Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Learning, Connections, & Technology: Gender's Impact

Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Learning, Connections, & Technology: Gender's Impact

Article excerpt

Technology such as e-mail and the Internet has become a norm in educational, workplace, and personal communication (Bushweller, 2005: Duran, Kelly, & Keaten, 2005; Aiken, Vanjani, Ray, & Martin, 2003). This study examines gender and technology use. Three hundred and forty students taking communications classes at two mid-size universities, one in the Midwest and one in the Southeast, completed surveys about their use of e-mail.

Research on Technology Use in Education

Today's college students expect technology to be a part of their educational experience (Goffe & Sosin, 2005). However, Duran et al. (2005) state that limited research about the instructional uses of e-mail and the consequences of faculty-student e-mail exists. In short, educators need to know more about the use of e-mail in the classroom (Wollman-Bonilla, 2003).

As an educational tool, e-mail has the ability to expand a student's access to learning, strengthen communication skills, add a collaborative perspective to assignments, and enhance student-faculty interaction (Haworth, 1999; Zack, 1995). E-mail also provides a paper trail, it is quick and efficient, it allows for carefully thought out responses and control of emotions, and it allows for uniform messages to be sent to a large group (Bushweller, 2005). Griffiths (2005) states that e-mail can also be used as a means of mentoring between students and faculty. And, Tao and Reinking (1996) and D'Souza (1991) suggest that e-mail brings out the traditionally silent voices in classrooms, helping shy students overcome communication fears.

However, there are some scholars who do not see the use of e-mail as advantageous. Some faculty to feel as if they are "on call" 24-hours a day because of the volume of e-mail they receive (Duran et al., 2005). Furthermore, Stevens (2005) found that employers want students to learn how to write professional e-mails that avoid self-expression and slang, which may add to faculty's teaching loads.

Previous Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication

Research on the use of e-mail and other technology in the communication classroom is of value because access is widespread in colleges of journalism and mass communication (Kelleher & Dodd, 1999). In 1997, Arant surveyed 133 colleges of journalism and communication and found that 96 percent of professors and 90 percent of students had e-mail and Internet access. Arant's study also reported that 72 percent of professors used e-mail to communicate with students.

Duran et al. (2005), however, found that faculty opinions about the use of email as a communication channel were mixed. On one hand students were using e-mail to learn more by asking questions about assignments, while on the other they were using it to send excuses for poor performance. Additionally, they reported that faculty stated that they knew their quieter students better, but that they did not feel their relationships with students had improved. Faculty said they used e-mail most often to make an appointment, make a course announcement, and to clarify course materials, and they believed that students most often used e-mail to make appointments, ask questions, and to offer excuses for absences and late work. Duran and his colleagues also found that female faculty reported that they receive more e-mails than their male counterparts; however, the researchers were unable to explain this occurrence.

Gender and Technology

The effective use of technology in the classroom rests upon the attitudes of both student and faculty toward it (Migliomo & Maiden, 2004). Traditionally, female students and faculty have displayed negative attitudes toward technology because they are not comfortable using it, they fear it, they believe it adds stress to their lives, and they do not find it appealing because most technology has been designed by men (Zarrett & Malanchuk, 2005; Ogan & Chung, 2003). …

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