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Dear Jay,

I would like to correspond with you about didactics and education.

I hope other teachers (men and women) participate and animate the forum in relation to this topic.

The difference between men and women is certainly the length of the messages posted.

Some messages are so long that at the end you loose the thread. Besides it requires too much time to answer to the very very long messages. At the end you do not know if your answer is pertinent or not to the content of the message unless you read it again and take note. :D Ciao

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Research conducted by Lancaster University shows that, while ICT motivates both boys and girls, it probably has a greater effect on boys, helping them to stay more focused on their work for longer. The study also reports that secondary teachers involved in the research said they felt ICT helped pupils take pride in their work, that it was helpful for coursework, and that it supported research work. They also said that it was more likely that a task would be completed on time when ICT is used. The research had praise for interactive whiteboards, finding that they increase the pace and effectiveness of lessons. Both the research brief and the report are available to download from DfES Programme of Research.

http://www.dfes.gov.uk/research/programmeo...5&resultspage=1

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Hi Guiseppa

Thank you for replying. I am interested in getting an idea of the curriculum and methodologies used in secondary schools in other parts of the world. I've had some interesting messages from JP about France. Perhaps you could tell me a little about Italy. Has your curriculum changed much in recent years? Are there any plans to change it in the near future?

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One thing that I have noticed among male colleagues who work in ICT is that they are often interested in ICT because they are fascinated by the technology itself rather than its applications – i.e. the “trainspotter” syndrome. My female colleagues, however, are often competent users of ICT but have relatively little interest in processor speeds, hard disk storage space, etc – only insofar as it they are adequate for the applications they wish to use. I tend to lean in the same direction as my female colleagues, I guess. I have a similar attitude to motor vehicles, i.e. I have little or no interest in motor vehicle technology. All I require is that my car starts first time in the morning and gets me from A to B without a hitch – like my 1982 Mercedes 200, which has nearly 180K miles on the clock and has never let me down since I bought it second-hand from my brother in 1988. My 4-year old DELL 650 running Win98SE is just as reliable.

Query: Are there many female trainspotters?

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Guest Andrew Moore

Hi, John,

When Dale Spender talks about the ways in which women historically have been marginalized in the literary canon, she talks from an informed position, and is both convincing and plausible.

But she is far less convincing in explaining what is happening now, with technology that she perhaps does not use. My observations are about younger people precisely because this is where one may see trends emerging. As the technology becomes usable, rather than an end in itself, and as men and women (in the developed world) have more or less equal access (in terms of decisions about how to spend disposable income), then her bleating becomes less plausible.

The dominance theory in gender linguistics rests on tenuous foundations, some of which have been discredited (the research of Zimmerman and West, for example) - this is not the place for a full account, but this is something that I have treated at length elsewhere.* Interestingly, the consensus among UK academic linguists is now increasingly supportive of the difference theory, as developed by Deborah Tannen. You will find it in the work of Jennifer Coates and Deborah Cameron, for example.

* www.universalteacher.org.uk/lang/gender.htm

The notion that men control and construct the way that language develops is risible (and strictly nonsensical), since it proceeds from the premiss that language in use is one coherent and stable system, rather than a vast continuum of usages, styles and idiolects. It is also offensive to any number of women who have a clear sense of their own language identity. And it's arrogant in anyone to presume to speak for a whole sex.

As I look around me, I see both young men and young women using telephones, especially mobile phones for text messaging. When it comes to use of Instant Messaging on the computer, then that's equally ubiquitous among young women and young men (as judged by the 6th forms of schools around here). If there are contexts where they are conspicuous by their absence, then that is partly explained by their being elsewhere - but I am suggesting that this elsewhere may well be some kind of digital interaction. It's just that some women don't feel so much need to tell the rest of us about it.

I hope that we can open the student forum to new users very soon. This will help us to see whether the trend on this forum for educators will be repeated, or whether we will see something else happening.

