Tech-Savvy Gender Gaps and Social Computing

My friend, Reuven, with whom I am collaborating in an online collaborative literature project, passed along this report on the gender gap in computers, Tech-Savvy, which was published in 2000. Interestingly, while the authors touched briefly on the role of collaborative and project-based learning in order to bridge the gap between the genders, the aspect of social computing, so prevalent today in 2005, was seemingly unanticipated. However, the authors did briefly explore one group of female students’ interaction in a MOO (Multi-player, object-oriented environment). This was definitely a precursor to the social computing applications of today.

Just half a decade later, it is good to see that things are changing with regards to gender inequities in computer studies.

I believe it is the phenomenon of social computing that has changed the gender gap which has been so prevalent in the area of computers in education.

Yes, in the past I have watched the relative reticence of girls using computers compared to boys in the computer/technology classroom.

Social computing, which permits collaboration through relationship-building, has changed this dynamic. Has this been the link that has been missing in computer applications?

It has been quite refreshing to see the young women in my classes who have even stated out loud, “computers hate me!” discover the social computing tools of blogging and online forums. These social software tools have galvanized them, I believe, because of the potential for an authentic audience and engaging interaction.

While the study may now seem dated, it was encouraging for me to read the suggestions from so many teachers (over 900 interviewed through surveys) and how far we have indeed come in just 5 short years.