Girls and the Internet:
Girls must be taught to feel comfortable with computer technology at an early age if we hope to maintain the number of women on the internet. Unfortunately, while girls are being introduced to computers it is not being done so in a way that their attention is actually being captivated. According to the Interpersonal Computing and Technology Journal, 4(2):1996, pp.27 36, it was determined that between 4th and 6th grade, boys' use of computers is 4 to 1 higher than girls' use. At later points in education, it was determined that 17% of high school students that took and AP in computer technology were girls (vs. 47% in math). As for college, this study concluded that the number of women seeking degrees in computer science has decreased from 1985 to 1995 from 36% to 28%. Due to most academic curriculums girls have computer exposure at an early age. The question is how to create a lasting attraction to computers.
Girls and Computer Games:
Much of a child's early exposure to computers comes in the form of games. Many of the games being offered currently simply operate on a reward-punishment system, or a points system. Girls, however, prefer games which present feedback when mistakes are made, and want to be allowed to move freely through the game without having to win or lose. They preferred collaborative and harmonious situation, where the player gets rewarded rather than punished by elimination. Games involving violent punishment were also not preferred by girls. Girls were also very aware of multimedia aspects of the game, such as sound and color changes. Girls wanted games with more virtual reality, voice recognition, and other interfaces which allow for communication on several levels.
Girls and the Classroom:
In addition to making computer games which focus on the elements which girls find attractive, classroom activity must also be changed as there are social and environmental pressures which may also be effecting girls' attraction to computers. One innovative solution sought by a highschool was to take a select number of girls and teach them the lessons assigned for a computer science class a few weeks before it was taught the remainder of the class, giving the girls time to become proficient with the material. The girls then served as class tutors and mentors for other students, including boys. This helped to increase confidence for the individual girls, in addition to providing a support network when they were originally learning the material.
In a taped radio interview, Aliza Sherman of Cybergrrls recounted a conversation with a young woman who entered college with the hopes of being a computer science major. There were only three girls in her class, however, and after scoring poorly on her first exam she felt so frustrated that she changed her major. She later discovered that the entire class had performed badly. According to the student, if she had a network of other students with which to share her concerns she would not have felt so frustrated and may have kept her major in computer science.
The manner in which women tend to rely on networks and relationships may be an important key in attracting girls to computers. In addition to the notion of preparing girls so they have confidence before entering into the larger group, the idea of providing a network of girls which can work and learn together is necessary. Computer classrooms are often simply the computer and student, without any human interactions or cooperation which is a disadvantage for many girls relative to their boy counterparts.
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