I'm afraid that when Ms. Spender suggests that women are being excluded from the use of the new technology she talks nonsense in a strict and factual sense. That is, the National Curriculum in England (and many curricula in other developed countries) requires pupils to learn to use computer technologies by law. In Bergen and Oslo, children now learn to "write" using the PC before they learn handwriting. You do not need to appeal to any research statistics to show this - you can go into any classroom of most primary schools and see it happening.

The suggestion that children think it needs "balls" to use a keyboard is Spender's distortion of what she claims one child said - a tendentious use of one bit of conveniently selected anecdotal evidence. To generalize this into some kind of technical misogyny, and then complain about it, is illogical. And to pervert what children say is a desperate measure of someone trying to fabricate the evidence.

Of course, many women and many men choose not to use this stuff. But that's their choice. Very few women are trainspotters (though I have known some who are). Yet no-one talks of their being excluded from the joys of this hobby.

Dale Spender is good at looking backward. But when she tries to look forward, her fears are of no more value than anyone else's.

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Graham wrote:

One thing that I have noticed among male colleagues who work in ICT is that they are often interested in ICT because they are fascinated by the technology itself rather than its applications - i.e. the "trainspotter" syndrome. My female colleagues, however, are often competent users of ICT but have relatively little interest in processor speeds, hard disk storage space, etc - only insofar as it they are adequate for the applications they wish to use.

I have noticed this too but then notice that one of my closest colleagues and my daughter are actually much more "male" in their attitude and my eldest son much more "female"....so perhaps the division of mind-set is not simply a matter of gender after all :ph34r:

Wouldn't we be falling into a trap of our own making with this false dichotomy?

To quote "The Life of Brian":

Brian "You're all different!"

Voice from the audience: "I'm not!"

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As a woman who is not affraid of a good debate I would like to make it clear that my reasons for not contributing to every single forum on a daily basis can be classified as follows.

a) I actually have other things to do with my time!

:ph34r: Some issues are completely lost on me - such as the whole JFK thing. I have no opinions on the matter as it all happened so long ago and I'm a little more wrapped up in current events.

c) I enjoy bashing the keys on issues that I do feel strongly about but, like Maggie, I also like to sit back and read the views of others.

I would like to add that I love computers and online discussions because of their sexless/ageless nature which allows me to feel more equal than I would in a room full of people debating the same subjects. For one thing, I'm able to get a word in edgeways and my voice doesn't sound ridiculously high pitched and child-like compared to the men!

Rowena

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When Dale Spender talks about the ways in which women historically have been marginalized in the literary canon, she talks from an informed position, and is both convincing and plausible.

But she is far less convincing in explaining what is happening now, with technology that she perhaps does not use. My observations are about younger people precisely because this is where one may see trends emerging. As the technology becomes usable, rather than an end in itself, and as men and women (in the developed world) have more or less equal access (in terms of decisions about how to spend disposable income), then her bleating becomes less plausible.

As I look around me, I see both young men and young women using telephones, especially mobile phones for text messaging. When it comes to use of Instant Messaging on the computer, then that's equally ubiquitous among young women and young men (as judged by the 6th forms of schools around here). If there are contexts where they are conspicuous by their absence, then that is partly explained by their being elsewhere - but I am suggesting that this elsewhere may well be some kind of digital interaction. It's just that some women don't feel so much need to tell the rest of us about it.

I'm afraid that when Ms. Spender suggests that women are being excluded from the use of the new technology she talks nonsense in a strict and factual sense. That is, the National Curriculum in England (and many curricula in other developed countries) requires pupils to learn to use computer technologies by law. In Bergen and Oslo, children now learn to "write" using the PC before they learn handwriting. You do not need to appeal to any research statistics to show this - you can go into any classroom of most primary schools and see it happening.

The suggestion that children think it needs "balls" to use a keyboard is Spender's distortion of what she claims one child said - a tendentious use of one bit of conveniently selected anecdotal evidence. To generalize this into some kind of technical misogyny, and then complain about it, is illogical. And to pervert what children say is a desperate measure of someone trying to fabricate the evidence.

Dale Spender is good at looking backward. But when she tries to look forward, her fears are of no more value than anyone else's.

