One of the issues that’s bedeviled educators for the past decade is how to get more girls excited about computers for education and recreational purposes. All too often, the games that are most children’s introduction to computers are high-action, high-violence games that more commonly appeal to boys.
Gender is its own “digital divide,” according to the latest statistics on the issue. Girls represent 17 percent of the Computer Science AP test takers, and less than one in 10 of the higher-level Computer Science AB test takers. Women today earn barely one-fourth of the computer science bachelor’s degrees in the U.S., down from a high of 37 percent in 1984, and are only nine percent of the recipients of engineering-related bachelor’s degrees.
The highly respected Association of American University Women is the latest group to analyze this problem and offer solutions. Among the group’s many recommendations are the following that relate directly to K-12 education:
1. Improve teacher training so that teachers can encourage technology use for education and not just games.
2. Find ways to encourage girls to think in technical and problem-solving terms and provide outlets through which they can express the results of their online “tinkering.”
3. Fight the stereotype that a person interested in computers is male, nerdy, and antisocial.
4. Revise the standard for gender equity in computer literacy to include skill levels and use of computers to solve problems, rather than mere quantitative accounting of time spent online. Don’t judge computer use by the lowest common denominators of use of eMail and web surfing.
5. Encourage use of computers in many ways, including projects that might appeal most to girlsfor example, a design projectand integrate computers into many courses.
6. Explain to girls how important computers and technology will be in almost any career in the future.