Gender and technology lessons

Date: Sat Jul 17 1999 - 21:21:00 EDT

A few months ago I asked for suggestions for activities to use with a
group of K-12 inservice teachers in a class on Gender Issues in Science
Education. I wanted to introduce the topic of gender and technology. I
received many great responses from members of this list and I promised
that I would relay a summary. Some are activities and others are resources
for more information on the topic. My students were particularly enlighted
by their evaluations of clip art and by their discussions with counselors
about encouraging girls to pursue technology-related careers. Here are
the suggestions, in no particular order:

(My apologies to anyone I have forgotten or whose answers I have
misrepresented with my editing)

1. Use ten popular computer magazines and analyze where women are shown
in the magazine. Few women write for computer magazines and if they do,
often the column title or the picture minimizes their role. In
advertisements, you will still see women in "helping" or observing roles.
Last year the ads showed women in garish colors of green or yellow. One
even showed a washing machine and a "she would like to get whiter whites"
caption in an ad for a printer. Sports still predominate as themes for
ads. If society does not see women in these roles, how can young girls see
themselves? Maybe you could do a "find the role model" hunt with your

2. Have teachers assign a computer-assisted project to their students.
The students should be divided into groups of four with two boys and two
girls. Have the teachers observe the roles that each student plays.
Who has most of the computer time? Who does the keyboarding? Who does
the decision-making. This same type of exercise might be done without
computers as well. In that way, the instructor could observe any
differences between computer-assisted and traditional means of having
mixed groups approach a problem. > >

3. Have teachers go through an online clip art program and analyze the
pictures. What roles do men play? What roles do women play? What
messages does this send to students?

4. Review software programs for children and analyze the messages sent
regarding gender and roles. A good site to guide software review is TERC's
Through the Glass Wall at

5. Introduce the topic by posing a discussion question among small
groups: What is the name of the main board which governs the computer?
Why do you think that it is named that? [Interesting note from Kathy
Phillips--I just bought a new "motherboard" for my computer and the name
on the box has been changed to "Mainboard."]

6. Read the article "Awakening the Tech Bug in Girls" in Learning and
Leading with Technology, Vol. 26, No. 5.

7. Activities from Gender Equity Right from the Start: Instructional
Activities for Teacher Educators in Mathematics, Science and Technology by
Jo Sanders, Janice Koch, and Josephine Urso. Published by Earlbaum, 1997,
2 volumes.

8. Visit a high school and observe courses related to
technology--programming, CAD, word processing, etc.

9. Conduct focus forums with students about using technology. Use all
female, all male, and mixed groups.

10. Visit local video arcades to observe who is there (by gender and
age group) and what they are doing (working, playing, watching others

11. Read the WEEA digest "Beyond Equal Access" and the paper "Gender,
Discourse, and Technology" available from WEEA Equity Resource Center at

12. Try something with Lego Logo. Legos are usually considered a "boy
toy" and when girls sit down to create the machines, gears and axels and
wiring are pretty foreign to them.

13. Interview a counselor in their school district about the criteria
used to counsel students into technology related classes.

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