A Gendered World
First Monday

A Gendered World: Students and Instructional Technologies by Indhu Rajagopal with Nis Bojin

Abstract
A Gendered World: Students and Instructional Technologies by Indhu Rajagopal with Nis Bojin
Gender has become a significant issue in the various discussions related to the use of computers and instructional technologies (IT) in higher education. Are gender differences relevant in the students' learning process and their use of technological components in their courses? Is gender significant in determining the use of IT by students in colleges and universities? Does the study of how gender influences students' use of software and presentation formats, throw light on other general behavioural aspects of academic computer-users? This study uses surveys, both direct and online, of students in universities and colleges to explore whether gender is a critical variable in understanding what is labelled as user-friendly computer instruction and learning, Internet searches, and presentation software tools. It also seeks to explore whether and if so why, women students, as distinct from the men, do or do not embrace IT in their learning endeavors or use the new technological tools in handling their courses.

Contents

Introduction
Survey Methodology
A Conceptual Framework
Learning IT Skills and Level of Proficiency
Students Prioritize the Role of New Technologies in Education
Learning Styles, Contexts and Objectives
Conclusion

 


 

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Introduction

Statistics Canada (2002) reports that in 2001, among a total of 12 million households in Canada, at least one member in 7.2 million households was a regular Internet user, either from home, or from work, school, public library and other places. These figures show that from 51 percent in 2000, the percentage of regular Internet users has increased to 60 per cent of all households. Of the regular users from home (2.75 million households), at least one member of the household used the Internet for formal education or training. Most members of this group used the Web for their research, submitting their assignments, online academic communications, and for similar academic purposes. In 2001, about 12 percent of those who used the Web for formal education were enrolled in online courses or used the Net for self-directed learning. This study does not have gender-differentiated data. However, in the United States, the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI, 2000) of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies reports briefly on the type of gender-divide found in the increasing number of students who use new technologies in education. Studying freshman students and their familiarity with computers, HERI notes that in 2000, the gender gap has largely closed with almost an equal percent of female and male students reporting that they are frequent users of computers. However, women students are half as likely as male freshmen to rate themselves as skilled. This evident lack of self-confidence in women in relation to computers is attributed as the reason why five times more male students are likely to pursue computer science studies and related careers. The HERI report also notes that women students do not participate, as frequently as men do, in Internet chat rooms or in other Internet activities.

Rating IT skills in 21 countries, Reinen and Plomp (1993) found that in many of them, both affluent and non-affluent, male dominance is evident in the use of computers in schools. Nevertheless, Greg Scragg and Jesse Smith (1998) note that although the women they surveyed had, before entering higher education, substantially less experience than their male counterparts, they did not find any perceptions of women's peer group or family or own personal predispositions intervening as barriers to their entering computer science fields or related careers. Eszter Hargittai's (2002) data also show that gender influence is not significantly related to users' ability to navigate the content of the Web efficiently and the length of time it takes them to learn how to browse the Web. All the observations and survey results we report in this paper indicate that further examinations of gender-gap in various areas are necessary to study the problem of differences between male and female students.

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Survey Methodology

To study students' views, we cast our net continentally in North America [1] to capture the views of higher education students towards IT. Respondents to our surveys on the Internet come from colleges and universities in North America. The survey was placed on a Web page dedicated to this task. Special requests were sent to technology centres in various universities and colleges to allow us to place a banner on their Web site and to invite student participation. We posted the survey online to self-selecting respondents [2]. To make sure that these respondents would also be drawn roughly equally from each gender, we kept the responses coming in until the numbers of women and men students reached parity with the numbers of respondents from the printed, mailed-out surveys.

