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Jan 22 2014 - 07:00 PM
The End of the Gender Gap

Title: Are Gender Differences in Perceived and Demonstrated Technology Literacy Significant? It Depends on the Model (2013)

Authors: Tina N. Hohlfeld, Albert D. Ritzhaupt, & Ann E. Barron

Source: Educational Technology Research and Development

Research Questions: Is the technology "gender gap" still relevant?

Study Design: Computer science has historically been and continues to be a male-dominated field, but computer use has become ubiquitous across genders and the current landscape of technology employment may not accurately reflect technology literacy and skill. The authors of Are Gender Differences in Perceived and Demonstrated Technology Literacy Significant? It Depends on the Model sought to measure technology skills in teenage students to determine whether the idea of a technology gender gap is still relevant.

The authors examined eighth grade students from 40 schools in Florida. The schools were diverse in size, technology integration, and economic prosperity. Participants took an online survey to gauge their attitudes about technology and record their demographic data. Students also took a performance-based assessment in which they interacted with simulated software to complete tasks. The authors controlled for socioeconomic status, which has been shown to significantly impact computer literacy, by using the percentage of free and reduced price lunch.

Findings: Results from the survey indicated that females had a higher perceived technology score than males. Female students also reported more frequent computer use compared to their male peers. The demonstration test confirmed the perceived technology score, with girls performing significantly better than boys in every category except graphics, presentation, and video editing.

Moving Forward: The results are good news for an industry concerned about gender equality; studies in 2006 and 2011 demonstrated the opposite result. The results also reveal that teenagers of all genders are using computers and are comfortable with technology, though activities females and males seek out on computers may be different. The technology demonstration activities focused on communication and research technologies used in school, like email and word processing, but left out many technology areas that have traditionally been eschewed in learning but are becoming more common, like gaming. These results are also good news for Florida’s Department of Education, which has been investing heavily in technology integration and teacher professional development since 2003. It seems that young women are no longer at a significant disadvantage when it comes to technology skill and use, but further research is required to gauge the potential impact on careers in technology.

Image: USB Microscope Student 030 by Brad Flickinger via Flickr