Gender and Computers: Understanding the Digital Divide

Gender and Computers: Understanding the Digital Divide

Gender and Computers: Understanding the Digital Divide

Gender and Computers: Understanding the Digital Divide

Synopsis

Educating children in modern society requires skill and comfort with information technology. Gender and Computers: Understanding the Digital Divide presents evidence that shows that girls and young women are being left behind on the road to information technology. This book not only documents the digital divide-that is, the unequal opportunity and unequal attention that disenfranchises girls from the technological revolution-but also provides guideposts to overcoming it. Social psychological theories and data are brought to bear on understanding the societal and environmental roots of the divide. Remedies ranging from family dynamics to teacher-student interactions to the controversial question of the gender organization of schools and school systems are proposed. Gender and Computers: Understanding the Digital Divide: considers original research conducted by the authors especially for this volume, as well as recently published work by other leading scholars in information technology; documents that girls are at a marked disadvantage in their ability to learn about and profit from information technology in our educational system; sets the problem of computer anxiety in a rich context of social psychological theories, including stereotype threat, self-fulfilling prophecy, social comparison and attribution theory; and offers suggestions that parents, teachers, and school systems can implement to overcome the digital divide. The book is intended to appeal to students and researchers in the social and behavioral sciences, education, human factors, and computer science interested in gender differences in general, and in human computer interaction, in particular. The authors' goal is to stimulate social scientists and educators to further research this topic to generate solutions to the problem.

Excerpt

We do not think it is too dramatic to say that modern western society is at a crossroads in its educational mission. The workplace of the 21st Century is relying on educated citizens who are comfortable with computers and information technology. Children are being introduced to computers at earlier ages with the twin goals of motivating them to learn and to getting them ready to take their place in an increasingly technologically oriented society. An unwritten premise of today's educational mission is that our instruction should motivate and inform all children as equally as possible, without regard to gender, race, or income. These two aspects of the educational mission are currently colliding. There is a well documented digital divide that runs along economic lines. The poor are being left behind. In this book, we document another dangerous divide: Relative to boys, girls are being all too often left behind on the road to technological proficiency.

This book began to take shape at the same time that the technology revolution made its way to the nation's school systems. Advances in computer technology brought with it two major changes in our schools. First, the schools needed to gear themselves for preparing students for the technologically oriented professions of the new millennium. Second, the educational community realized it could bring the sophistication and flexibility of computers to bear on making learning fun and interesting for more and more students. Modeled after the ever–popular video games, classroom computers soon brought all of the bells and whistles of the video arcade to every classroom. Boys came to view the new style of learning with enthusiasm. Learning with the equivalent of joy–sticks and ar-

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