Gender and Computers: Understanding the Digital Divide

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Gender and Computers presents evidence that shows that girls and young women are being left behind on the road to information technology. This book not only documents the digital divide but also provides guideposts to overcoming it. Social psychological theories and data are brought to bear on understanding the societal and environmental roots of the divide. Remedies ranging from family dynamics to teacher-student interactions to the controversial question of the gender organization of schools and school systems are proposed.

Gender and Computers: Understanding the Digital Divide:
*considers the authors' original research as well as recently published work by other leading scholars;
*documents that girls are at a marked disadvantage in their ability to learn about and profit from information technology in our educational system;
*sets the problem of computer anxiety in a rich context of social psychological theories, including stereotype threat, self-fulfilling prophecy, social comparison and attribution theory; and
*offers suggestions that parents, teachers, and school systems can implement to overcome the digital divide.

The book is intended to appeal to students and researchers in the social and behavioral sciences, education, human factors, and computer science interested in gender differences in general, and in human-computer interaction, in particular. The authors' goal is to stimulate social scientists and educators to further research this topic to generate solutions to the problem.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805844269
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 7/28/2003
  • Pages: 182
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. Introducing the Problem. Computer Anxiety: A Matter of Gender. The Social Context of Computing. Expectancies and the Computer. A Threat in the Air. Working Toward Solutions. Solutions: Single-Sex Schools and Classrooms?

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2011

    Recommended - Text-bookish, but very informative.

    MSU Book Review
    By: Terri Rose

    Before reading <i>Gender and Computers: Understanding the Digital Divide</i> by Joel Cooper and Kimberlee D. Weaver, I was very skeptical. I was interested in the topic, but I was not so interested that I had a strong desire to pick it up like I did with some of the other page-tuners that were calling out from my bookshelf.

    Ever since beginning to talk about how technology is often geared towards a male audience in one of my college courses I have wondered about why this is so. Being a girl who is interested in computers and is often online to connect with friends or look through the vast sources that can be found on the internet for research or classes, I never felt like there was a very large gap. This book proves otherwise. The authors have provided a wealth of information that is presented in a clear, concise format. There were two main ideas that I found to be particularly intriguing.

    The first is the anxiety that girls often face in a pre-college classroom in response to computers. Females in classrooms gravitate away from computers and often lack confidence when they are faced with activities that require technological interaction. The authors point out that they often feel inadequate because girls do not connect with the interests that computers appeal to: interests of most typical young boys. Most computer programs, both educational and non-educational, give rewards and tasks such as fishing, golfing, sports scoring, and shooting things. These are not things that appeal to young girls, and that was a point that was made very clear in the book.

    Another focus was on how the stereotype of males being better at things related to computers often is self-fulfilling. The authors explain about how boys know that they are expected to be better at computers and they often work harder at such tasks and get better at them as a result while girls are often expected to fail or not perform as highly. They end up finding the computer as some threatening thing instead of a tool and often do not perform well when required to use one because of this as well.

    The authors provide statistics to back up all of their claims, and it has been very well researched over a number of years. I will admit that in the beginning I had a very difficult time getting involved in this book because it reads dryly like most any textbook picked up off of a shelf. However, it is very informative and definitely worth a read. I think as an educator it is really important to know the facts and to be informed of things such as these so that we can be aware. If one is informed we can make an effort to do things within the classroom to help prevent this gender gap that will increase the disparities between men and woman in the future of a society that is becoming so technology driven.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2011

    Must Read for Teachers!

    The book opens up explaining that children are introduced to computers for two reasons. The first is that computers motivate them to learn. The second is that they prepare them for a technological society. Computers should not only be accessible, but computer programs must be enjoyable for all students, regardless of race, gender or income. The book is set up so that it first explains the digital divide caused by race and income. This divide is caused by unequal access to computers. The book explains that the poor are being left behind, but what some are failing to see is that there is a gender digital divide as well. It discusses how this divide is a matter of gender, explaining the differences in what boys like when it comes to computer programs and what girls prefer. Boys like competitive programs that are set up in a game style format. They like games that focus on sports, war or space and have lights and sound effects to accompany when they do something correct. The book then explains what girls like, basically saying that girls do not like all the things that boys prefer. Girls want their software programs to be learning tools that provide them with frequent feedback. The most important claim of this book is that it is not just about whether or not elementary school kids are enjoying computer games, this gender divide continues throughout their entire education and can have a serious impact on their adult lives. The book specifically says, "One of the reasons the inequities increase with time is that as girls shun the computer and boys gravitate toward it, not only do boys become more comfortable learning computer software, but also the culture that builds up around the computer becomes extremely male oriented," (25). This culture that builds around the computer is the culture of 2011. I believe this book is a beneficial read for all teachers and parents because, as it explains, this digital divide will have impacts on their entire lives. For teachers, specific solutions are offered that can be implemented into classrooms easily, such as how to go about choosing software that will appeal to every student in your classroom and how to provide appropriate feedback for all students when using the computer. As a parent, it is always important to be aware of situations facing your child. This book is an interesting and easy read that can equip you with the tools you need to start a conversation with your child's teacher about this issue to ensure they are not only aware, but are making the conscious effort to decrease the digital divide present in their school.

