Is There Still a Gender Gap in Education and Technology?
The stereotype of technology as a male-dominated interest and career path is slowly fading. We no longer associate computers just with geeky, pale boys in thick glasses poring over gaming screens. Technology in schools and in daily life has become much more accessible and user-friendly for everyone.
But do males still have an edge when it comes to technology in the classroom? Are there still gender differences in how educational technology tools are used?
Research evidence suggests yes, but there are many ways to address these disparities.
Among students: Girls in schools are less likely to have positive feelings about technology in general. They are more likely to be anxious and to have less confidence in their own abilities to use it, even if their mathematical and scientific abilities are assessed to be similar. While boys are more likely to experiment with technology and to use it playfully, girls tend to hold themselves to higher standards about how to use it successfully.
Among teachers: Across all teaching levels, male educators have more experience with technology and, like male students, more confidence. Female teachers want to learn about technology from demonstrations and one-on-one guidance, while male teachers are more likely to want to learn from experience and from less formal instruction.
While girls have made tremendous strides in math, science, and technology, gaps still exist. While women make up about half of the work force, they only comprise 25% of technology-related jobs. Less than 20% of the students who took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science were female, and less than a quarter in physics.
The most important solution to these gender differences is an increase in role models in schools. Girls should see female teachers taking leadership roles in developing and using technology. In addition, female professionals from the science and technology fields can be invited as guest speakers, as career advising mentors, and as advisers to student technology clubs.
Both female students and teachers have been shown to want to use technology – even more than males – as a way of interacting within school communities and as another tool for getting feedback. They can benefit from hands-on, more personal forms of instruction that emphasize real-world applications.
What are your experiences with boys and girls in the classroom? Do they use technology differently?
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