Teenage Girls in Cyberspace: Girls Need Special Guidance to Avoid Online Pitfalls. (the Online Edge)

Article excerpt

Perhaps it is because I taught in an era when computer courses and technology careers were almost exclusively male bastions, or because most of the participants in my Internet staff development programs are female, but I am always encouraged to meet and work with district technology coordinators who are women. These professionals include Dianne Martin of Mountain Home Public Schools in Arkansas, Barbara St. Onge of Torrington Public Schools in Connecticut, Leslie Flanders of the Scott County Schools in Kentucky, and Joan Peebles of the Madison Metropolitan School District in Wisconsin.

Their rise-through-the-ranks leadership in traditional male-dominated school environments and accomplishments on behalf of their districts inspire me, but more important, their stories are powerful motivators for teenage girls to develop similar expertise and consider technology-related careers.

THE MOST WIRED GENERATION EVER Electronic technologies--including notebook computers, personal digital assistants, cellular phones, portable multimedia players, and electronic books--are transforming education and every area of society. All these devices link through the Web. This student generation therefore has power unlike any other, with instant access to worldwide expertise, multi-age online communities, and information as useful as the content available to any adult. The Web shifts education from teaching to learning, from single instructional paths to multiple individualized sequences, and from student acquisition of content to the development of online research skills.

In the past there have been attempts to develop "separate but unequal" technology experiences for girls, such as watered-down classes and learning games without the violence and overt competition that appeal to boys. In that tradition there are now Web sites targeted to gifts, including A Girl's World (www.agirlsworld.com), Girl's Place (www.girlsplace.com), Girl Tech (www.girltech.com), and Planet Girl (www.planetgirl.com). However, research suggests that teenage girls are now using the power of the Web on their own to travel the information highway--with good and bad results. …