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  • Posted May 6, 2011

    Great Book!

    This book is a must read for someone going into education. As educators, we have to realize that girls are at a disadvantage in the technology field. This simply should not be. Schools should be a place where everyone is treated equally, regardless of gender. But due to harsh stereotyping, it has been accepted that boys are more suited for fields in technology, and girls are very few and far between in the field. I just had a class on effective classroom organization and management, and we discussed many of the same issues that was pointed out in this book. Gender stereotyping is very prevalent in today's education, no matter how much people try to say it is not. The authors do a really good job in pointing out the problems our children are facing in the classrooms. We are living in an age in which technology is so prevalent in everyone's lives, and this spans between both genders. It is important to everyone that we should all be given the equal opportunity to learn and achieve in the fields of technology. The book points out that even those women who have sought to make a living in different fields of technology, most of the time are hired for lower paying jobs than men. Historically women have dealt with the glass ceiling for a very long time, and the authors give a good explanation as to why this issue still exists in the technology workforce. I also liked that the authors were of different genders, it made me feel like they wanted to write this with a better understanding of each gender's perspective. Unlike some books that just leave issues like this out in the open, the authors also effectively provide what they feel like could be solutions to this issue. All in all, I was deeply moved by the book, and it should be on any educators list to read.

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  • Posted December 6, 2010

    Awesome Read!!

    Gender differences have always been something that we have known as a world; we have been divided, male and female for a very long time; especially when it comes to electronics. I wanted to read this book for my own benefit, men are always doing more with technology than women and that has caused a divide, just like the title suggests. Joel Cooper and Kimberlee Weaver did a wonderful job of looking at both sides of the topic. To me this book was more reliable because it had co-authors of the opposite sex, and the book shows both sides, it wasn't biased in opinions.
    The gender divide in technology is scientifically based and valid. It is proven that men have the upper hand in this field. The book covers many trials and experiments that make this information true. Girls are not pushed to use computers and are not taught to feel comfortable around them. Studies show that girls feel anxiety and fear around computers and it's as if it the box sitting in front of them is an unknown object, girls sense computers as a set up for automatic failure.
    I don't want to give away to much information, I want you to read this book for yourself, but three things that cause the divide is competition, social comparison and knowledge. These three things seem to be the cause of the divide and ultimately the book revolves around these three issues. The book does an excellent job at proving the point that women are suffering due to the men dominating the field of technology. Women are going to fall behind and are not going to be able to make as much money during their careers because they don't want to enter this competitive field because of the three topics I just mentioned. This is something that needs to change, that's why I read this awesome book. I am a teacher in training and I want to make the digital gender divide come to a close, this book is an easy read, I read it in one sitting. I encourage and suggest that all people that work with children to read this fine book because we can change the division!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2009

    Gender and Computers, by KChaney

    Personally, before reading this book, I was already enthralled by the title. I have always wondered why electronics, computers, and things of that nature were inadvertently connected to boys, or to say, males. As I suspected, Gender and Computers: A digital divide, turned out to be a very good read. I, at least, was immediately hooked, wanted to read on in it. To me, it is one of those books that are equally readable at home and the college classroom. This book is about something that is extremely important and relevant to basically everybody.
    Gender and Computers, says that girls and young women are being "left behind on the road to information technology". It talks about that and how the girls/women can over come these issues. This book is solely based upon the college level of reading because it uses many experiments and data to prove the information true. From what I gained from the book, the authors' goal is to get educators to further research this topic and gather solutions to the problem. This book will get scientists and educators to open their eyes and find some changes to the inequality in computer and technology use for the boys AND girls.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this Gender and Computers because it gave me some insight and information about a topic I was interested in. The idea of women being left behind in technology is seen all around us in our lives right now. I have noticed, and will probably notice even more after reading this book, that in the classrooms computer based learning leans toward the male population. Being in college as an education major, I found this book to be helpful and a tool for my future use of technology in the classroom. I would advise anyone going into the field of education or computer sciences to read it!

