Gender Issues and Trends

Posted on: April 4, 2011

Have you observed signs of gender equality in the way students use prevailing classroom technology?

            In my grade 4/5 class I very much see the children, regardless of gender, to be equally adept at using technology. Both genders seem equally interested in the digital microscope, various learning web sites, using Publisher, Power Point and cameras. However I do notice that boys seem more willing to take a risk and try something on their own and the girls want to know exactly what to do before trying to solve a problem or finding a way to do something themselves. Our internet use is extremely limited due to the blocking of sites, so usually my students have a very short list of sites that I allow them to visit. That being said, whenever there are any opportunities to look at something independently online, the boys tend to want to go on you tube (blocked however), NHL / hockey related sites and the girls seem to like math/ language based games and animal related sites. The biggest difference I notice with how students use technology seems to be between the students in my class that do not have a computer at home and those who are fortunate enough to have a computer for home use.  

Does the type of technology being used make a difference in gender neutrality?

I teach at a relatively low – technology school (LCD projectors are only in 2 classrooms and Smart Boards are but a dream!)The main use of technology that the students have access to are class laptops, PCs in the computer lab and the various programs held within those. The odd time there is the opportunity for students to use digital cameras or a video camera. I think because all of this technology is rather common place and the students have ‘grown up’ with this technology it does allow for general neutrality. They commonly see both genders using this technology for learning purposes.  I think the research shows that usually differences in genders is seen more substantially later on in students’ school careers and when the technology demands get larger.

            Have circumstances in computer mediation changed in the last ten years?

I think computer mediation has become savvier in that the users of groups can request inappropriate posts be removed or certain users disallowed from participation. However, at times this can be somewhat cumbersome to do.  Look at David Knights trouble with removing harassing information at http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/bullying/cyber_bullying.html  Perhaps some users, like the students at the school mentioned in the article, have become more aware of internet ‘netiquette’ when conversing on line. With greater education in our schools and in the public, people are coming around to the idea that while the internet may allow you to speak without seeing someone face to face, you are not invisible forever  and you are still responsible for your actions on the internet.

 Do females participate differently when on-line?

I think women do tend to participate differently on line. I think in a purely academic purpose for online participation, women may feel more comfortable to say their thoughts and information without the nervousness of being overshadowed by the males in the group or interrupted / challenged by the males. In a more social setting, women have a difficult choice to make; identify themselves as a woman and open themselves to a wide display of unwanted messages, suggestions and sometimes comments or disguise their gender in androgynous user names, but miss out on meeting potential friends/ mates because they are not identified as female. I think academically, online offerings can help females to have a greater presence in conversations and allow for thought out responses to discussions.  

What steps do you take to insure gender equality in use of computer technology?

            Because I teach at an elementary school where the genders seem to be on relative equal     footing with respect to technology, I don’t tend to do too much to ensure equality when            using technology. I often create same sex groups when using technology collaboratively.       This perhaps has more to do with the team working within a favorable context of similar interest rather than to ensure fair technology sharing. I think one of the more important         factors is for the children to see females using technology confidently and successfully     which is somewhat easy to do at our school as we have an all-female staff. Students            consistently see females setting up equipment and teaching how to use various   technologies. Perhaps if we had more male teachers on staff this would be        overtaken by   them.


            So What of Strategies….?

             Perhaps it is unsurprising that like many aspects of life there are differences in the way     males and females use and respond to technology in a learning setting. It seems            traditionally and currently, boys use the computer more. Whether it’s because of        competiveness that they win out on computer time over their sisters or that they seek out        additional time when girls are choosing to be involved in more social, non- solitary             activities. (Sanders)

            There has been an interesting finding that links girls’ confidence in computing with their   wanting to continue with computing course and dare I extrapolate from that, use of     computers in application areas. It seems that the less confident a girl is, the less likely she      is to stick with a technology based course. This is a big problem when one thinks about            the trends in our world to be more and more technologically literate. Perhaps we as             teachers need to address these concerns not in the technology itself but how technology is            being used. Girls seem to have more success and confidence when allowed to work with          a partner (even better if a same sex partner) and use the technology for realistic problem      solving activities rather than activities bound by rules on a one particular outcomes. Kay           also says that students see their teachers as role models. If the female teachers are not             confident in technology usage, than this will help form negative attitudes about gender     and computer use in our students!

            According to Zhou and Xu when Technology PD is offered, due to differences in             learning, it would be more successful to offer more in interactive / show case formats for                    women and more hands on/discovery formats for male teachers. In reference to  Wever-       Rabehl , I think we have been too politically correct in our ‘everybody is equal       thinking ’when discussing how to approach gender and technology and learning. If we             acknowledge that there are differences in how men and women/ boys and girls learn,             aren’t we putting them (boys or girls, depends on how you look at it!) at a further disadvantage by offering information in just one format rather than trying to address the        learning differences by offering multiple formats? Wever-Rabehl  says that technology           driven education does not need to be at the expense of one gender over the other. In fact             it does not need to be that either / or situation at all. We can offer the same projects /          activate the same learning and use the same technology but have the student’s interact      with the technology in a way that is meaningful to them.

            Now that we are getting to a generation of teachers that have grown up immersed in         technology, I wonder if we will start to see a difference in how technology is used by     teachers and therefore modelled by students as teacher confidence becomes higher and technology use more routine.  


Kay, Dr. Robin. Research Monograph # 8. Gender Differences in Computer Attitudes, Ability, and Use in the Elementary Classroom.


Sanders, Jo. Gender and Technology in Education: A Research Review. June 2005.


Wever-Rabehl, Gerda. Gender and Education: A Gender Gap In Technology? May 10, 2006.

Zhou, George and Xu, Judy. Adoption of Educational Technology: How Does Gender Matter?

International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 2007, Volume 19, Number 2, 140-153.




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