Questions in our survey focused on issues relating to students' use of IT and their attitudes and perceptions on using IT in their learning process and in their classrooms. Among other issues, the survey examined some specific areas that showed gender differences in the use of technology, which have been identified in various studies (Bostock and Lizhi, 2001; Blum, 1999; Ory et al., 1997; Spotts et al., 1997; Ford and Miller, 1996; Morritt, 1997; Durndell et al., 1995; Nelson and Watson, 1995; Brosnan and Davison, 1994; Okebukola, 1993; Kay, 1992; Kirk, 1992; Wilson, 1992; Wajcman, 1991; White and Righi, 1991; Bostock et al., 1987). The survey yielded results on students' behaviour and attitudes that can be grouped under three themes: learning of IT skills and self-rating of their proficiency in using them in relation to their courses in class or online; their views and understanding of the role of new technologies in education; and, their reflections on the way they learn and use IT as well as their preferred learning milieu. The questions on attitudes and views of students elicited responses on a Likert scale. The estimated overall response time needed was seven to ten minutes, and the survey also solicited open-ended comments that the respondents may wish to add. In addition to the Web survey, we administered a printed version of the survey by choosing the courses that used IT in North American campuses, and all students in those courses received the survey [3].

Following the methodology of Best et al. (2001), we ensured that our conclusions about the gendered variables, based on the Web survey, were similar to those that were drawn from our mail-out survey responses. We found the confidence level and the generalizability of our findings quite high. It is our hope that more studies like ours that use data drawn from two tracks — the Internet, and the mail-out — of surveys will have findings reinforcing the level of confidence we have attained.

 

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A Conceptual Framework

Three areas that are significant in understanding students' use of computers are their attitudes towards IT, learning goals using new technologies, and their level of computer skills. Literature in the field identifies a gender divide among students, which we attempt to examine in this paper through a survey. The conceptual themes for our analysis of these differences are students' learning of IT skills and self-rating of their proficiency, the way they perceive the role of new technologies in education, and their learning styles, contexts and objectives. We will address each of these issues in turn.

 

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Learning IT Skills and Level of Proficiency

Gendered self-assessment among students seems to be the predictable outcome in relation to four variables: gendered social contexts, level of experience in use of IT, patterns of dominance and collaboration, and socio-economic status of the family and family socialization.

First, gendered social contexts seem to influence the learning of computer skills and attitudes towards new technologies. Studies have shown that gender differences were largely related to computer anxiety and audience effect. Both male and female subjects performed better in the presence of an audience than alone, and the positive impact from a female audience was much stronger, especially for the female subjects. This suggests that female computer users are likely to be inhibited in their learning of computer skills if males are present during the learning process (Corston and Colman, 1996). Generally speaking, compared to boys, girls seem to exhibit greater levels of anxiety in using computer. While girls may think that computers are interesting, compared to boys, girls seem to have less interest in using computers for learning or for playing games at home. Girls seem to show a greater anxiety in using computers, while boys are reported to show greater interest in new technologies (Okebukola, 1993). Davis Kirk (1992), however, does not agree that there is gender differentiation and exclusion of female students in curricular areas relating to new technologies. He attributes students' attitudes toward computers and new technologies as significantly related to factors such as family socialization, media images, and differences in skill development between the male and female.

Experience in the use of IT is the second variable that contributes to gender differentiation among students. Differences in the number of computer classes attended and the amount of computer usage, were found to be positively related to gender differences about how computers were perceived as useful and reliable. Male students have more computer experience than female students, and therefore showed a more positive attitude toward computers than females did. Also, research shows that fewer female students (23 percent) rated their own computing skills as "above average," while double the percentage of male students (46 percent) rated themselves as "above average" (HERI, 2000). This may be related to the way how male students consistently rate their perceived ability in computers as higher, compared to the female students (Teasdale and Lupart, 2001). Nancy O'Hanlon finds, however, that generally all students tend to overestimate their proficiency in computer skills. Therefore, she suggests that higher education administrators should provide IT workshops for entry-level students, which will also serve as a means to level the playing field in IT training between male and female students (O'Hanlon, 2002).