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  • Posted April 29, 2009

    A must for Computer Teachers

    When I first got this book for my Integrating Technology class in the mail, I thought "Oh, no! This is like a textbook! I'm going to hate reading this!" I set it aside until spring break week, hoping that I could get through at least one chapter without wishing I was on a beach. A chapter later, I was surprised by how interesting and well written the book was. I think one of the major reasons that the book appealed to me was because as a girl, I can relate to the feeling that computers are a male dominated world.

    This is the main premise of the book. Basically, girls are being left behind in the digital age. The book clearly lays out why this is, what we can do to stop this, and why this is such a concerning issue.

    According to the book, girls are not getting jobs in high paying/ high tech businesses (businesses that require high competency with computers), because they are living up to expectations. That is the expectation that computers are for men! Think about it for a moment. The majority of software out there is designed for men by men. How many computer games in our schools require students to blow up asteroids or alien spaceships? to hit a baseball or to pass a football? to catch a fish? Most of them! Girls can not relate to this, and thus, girls are being fed the lie that computers are for men. Even their parents hold these stereotypes, and parents are more likely to buy their son a computer than their daughter.

    How do we know that girls are feeling the effects of these negative stereotypes? The authors conducted a study on how anxious girls felt when they were playing "male" software at school. The results showed that girls hated it. They felt anxious and uncomfortable. They preferred games with simulation like the Sims compared to the games that they were constantly given (war, sports, and action games). Also, just being in the room with males was enough for girls' performance on a game to be worse. Later on, these girls would go on to believe that they were not as capable as boys when using a computer even though they had the same amount of computer courses.

    As a teacher, there are several things we can do to stop this. This book details some of these things, including a chapter on homogenous grouping.

    I believe this book is a very important book for teachers to read. If we are to give our girls, an equal chance at succeeding at high paying jobs. They need to know that they are capable of. They can be just as good at computing as men. They also need to know that there is nothing unfeminine about that sort of occupation. I would highly recommend this book to all future educators, especially computer teachers.

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  • Posted April 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A good book to become aware of the digital divide.

    I was a bit hesitant to dive into this book. I knew the stereotypes concerning gender and computers, although I didn't think it was a pressing issue. This book changed my perspective on implementing technology into my classroom. I was unaware of the underrepresentation of women in the technology field. I also did not know that many women suffer from computer anxiety and that the same program that stimulates learning in males fails to do so with women. Teachers believe that by using "fun, fast-paced" video games they are making learning desirable for all. They do not see that women are often turned off by these types of programs and prefer computer programs to be more like learning tools providing direct and frequent feedback. Women are being left behind in the technology revolution and many feel incapable of succeeding.
    The book is divided up into seven chapters. After an introduction chapter, the next five chapters each cover a different psychological factor that hinders girls computing potential. It is important to note that when girls are alone and experiencing the same program as boys for the first time, the two genders perform equally. Therefore, one can conclude that lack of ability is not an issue. Girls experience more computer anxiety when working with computers. They are also aware of their gender role and may cringe at computer games with shooting missiles or other "boy-related" features. They are also aware of the stereotypes surrounding them and computer use. Even when students are forced to overcome stereotypes, they must face a world that will be less receiving to them because of the stereotype.
    I found the last two chapters the most beneficial to future teachers. Chapter 6 discusses different approaches teachers should take for student success in the classroom. Parents also play a key role in communicating to students societal attitudes. Chapter 7 debates the issue of whether a single-sex institution or classroom is more rewarding for students than the traditional co-ed institution.
    I thought several of the book's suggestions were interesting. Their voluntary girls-only computer clubs seem like a great idea to combat the stereotype as well as give girls the opportunity to explore technology that interests them. I found the concept of "wise schooling" interesting. In "wise schooling" teachers challenge their students to succeed and then provide encouragement along the way to help students rise to the challenge's expectations. Boys and girls should receive equal attention and equal challenges.
    I enjoyed this book. It is a helpful resource for teachers to read before they decide to use computer programs in their classroom. Computers are still a new resource and scientists are just now finding out how to best utilize them in education. This book helped me to become more aware of gender stereotypes. I will try as an educator to utilize several of the solutions in this book in my classroom.

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