December 30, 2017

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The 3 Essential Elements of Kid-Friendly Online Communities

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Originally posted on the Connected Camps blog.

It’s hard to avoid trolls and haters on the Internet these days. Even parents who see how the Internet can be good for kids might worry about the darker side of online culture. We’ve written about some of the risks of online hate, and how to pick a Minecraft server that keeps griefers at bay. Those of us running kid-friendly online communities have a lot of motivation to continue to improve our craft. 

Connected Camps has been collaborating with researchers at Harvard, MIT and the University of California to investigate how to create safe and inclusive spaces for kids online. This work involves looking carefully at kid-friendly online communities such as Scratch, DIY.org, and Connected Camps.  Andres Lombana-Bermudez has been writing up some of the findings from this work. Every community has a unique culture and process, but they share three essential elements: shared values and guidelines, processes for moderation with feedback, and support for leadership to emerge from the community.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 8:59 PM

November 17, 2017

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What a Minecraft Server for Kids with Autism Teaches Us About Haters and Allies

Originally posted at the Connected Camps blog.

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One of my Internet heroes is Stuart Duncan, founder of Autcraft, a Minecraft server for kids with autism and their families. After blogging about autism for many years, Duncan started Autcraft in response to what he had heard from his community about autistic kids being bullied on Minecraft servers. Clearly he tapped a pain point. After opening its doors in 2013, word spread quickly, and the Autcraft community has grown to over 8000 members.   

Creating safe spaces for kids with autism online (or anywhere) is important and hard. The Autcraft community has achieved this through vigilance and community innovation. Other servers can learn from their experience in creating inclusive and safe server communities. Creating a friendly and inclusive Internet shouldn’t fall to families with kids with autism alone, but should enlist and enrich all of us as allies and fellow netizens.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 8:47 AM

October 3, 2017

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What We Did This Summer: Ender Dragons, Parkour, Cow Paradise, and Turtle Bombers in Minecraft Camp

First posted on the Connected Camps blog.

It’s hard to believe that we have said our last summer camp farewells and kids are headed back to school. Hope all our friends on the Texas coast are staying safe this week.

The last camper certificates have been sent out, and counselors are preparing for our afterschool programs starting right after Labor Day.

I’ve been having a blast going back through the counselor’s logs and certificates from the summer, and reading camper and parent responses to our survey. I’ve pulled together some highlights. We hope our campers will share some of what they did this summer with Connected Camps when they are asked about it in school too!

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 10:04 AM

May 29, 2017

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How to Get Kids Into Coding -- 10 Myths and Realities

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First posted on the Connected Camps blog.

90% of parents in the U.S. want their child to learn coding
and 71% of new STEM jobs will be in computer science. Still, the majority of kids in this country are not learning to code. It would help if schools offered CS, but parents and other influences outside of school can also play a big role.

Among the biggest reasons that kids don’t take an interest in coding is because of popular misconceptions about what it means to be a coder. In popular culture, coding is associated with nerdy, antisocial men and boys who are obsessively attracted to math and computers. It's worth digging into this a bit. Not only is it unfair to folks who are already deeply into coding, it also turns away kids who don’t identify with that stereotype.

How can we get kids into coding? Here are 5 popular myths about coding and how we can counteract them with the reality that coding can be for all kids.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 11:49 AM

April 3, 2017

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How to Get Your Daughters into Tech by Embracing Who They Really Are

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First posted at the Connected Camps blog.

Only 26% of computing professionals are women, which is down from 36% in 1991. Millions of dollars are being spent on closing this gender gap, but it persists. Even though girls are just as into math and science in their school years, few go onto major in these areas, and even fewer go on to tech careers. What can we do to help our daughters buck these odds? Girls and Minecraft offer important hints.

The stereotype is that tech is for boys. Girls are also less likely to have friends, mentors, and role models in tech who they identify with. Parents who want their daughter to embrace technology may give up when she prefers Barbie to robots, or shuns geeky interests because they aren’t popular among their friends. The problem is that when we focus on “breaking stereotypes” we can end up pushing our daughters beyond their comfort zone.

Instead, we need to start with who they really are, and build on positive archetypes rather than focus on attacking negative stereotypes. Girls and Minecraft play is a unique opportunity to encourage tech learning and interests and challenge some stereotypes along the way.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 3:48 PM