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TEACHERS.NET GAZETTE
MAY 2001
Volume 2 Number 5

COVER STORY
Harry & Rosemary Wong offer advice on motivating your students. Tune in to this month's Gazette cover story and pick up tips from the experts to enhance your students' performance....
COLUMNS
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
Alfie Kohn Article
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
BCL Classroom by Kim Tracy
ARTICLES
Around the Block With...
The Unsinkable Sub
Interview: Cheryl Sigmon
Role Of The Online Teacher
Browser Maintenance
Poetic License Information
Learning Improvement Tools
Mars Society Contest For Students
Book Review: Cloud Woman
Family Library Visit
Stellar Walk of Fame
Emotions of A Sight Impaired Child
SFA and Research
REGULAR FEATURES
Poll: Do You Hoard Supplies?
Upcoming Ed Conferences
Humor from the Classroom
Letters to the Editor
New in the Lesson Bank
Help Wanted - Teaching Jobs
Gazette Back Issues
Gazette Home Delivery:


About Beth Bruno...
Beth is a freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience in mental health and education. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in Psychology in 1966. She continued her education at Harvard University (Ed.M. in Educaton, 1967) and Yeshiva University (M.A. in Clinical Psychology, 1976). Beth has served as Chair of the Psychology Department for the Special Children's Center in Ithaca, New York, and has worked as Adjunct Instructor at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.

Beth Bruno has always been "fascinated by people--their motives, emotions, what makes them tick." Her ability to "read people and connect with them" is a true gift. As a school psychologist, her philosophy is not to solve problems for people, but rather "to help people discover their inner resources and create ways to help themselves." "Some people fear the unknown," she says. "I welcome it, because I can usually make the best of whatever happens." Beth encourages questions from young people, adults, educators and professionals. She will do her best to answer each question personally and in a timely manner. She can be reached via email at bethbruno@teachers.net.

Click here for more articles by Beth Bruno.
 


 
Ask a School Psychologist
by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.

Gender Equity on the Internet

The public's perception, at least mine anyway, has been that males dominate professions in technology, especially computer technology. One place to check out these perceptions is on the Internet. So I asked a computer-savvy friend of mine, Nicole Chardenet, who talks daily with people in Internet chatrooms, to find out what teenage girls think about their generation's knowledge and experience in cyberspace. Here are her illuminating findings:

It's 10:00 p.m. and your daughter is on AOL. Is she talking about boys with her best cyberbuddy in Duluth or is she swapping HTML and Javascript tips with other Net teens, male and female alike?

Does she even talk to boys at all, considering how rude and sexually aggressive we've been told they are on-line, and considering how delicate and sensitive girls are supposed to be?

"Actually, I like talking to guys online better than to girls, as I can relate to them more," wrote Lilith, a 16-year-old girl I met in the Usenet newsgroup. She was holding her own, quite logically and coherently, while debating matters of God and faith in the interfaith religious debate forum.

Lilith is her cyberhandle. She goes to an all girls' school and has had virtually no experience with boys in technology classes, although she deals with them all the time on the Net. According to a recent article in the computer trade magazine Infoworld, research from the International Data Corporation, the Internet was a man's world in 1995, but is almost 50% women now and is expected to meet or exceed that number in 1999. No one seems certain how many are teenage girls, only that their numbers are growing, too.

Although high-tech industry and the Internet are no longer a man's domain anymore, with names like Esther Dyson, Kim Polese, and Heidi Roizen taking their place among the traditional movers and shakers like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy -- women still segregate themselves in places like Cybergrrl http://www.cybergrrl.com and Webgrrls http://www.webgrrls.com

And the focus very often turns to teenage girls, who, we're told, don't speak up in classes with boys, whose teachers call on boys more and who lose interest in math and science when they hit adolescence. How are we going to get them to prepare for engineering courses in college so they can even the playing field in the high-tech industry, where boys still outnumber girls?

Maybe the picture isn't as bleak as it looks.

"I don't believe that cyberspace or computer teachers teach boys any differently than girls, at least not in computer applications classes in my middle school," commented Kit, now in high school. "I have noticed that computer lovers are drawn to other computer lovers, whether that means students, teachers, male, female, or otherwise. I suppose this has something to do with common understanding, and the fact that they know what they are talking about."