You are wrong to suggest that Dale Spender “is far less convincing in explaining what is happening now, with technology that she perhaps does not use.” Spender has been a passionate user of computers since 1992 and has carried out research into the way they are used in schools since 1994.

You say: “Dale Spender is good at looking backward. But when she tries to look forward, her fears are of no more value than anyone else's.” It is because she is good at looking backward that she has so many important things to say about the present and the future. After all, that is what all good historians are trying to do. However, that is not to say I agree with everything she says. In fact, if she was a member of this forum, we would no doubt be having heated debates about gender and education.

Spender makes the point that men initially dominant any new form of communication. This is mainly because of the power they hold in society. Another factor is the role in the development of this new form of communication. Spender argues that women traditional lose a degree of power when a new system of communication is developed. However, in time, women obtain equality. She traces this back to the earliest forms of communication. At each stage she shows how this new form of communication developed. One of the most interesting sections of the book concerns the development of the telephone. As she pointed out, at the beginning, its use was dominated by men. Now it is used much more by women. Spender argues that one of the reasons for that is that women no longer see the telephone as a machine. (This issue is covered in detail in Lana Rakow’s book, Gender on the Line).

Spender argues that by the 1990s women had nearly secured equality with men in the production and consumption of print media. However, their power was undermined by the arrival of the computer. There is a considerable amount of evidence to support this argument. This includes Jay Walker’s original posting about the lack of women using this forum.

To understand this problem you need to consider children’s relationship to the computer. As a teacher I became involved in using computers in the classroom in the early 1980s. In almost every case, when children first used a computer in my classroom, they were using computers for the first time. It is interesting to compare the reaction of the boys and girls to this situation. At the time, I only had one computer in my classroom. Therefore I had to integrate the computer with other teaching materials. In the early 1980s there were no computer packages available to enable this to take place. At the time I was a member of a teacher cooperative producing books. We therefore decided to produce computer packages. The cooperative was evenly balanced between the sexes but none of the women decided to become involved in producing these new teaching materials. This might well have played a role in the different ways that the boys and girls reacted to our computer packages.

As I only had one computer the students had to take it in turns to use it. Right from the beginning boys showed great excitement about using the computer. This girls reacted very differently. They would rather spend their time working with the printed material that went with the computer program. I suspect that this was partly because on average they were better than the boys at written work. (Maybe that is why the boys wanted to use the computer. It could be argued it gave them the opportunity to improve their status in the classroom.)

As the cooperative was fully committed to equality between the sexes we gave considerable thought to this problem. We came to the conclusion that the subject matter was a problem as it reflected the interests of the males that had produced the computer packages. The first two programs involved the students playing the roles of individuals in history. In ‘Into the Unknown’ the student played the role of a 15th century Portuguese sea captain. In “Attack on the Somme” they were Sir Douglas Haig at the Somme in 1916. Girls were being asked to play the role of men in situations devised by men. Could this be the problem? We therefore decided to develop a computer package that gave women an equal role with men. We created “Wagons West” where the students had to cross America by wagon train. Although it meant distorting history, we had as many wagons commanded by women as by men. This definitely improved the motivation of the girls but the boys, especially the less able ones when it came to writing, remained the most enthusiastic about using the computer in the classroom.

Later we developed a computer programme about a British spy living in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The spy was a woman. This was very unpopular with the boys who hated the idea of being a “woman”. It was also unpopular with teachers and sold very badly (even though I think it was one of the best things we had done).

I first started using the internet in the classroom in 1997. Within a couple of years I had access to a classroom with 16 computers linked to the internet. As we had a broadband connection it was a world away from the situation in the early 1980s. The first thing I did with them was a simulation on child labour in the 1830s. The technology enabled me to create roles that did not appear to be biased against girls. The subject matter was also popular with the girls in the class. There is no doubt that the girls reacted better than they had in the early 1980s. However, the boys were definitely more enthusiastic than the girls about the lesson. Boys often made comments like “I am good with computers” or “I know all about computers”. This was often untrue. What they were good at was playing with games on computers. When it came to playing the simulation they held no advantage over the girls. In fact, when it came to writing their account of what happened during the simulation on the computer, the boys had far more difficulty than the girls. Despite this, the girls initially lacked confidence when using the computer.

