Tamara:  When I told you Universal Serial Bus you had a very funny expression on your face and started giggling. Why?

Devyn:  Don’t you remember Mrs. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus? I thought  of Mrs. Frizzle flying that bus through outer space with Arnold, Dorothy-Ann and all the rest of the kids eating Cheerios! That is what a Universal Serial Bus sounded like to me (laughing hysterically as she recalled the moment).

Tamara:  Well now that you know, what do you think?

Devyn:  I think the key word is serial. It’s a funny homonym, and the universe just means it can be used for most things, and a bus carries a lot of people or information, so I get it now. But, I still think about Mrs. Frizzle sometimes, and it makes me laugh when I think about her flying that bus around space and everyone eating Cheerios!

Tamara:  There have been some other things that have confused you about technology. Do you remember any?

Devyn:  Yes, I remember thinking Pi Day at school was just like Taste Day at school, where we get to taste new food from different parts of the world, except I thought we’d be tasting real “pie”, not celebrating math or 3.14159! I was also looking forward to tasting Raspberry Pie when Daddy told us he brought one home. I never thought anyone would name a computer after a pie. Even though our computers at school are named after an apple and everything has a bite out of the apple. I think computer people are always hungry. It makes no sense. Even Daddy calls all of the blue cables spaghetti!

Tamara:  How about the time you spent at Twitter Headquarters in the Code Lab.  What was that like?

Devyn:  It was the best! I like that they call the cafeteria @birdfeeder, and I think they have the best snacks in the world--even Fruity Pebbles—and you can get as much as you want.  Okay, the technology stuff? That was pretty cool too. I designed a webpage using Twitter Bootstrap. It was all about candy. Twitter Bootstrap was easy to use. It is an HTML language, which is another kind of machine type language.

Tamara:  I remember you were sad when your time there was over. What were you thinking?

Devyn:  I just liked being there. It was so much fun to learn from them. It would be fun to be there all day and make cool things and visit @birdfeeder when you get hungry.

Tamara:  How often do you think technology comes into your life?

Devyn:  I think it’s always there, just like the sun and the moon. I use my computer almost everyday. I use e-mail to send my word list to my teacher, and I ask questions in e-mail if I need to. We have SMART boards at school and use them everyday, and I have a lot of USB’s. I even have a USB bracelet that was inside my tote bag from the conference. I think technology is part of me.

Tamara:  How do you plan to use technology in the future?

Devyn:  I can’t wait to see how it helps us visit other planets for a vacation, and go even further into space. That will be the best thing. I know more things will be invented. It should be a fun time!

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