Still, some folks are surprised when they discover that girls know geekspeak. Rene, who takes her handle from the main character of the obscure British sitcom "'Allo 'Allo", reports that people are surprised to find out she knows HTML and has created her own web page from scratch. "If I send out an Instant Message (IM), a method of instantly contacting someone on-line at AOL, the receiver generally assumes I'm male until told otherwise. My screen name is CafeRene4, (basically a unisex name), so one can make one's own assumptions. When visiting a site, you usually assume the site designer is male until told otherwise."

Kit also concurred with Rene's assessment of attitudes about teenage girls. "I think that sometimes people believe that girls aren't capable enough to understand what goes on with the Net; that the only people who do comprehend it are zit-covered boys with a love for pocket protectors. This is simply not true. One of my best friends is extremely good at HTML and Javascript and has built several of her own web pages. Most girls I know use the Internet for e-mail, chatting, and research, (be it personal research or otherwise). I find that one of the best uses for it is to keep up with my long distance friends."

So they might not necessarily be trading HTML tips or advice on getting Active X applets to run on their web sites, but then again, they might be. This is perhaps the first generation to completely grow up with the new technology of home computers and Internet access.

The images of "girl geeks" are beginning to permeate the mass media, too. For example, there's Kim, the young coder married to Mike Doonesbury and stepmom to his computer literate, business-smart daughter in the comic strip. And there's Willow Rosenberg, the brainy straight-A hacker who helps her friends fight vampires or demons on the Internet on Warner Brothers' "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (a show which also featured a hip female computer science teacher). And let's not forget Lexie, the pre-teen computer nerd who knew UNIX and therefore helped save the day in "Jurassic Park."

Hey, it might be one of those "girl geeks" who eventually writes a software program that sets Bill Gates on his ear, right?

    Nicole Chardenet, Newington, CT

    Nicole Chardenet is a computer consultant from Bristol, CT who has been on the Internet since 1994. She used to co-write a technology column for a CT alternative newspaper and still freelances from time to time.

As early as kindergarten the stereotypes about computers being more identified with boys than with girls has begun, because the world of computer and video games is so strongly associated with the play of boys, not girls. Middle school aged boys are three times more likely to attend computer camps than their female counterparts. Computer games are the world of "Game Boy," and the name is no accident. 75%-85% of sales and revenues in the $10 billion computer game industry come from male consumers. According to a study done by Mattel and reported in Newsweek in October, 1996, for every four software program parents buy for their sons, they buy only one for their daughters. The gap is narrowing, but still exists.

One initiative is to develop software and computer games that appeal to girls, such as games with female protagonists and games that downplay competition, violence and control in favor of challenge, curiosity, fantasy and cooperation, features which increase motivational value for all players, girls as well as boys.

Best Practices for Teachers - to keep girls involved with technology

  1. Emphasize technology as a tool not a toy; this is how most girls use it.
  2. Actively seek and use software that is appealing to girls.
  3. Encourage girls to go beyond word processing. A simple course in computer architecture, common vocabulary and simple programming can go a long way in demystifying the computer.
  4. Connect use of technology to real problems, to the good of the world and its people.
  5. Help students to imagine careers in which technology will be an important tool.
  6. Consider the technology venue; small computer pods and collaborative use are appealing to many girls.
  7. Monitor the use of technology. Be sure girls are not relegated to watchers or notetakers. If boys dominate the computer room, consider forming a special girls club.
  8. Train girl experts. Have them run classes or monitor computer labs.
  9. Don't let girls' strengths become their weaknesses. Don't encourage speed over reflection.
  10. Encourage experimentation. Remind students that most everyday technology isn't fragile.
  11. Work with parents. Help them to share your high expectations for their daughters.
  12. Great resources:
    • Video: How Computers Work from Boston Computer Museum
    • Free curriculum from Intel: The Journey Inside the Computer
    • Kids Network Units: National Geographic Society
    • FIRST contest: School/industry robotics competition
    • Hands on science and technology units: TERC
    • Free units and materials: NASA
Internet Links to Achievements of Girls and Women in Cyberspace:



Beth Bruno bbruno@snet.net
Welcome to Insights, the Luckiest Spot on the Internet

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