Third, there are patterns of dominance and collaboration that are identified with male and female students. Research findings underscore the observation that boys tend to dominate in both computer literacy and intensity of interest in computer use (Young, 2001; Comber et al., 1997; Durndell et al., 1995; Koch, 1994; Beynon, 1993; Dyrli, 1993). The lesser level of confidence among female students in using IT may be related to their lesser experience with IT applications compared to male students (HERI, 2000; Bostock, 2001). Although Martin (1998) emphasizes that there were no gender-based differences in girls' enthusiasm for the use of computers, he confirms the findings of earlier research that girls worked more collaboratively than boys, articulated preferences for same-sex collaborative activity, interactively gained problem solving and critical thinking skills (Selby and Ryba, 1994; Pryor, 1995; Corston and Colman, 1996; Valenza, 1997, Sanders and Shetlar, 2001). In scholarly research on gender-based differences, there is broad acceptance on how, among females, play and work are more collaborative and affiliative, whereas males tend to be adversarial and hierarchical (Tannen, 1990; Tannen, 1994). Stephen Bostock and Wu Lizhi (2001) add that being more collaborative than the male students, led the female students to use especially their online discussion time more effectively; more than their male counterparts, they also reported that they enjoyed this facet of their online courses.

Fourth, socio-economic status of the family and family socialization influence gendered attitudes towards computers. Shashaani (1994) identifies that family socio-economic status (SES) and parental gender stereotypes about computing inversely influence female high school students' own attitudes towards computers. The gender gap in learning computers is an outcome of family socialization of male and female children, family values and parental expectations for the children, as well as parental attitude and encouragement in favour of computing. The stronger influence of parental attitudes substantially overshadowed the effect of SES on children's computer attitudes. A home environment without any "female-user role model ... may influence girls' self confidence [they may feel] that learning and working with computers are difficult tasks and that computers are in the masculine domain" [4]. Female students view computer culture synonymous with the culture of men and boys, and as particularly skewed towards the male students, for instance, software on games being often gender-biased and male-oriented.

As can be seen from the above discussion, gendered self-assessment is the predictable outcome of all the four variables. In self-assessment of IT skills, more male students than females give themselves a very high rating in each type of IT skills. HERI (2000) study on use of computers by freshman students in University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) shows an increase in their computer use from 68 percent 1999 to 78 percent in the year 2000. The gender gap has almost closed, with 78 percent of women students compared to 80 percent of men reporting frequent use of computers. However, only half of these women students (23 percent women versus 46 percent men) are as likely as their male counterparts to rate their own computing skills as "above average" i.e., as the high-skilled, top 10 percent. Thus, the study suggests that there is a statistically significant gap between female and male levels of self-confidence in using computers, which may explain why male students are five times more likely to pursue a career in computer programming compared to females. Another factor that may explain female students' lack of self-confidence in pursuing computer-related careers, and IT curricular training might be the preponderance of male students in the academic field of computer science; and the resultant male dominant culture in this area of study has been identified as one of the barriers that female computer science undergraduates face (Scragg and Smith, 1998).

Our survey findings focus on gender differences in specific areas of computer expertise. They show that although only 12 percent of male (three percent female) students declare their skill in creating or editing Web pages as excellent, 35 percent among the male students (68 percent female) report that they do not have any knowledge in this area. However, in the area of word processing, a clear majority of male (59 percent versus 46 percent female) students report their skill as excellent, and a few male (2 percent versus 6 percent of female) students indicate that they have no skill at all. While not as many male students report that they do not know word processing, in contrast, three times more women than men students report that they have no skill in word processing (Figures 1 and 2). These results defy the stereotype of women as typists if we were to identify word processing with typing, a field where women have been predominant.

 

 

 

 

It is evident from the literature that gender differences persist in computer-mediated communications (CMC), whether they are e-mail, newsgroups, or other forms of communications, and males tend to assume the same roles they do when communicating face to face. Male dominance in CMC has limited the involvement of females in this area of communication (Gregory, 1997). Male users also feel quite confident about their excellent skills in e-mail. Some female students, who are aggressive in gaining access to computers, risk becoming unpopular both with males and females; as a result, other females may find it rational and safer to be passive in this regard. Males could become bullies in their interactions with females because of their attempts to have dominant control over computer access and use (Beynon, 1993).

 

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Students Prioritize the Role of New Technologies in Education

Male and female students differ in their perception of, and emphasis on, the role of IT in education: female students emphasize improvement in access to education, whereas males stress improvement in quality of education. In reporting on the benefits accruing from the use of IT, indeed all students feel that IT makes learning easier and accessible. Both male and female students credit IT with the facility and ease with which they are able to access library and research resources by using computers and software. They both acknowledge that the new technologies have increased their productivity as students.