I spent some time asking the girls about their use of the computer. The school was situated in a prosperous area and virtually every girl had access to a computer at home. However, if they had brothers they tended not to see it as their computer. In some cases it wasn’t (research shows that six times as many boys as girls have a computer bought for them). Even when it was a family computer its use was dominated by their brothers who wanted to play games on it (75% of computer games are bought for boys).

Another thing I noticed that when I asked girls why they appeared reluctant to use the computer in the classroom. They often said things like “every time I use the computer it goes wrong”. I asked them why they said this? Invariably it was something that their brothers had said to them. This control devise developed by boys seemed to be working. This situation does not seem to be uncommon. Research by Sherry Turkle (Computational Reticence: Why Women Fear the Intimate Machine) indicated that women were often reluctant to use computers because they “feared they might break something crucial”.

I am sure Andrew Moore is right that virtually all teachers make sure that girls get equal access of computers in schools. However, I am still concerned about the way men dominate the creation of materials that the students use in the classroom (see my earlier posting about the creators of educational websites in the UK).

I would be interested in hearing about other people’s experiences of using computers in the classroom.

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http://www.ogilvie.tased.edu.au/studact2004/leadership/

You might be interested to look at this website which was created by four glirls to whom I taught English last year. Their History teacher, a women who is a keen user of IT, got them started on it. They have just won a section of an international competition with it and are at this very moment somewhere in the UK for a week as part of their prize. I believe thay are to be interviewed by the BBC and I am pleased to report that they took my suggestion and are visiting Stratford and attending a performance of Macbeth (I did Romeo and Juliet with them last year). They are probably the four brightest students I have ever taught in 30 years, and there is one in particular who I wouldn't be at all surprised were she to pop up as Australia's first woman PM one day!! Anyway, I'm very proud of them

On the subject of girls and computers, it was my observation that in this all-girls' high school, most of the girls tended to use computers for emailing, wordprocessing, desk top publishing, and finding info for their assignments. Very few of them used it as a tool for any other purpose.

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I have entered this debate a little late, but since you seek the views of more female members on this issue, I would like to add that there are 2 main reasons why I have not yet contributed to debates:

1. I have very little time after all other must dos have been accomplished (usually about 11.30pm) even to read messages, let alone formulate an intelligent reply to them. I teach part-time and have children.

2. I am a member of other active forums, which are at present more relevant to my teaching.

However, I do have a very keen interest in the use of ICT. I intend to remedy this "no time" situation by changing jobs. Only then will I have the opportunity to enjoy forums of this sort, rather than feel dismayed at the 15 or so emails per day which I would love to have the time to enjoy.

Regards,

Deborah

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This all poses so many interesting questions.

One thing that would be interesting to consider is how would you be reacting if you didn't know the gender of anyone on this forum? It surely wouldn't matter and wouldn't be an issue.

John Simkin makes the very important point about the levelling factor of actual historical activities. I do think the situation has changed over the last five years. Many boys do still feel very confident about using computers as they are experienced games players. However, my observations at school also indicate that girls, perhaps even more that boys, are more experienced (and more refined) users of the internet. If we have educationally valid activities - such as John's superb example, then experience will help show both girls and boys that ICT is a tool for learning, and one that everyone should be comfortable with. Once ICT is embedded within the curriculum as a tool, then there has to be fewer issues.

I like Andrew Moore's point about younger men and women becoming very confident and skilled in thier uses of ICT. As communication devices become more and more unified - phones / PDAs actually working as wireless communication devices etc. it is this confidence in using technology that will make the difference. If you consider some of the forums / communication arenas that those currently at school explore and reside in, forums like this seem like the stone-age.

From my perspective, what both John's and Andrew's points suggest is that confidence is the key inhibiting factor. Natural experience with ICT as you grow up makes you are far more efficient user of ICT. Yet developing the ability to adapt and change your ideas as you experience the development of new technology allows you to become a far more effective user of ICT.

