Thursday, August 21, 2008

Girls versus technology

Technologies should be equally accessible to male and female students. Yet, as girls enter adolescence; large numbers of them tend to lose interest in science, math, and computer science. Girls are narrowing the gender gap in science and math, but not in technology.

Overall girls' test scores and course enrollments have risen in these areas, with the exception of computer science. In order to attempt to address this issue, the cause of the discrepancies between males and females in computer use must be established.

A gender gap exists between males and females in the use of technology. Girls are still not much interested in computers as the boys. One simply needs to walk into computer clubs or computer science classes in order to see the gap between the number of boys versus girls in these clubs and classes.

It is important to note that this is not always the case nor is it necessarily intentional. Many parents, educators, and manufacturers out there are indeed very sensitive to the issues of gender. They are making great strides to create equity in all areas for males and females. On the other hand, there are those parents, educators, and manufacturers who are shocked and surprised to realize that they are unintentionally sending separate signals about expectations for girls and boys. Differential treatments by educators divert girls from science and technology.
In the same way, other influential adults in girls' lives influence the paths girls follow and the perception of girls concerning their own future and those of others.

Teachers and the educational system are believed to influence the gender gap in computer use.. Boys gravitate toward computer games and mechanical toys. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to play with dolls or be involved in more social games. Teachers may treat boys differently than girls causing differing expectations.
For example, boys and girls are often approached differently when dealing with inappropriate physical and verbal attacks on others. Boys involved in pushing or even fist fights may be more accepted that girls involved in the same activities; "boys will be boys." Girls are expected to be better negotiators thus preventing the need for physical altercations.

In addition, girls in adolescence tend to experience weakening self perceptions . Many girls in adolescence go through changes which negatively affect self image and future choices. As a result, girls often refrain from asking questions and sharing answers. Many girls feel inferior to others or wish to mask their leadership abilities and intelligence and decline opportunities to take part in student government, clubs, or challenges that may cause failure. These issues also discourage some girls from taking part in higher track classes in math, science, and computer science. Still others point at education at the administrative level. Here, some say, is where funds are appropriated. There are views that teachers and administrators in education are responsible for the gender gap in technology.

The lack of strong female role models is believed by some experts to be yet another reason for the gender gap in technology use between males and females. It is suggested that providing children the opportunity to see guest speakers from both genders in nontraditional careers. Common sense tells us that we find possibility or lack of possibility in what we experience. Girls who see and develop communication with other females who have careers in science and technology fields, will be more likely to have these high expectations for themselves. These girls will perceive science and technology fields as plausible careers for themselves. Few female mentors are available for girls when investigating career opportunities . Just like boys, girls benefit from listening and interacting with mentors and role models.

Lee Canter said it best, "Parents are the most important, influential people in a child's life. Parental views on gender roles, belief systems regarding gender, and actions toward both sexes will inevitably influence children. Children are sent strong signals about the world around them, more specifically about men and women, from parents. Parents' actions and words send messages about the parents' beliefs. Parents should closely examine whether their actions and words are telling their children what they wish them to be telling their children. Parents should closely examine what they say with their actions and words.

If we want to see young girls more involved in computers, we must begin with parents. There are many practical and easy ways parents can encourage their girls in the use of technology. Parents can begin at home to encourage girls to use technologies. Several ideas for encouraging girls' interest in technology. First, children should be exposed to technology at an early age. Children should learn that technology is fun and helpful to use. They should see it as one of the many tools in our world that make life easier. Parents should also buy technology products of interest to their daughters. Unfortunately, a majority of the CD's for children are designed for the interests of boys. Girls rarely have interest in monsters or weapons commonly seen in computer software. Rather, they tend to want to accomplish a specific goal using the computer. As a result, it may be more challenging to find programs that will interest young girls. "Barriers are lifted when girls play with other girls and have equal access to the control devices such as the video game control pad, keyboard, joystick, or mousective of girls toward technology.

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