Their responses, however, show gender differences in their prioritizing the benefits accruing from their use of IT. Although both female and male students agree on how computers improve access to education at convenient times for learning, female students seem to emphasize the advantages of improving access to education at convenient locations for learners, whereas male students strongly feel that IT contributes to an improvement in the quality of higher education. The possible reason for this difference may be that female students face security and safety concerns when they need to stay late at night on campus for classes or for library research. Thus, although both male and female students have similar perceptions on how IT influences learning, there is one area in which female students slightly differ from their male counterparts. Fetterman (1996) describes those students who use the Web or IT as 'liberated' from class rooms limited to buildings on campuses. The class is online, and students' participation is not place-based in such courses.

Another dimension of techno-pedagogy relates to the medium through which learning becomes easier and accessible. A survey in the U.S. reports that female students' learning experiences through distance education significantly differed from those of the males; they identified the strengths and weaknesses of the online environment differently. In particular, female adult learners with children and family responsibilities found online courses accessible, convenient, and of great value (Sullivan, 2001). Gender differences in teaching styles, and concomitant students' learning responses, were also significant. For instance, women experienced positive teaching-learning situations through peer interaction.

Compared to their male counterparts, slightly more female students (26 percent versus 16 percent male) seem to identify with the process of learning, and feel that IT improves their learning. Men, on the other hand, see the outcomes of their learning, and feel that IT has increased their academic productivity (28 percent men and 20 percent women). These differences, albeit small, are significant. In their views on other issues, gender differences are not apparent (Figure 3). There seems to be a general consensus among all students about the usefulness of IT in general. However, more among male students (20 percent versus 12 percent female) find that use of IT makes their learning in classes more enjoyable. On the other hand, female students (26 percent versus 17 percent male) seem to emphasize research rather than in-class learning with the help of IT, and report that IT makes their academic research easier (Figure 4).

 

 

 

 

Contrary to Shashaani's (1994) findings that owning a computer at home does not influence students' attitudes, more female students in our survey indicate that owning a computer at home indeed facilitates their learning and research. Many female respondents to our survey note that they have no access to adequate computer hardware (female 48 percent versus 37 percent male), and to the Internet (42 percent male versus 34 percent female) at home, and therefore they feel restricted in choosing their courses, if the courses they wish to take are offered only online, and require researching online resources for class assignments. A major barrier most women students (75 percent versus 52 percent male) seem to face is the lack time for learning new technologies. This is particularly significant because half of the women students (54 percent versus 33 percent men) report that they are often constrained by lack of training they need to use academic software and other advanced IT programs. These barriers would seem to create a lower interest in four in ten women students, more than among men, in their learning to use all IT resources, although few report a sense of alienation in using computers (Figure 5). Several students express their experiences in their narratives excerpted below:

 

 

"I have no access to a computer at home and so I lag behind others who have done their work on the computer before they get to the campus. I may use the campus computers, but I work so many hours to pay for my fees that I hardly have any time to get to the campus at a reasonable hour to use the [computer] lab."

"Although I am interested in using the new software for the course, we have limited technical support for training students. When a guy comes to help us for the technical support group, he seems to be frustrated with the number of us whom he has to train. That is not very encouraging for us. Our professor tries to help us individually, but since it's a large class we need the support of the hands-on training staff to carry over the learning. But they are not very helpful."

"Although I am on campus many hours, I find that I need more time to work on the software needed for doing my project. Apart from the inadequacy of technical support in our university in spite of its big demands on our students and faculty to use computers and Instructional Technologies in teaching, students have to struggle hard to fit into their schedule more time to learn the new technologies. Time is hard to find especially for people like me being a women who has to straddle many roles at home and at the workplace."