For society in general to become confident in the use of ICT the hardware itself needs to become more user friendly. Jay mentioned how you do need to be willing to fiddle with PCs and technology when things go wrong. If this is approached from the alternative angle, if things are prevented from going wrong due to effective and efficient design, then confidence can naturally grow. You don't get teenage girls not wanting to use their mobile phone 'beause I might crash it' - but the mobile phones contain as much technology as many home computers.

Time is also the major issue. We do all have other things to do - and each individual has differing amounts of time that they can spare. It has long been explained how computers and ICT allow us to save time. Rubbish. Computers and ICT allow us to think we are saving time and are thus expected to get more done. Are women perhaps more skilled at making that opportunity cost analysis and thus make more effective use of their time rather than thinking of clever things to say whilst looking at their PC screen?

I do however, fully take the point that Giuseppa has made. I'll stop now. ;)

Edited by Andrew Field
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Isn't it interesting that most postings on this topic have once again come from the male part of the forum mostly refering to the problem: "women and ICT".

I became involved in the forum and its different debates beacuse I was very interested in and emotionally touched by the then subject (Teaching the Holocaust). In recent times I have posted less because of the reasons mentioned by Maggie:

i) The majority of the topics are outside my areas of expertise so, as was mentioned, I suppose am 'being educated'. 

ii) Many of the topics are of little interest to me and go on for sooooo long. Sorry guys, but I just get bored with reading them!

iii) To give meaningful replies to long posts takes too long and I have too many other demands on my time and too many other interests to spend it all sitting at my computer to do just that.

Actually I don not want to add something to the problem of gender, communication and ICT.

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I have also noted that it seems to be a male idea that women and ICT don't mix. Please don't stereotype us gentlemen - many women may not be too interested in the 'guts' of computers or of software and hardware development, but then many men aren't interested either! Women are perfectly competent ICT users which is all that is necessary to take part in this forum.

I, for one, am always interested to look at new ICT developments and integrate them into my 'repertoire' if they are i) useful and ii) reliable. I am happy for the experts to iron out any problems, just as I take my car to the garage for work to be done on it.

I think that several of us women have made the same points about our less frequent participation in forum debates ...... Andrew at least acknowledged one of them! :lol:

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  • 2 weeks later...

It is possible that most countries now have policies that ensure girls are given equal access to computers in schools. (Although I am not convinced this is true of the home). I suspect therefore that our current Student Forum receives a balance of postings from boys and girls.

The fact that women produce fewer educational websites than men and contribute less to this forum is mainly due to the fact that their first encounters with computers took place many years ago when sexist attitudes were more prevalent.

Has anyone got any ideas on how female educationalists can be encouraged to be more active in the creation of online materials? I believe that this is an important issue because men see the world in a slightly different way to women. As a result, materials produced by men, are more likely to appeal to boys, than girls. This in itself will have an impact on girls’ attitudes to online learning.

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The one exception to this is Dale Spender...
Has anyone got any ideas on how female educationalists can be encouraged to be more active in the creation of online materials?

Excuse me, John, as I can see you are an eminent contributor here, but for some reason you are not fully informed on this subject.

Certainly Dale Spender is an effective businesswoman and is a high profile self-elected spokesperson on the issues involved in education and ICT.

But she is by no means alone and in terms of real contributions applicable to teachers and students she is far behind others.

My answer to Jay is that the women are at work with their students, meeting their needs, and on tailored mailing lists [admittedly perhaps away from the movers and shakers], encouraging and assisting their colleagues.

Many of the most wonderful contributors to global learning opportunities through ICT are women:

*Barbara Dieu in Brazil

*Yvonne Marie Andres, Bonnie Bracey, BJ Berquist, Nancy Willard - all in the USA

*Sus Nyrop in Denmark

*Tanya Eddowes formerly of New Zealand now in UK

*Karrie Dietz in Uzbekistan

*Brenda Dyck in Canada

*Silvia Celani in Italy

Edited by cecilia
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