Both female and male students find that IT enhances their research, expands their ability outside the class room in acquiring more skills, enhances their insight on class materials, makes learning easier and fun, and improves students' collaborative as well as leadership skills in learning and discussions. Michaela Driver (2002) confirms that both female and male graduate students perceive that their small, online group interactivity in a Web-enhanced classroom as satisfying and effective despite the lack of direct, non-technological person-to-person contact with their peers or teachers. However, Driver's observations are specific to small groups. Female students are cautious and explorative in their learning approaches. Cummings et al. (2001) add that faculty may often use e-mail for minor changes to their course syllabi, or for structuring their assignments, and that the Web has become a communication tool among students. Bonk and Cunningham (1998) argue that online courses have become important because they center on the learners, and lecturing to students is no longer the only way in which students are influenced to learn. The learning environment needs to be judged by the role and influence of other participants — friends, study group of peers, experts, field-specialists — who drop-in to communicate on the Web (Matusov and Rogoff, 1995; Tharp and Gallimore, 1988). The Web facilitates an interactive process of learning. Cummings et al. (2001) explain that the Web allows multidirectional exchange of ideas and communication, replacing the faculty's lecture that often tends to be unidirectional. These authors emphasize that students now have a chance to meet in online cafes, exchange personal interests, and learn online as a study group.

Evidence seems to show that female students associate spending more time in playing video or computer games, with lower perceived self-esteem on the part of male students (Funk and Buchman, 1996). Women students also seem to avoid currently available software that encourages highly competitive learning processes than cooperative learning, a style that they themselves prefer (Fasick, 1992). Learning seems to happen in a newer kind of environment when interfaced with Internet technologies because they provide opportunities for online collaborative interactions among learners and teachers, and more importantly, among learners themselves. Further, information-gathering and exchange through the Web are radically different from the earlier modes of getting information (Coy et al., 2001; Palloff and Pratt, 2000; Duchastel and Turcotte, 1996). Female, rather than male, students seem to be more attuned to this kind of learning and its benefits. As Kantrowitz (1996) notes, male students are extrapolative, and leap forward into technical learning for its own sake.

While both groups, male and female, agree that the new technologies contribute positively to education, women seem to rely more on their own experiences in analyzing the impact of IT on education. More female students emphasize that learning and productivity improve from the use of IT, and fewer of them feel that universities or schools that use new technologies are likely to attract more students. Twice the percentage among male students, compared to female, suggest that new technologies would attract more students to those schools and universities that use these tools in teaching their students. This is consistent with the observations made about the male tendency disproportionately to glamorize computers, i.e., their attractiveness to entice students, rather than view it in a practical sense as a useful learning tool (Kantrowitz, 1996).

 

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Learning Styles, Contexts and Objectives

Style of learning: Martin (1998) reports that, in general, female students needed less assistance, worked more cooperatively as a group, and had less time and less misstep, learning computer skills and completing the task on the Internet. Younger male students in secondary schools have more positive attitudes towards, and confidence in, computers. Female and male students have similar levels of enjoyments in the use of computers, although age differences in enjoyment remain significant (Durndell et al., 1995; Comber et al., 1997). In distance education, in a computer-mediated learning environment, there are few differences between students in their attitudes and achievements as a result of working cooperatively with a partner or otherwise. But female students, working cooperatively with a partner, were more interested in exchanging ideas, and were more positive about their own performance compared to those who worked individually (Savard et al., 1995). In computer-mediated communication (CMC), it was hoped that gender identity would be neutralized by gender disguise through the use of a pseudonym. But it was found that gendered language and non-verbal styles often gave away the individual's gender. Gender differences do exist in CMC, and males tend to assume the same roles they do when communicating face to face (Gregory, 1997). Students' open-ended comments in our survey indicate their preferred style of learning. A woman student writes:

"Computers are useful in making study groups and project partnerships. In courses where we have to do a lot of research to find information, it is very helpful to work together through chat-room discussions. Such quick communications among our group members help us coordinate our searches and writing. It's fun to learn this way."

Another woman student observes:

"When I first enrolled in this online course, I was worried about learning the course software and using the Internet so intensively for learning course materials. Within a week I have made many friends through e-mail and discussion groups. If I have any problem with accessing any site, I get instant help from my study group. We seem to be always talking to each other about many things of interest to us. Who would have thought that computers being a machine would help us get to know each other better!"

The collaborative learning pattern discernible in the above vignettes is supported by the findings of Palloff and Pratt (2001; 2000) about the propensity of the online learning process — a process that enhances collaborative interactions and reflective deliberations among students. Coy et al. (2001) emphasize that online learning communities advance learners' knowledge through mutually interactive exchange of questions and ideas. Further, Smith et al. (2001) argue that psychologically students engage in deeper discussions, and reflect on what they dialogue with their peers as their discourse on the various topics in their curriculum.

Contexts of Learning IT: Figure 6 attempts to compare students' views on learning contexts. It shows that female students (74 percent versus 59 percent male) seem to want to learn new technologies as a part of curricular content; this perhaps makes the objectives and relevance of learning the new skill clearer to them. Evidence shows that computers have observable positive impact when they are well-integrated into the class room for learning content in the overall context of disciplines and course curriculum (Morrison et al., 2002). Further, researchers also point out that using technology to learn course materials expands the students' critical understanding of how they are learning, and who they themselves are as learners (Palloff and Pratt, 2000; Coy et al., 2001). When female students learn new technologies in the process of learning their course materials, they seem to benefit from all these advantages of IT. The following narratives from our survey responses show how students feel about using IT in learning the course materials. A female student points out:

 

 

"I am using the various units of the course materials in an effective way because I can ask as well as respond to the postings on the bulletin board set up for our class. Often, I come away with a revised opinion on issues than the one I started with. I am able to examine and reexamine my own arguments in the context of those of others."

Another student, a male, comments:

"Computers are fun for learning anything whether course materials or games. Games software is, in fact, more difficult to learn so that you could compete with other players, than the course software and presentation formats. However, I do think that the new technological tools are expanding the possibilities of our learning."

The above view is echoed in the results of the HERI (2000) survey in the United States, which reports on the markedly different amount of time freshman students — men and women — spend on playing computer or video games. Men spend nearly four times more than their female counterparts, in playing computer games.

Objectives of Learning IT: Bostock and Lizhi (2001) argue that we have to look deeper into students' expressions in bulletin boards or in their online messages, and narratives on why they choose to learn IT. The above authors also note that although more women say that they are less favourably disposed towards using computers in their learning course materials and felt less confident in using them, in reality they found out, in their courses that did use IT and online discussions and course materials, that they were adept in using IT and sophisticated courseware, and preferred online discussions to face-to-face ones. They were also equally confident as men students, in using the course software. Although these women students had generally more negative attitudes to IT compared to male, they had more positive attitudes to using their courseware, and posted more online messages for academic discussions.

Our survey also confirms that women students learn IT in the context of their courses, and perform well in computer skills because they seem to be more purposeful or course-oriented learners, whereas their male counterparts consider skill in computer technologies as a purely technical proficiency. More male students (41 percent versus 27 percent female) seem to regard learning computers simply as a technical skill that might generally be useful. Their narratives indicate that male students' positive predisposition toward new technologies is related to the seductive appeal of the technology itself, rather than its practical uses. Men find computers as an extension of their own powers, and master those specific skills that would allow them to extend their personality and overcome physical limits (Knupfer, 1997; Kantrowitz, 1996). For male students, learning to create Web pages and edit them by employing the most up-to-date applets on the Internet are their ambitious learning projects. Creating their own Web pages seems to be intertwined with expressing their personality to the worldwide Internet users, and they see it as a goal in itself. In contrast, more female students (48 percent versus 28 percent male) prefer to learn new technologies with technical help, and with their peers, whereas most male students (72 percent versus 52 percent female) prefer learning these technologies on their own, if and when they need these tools (Figure 7).

 

 

Kantrowitz (1996) notes: "Focusing on the tool itself" is a male tendency and "focusing on the utility of the tool" is a female tendency. An education commission in the United States finds that although girls use new technologies as much as boys do, they are less interested in using the computer as a machine, and more interested in learning it as a tool of learning matters that interest them (Green, 2000). Women students seem to use technology in learning in a unique way, i.e., to build learning communities that allows them to eliminate barriers of isolation and competition in the learning process (Coy et al., 2001; Smith et al., 2001; Palloff and Pratt, 2001). These researchers argue that this form of learning experience adds a depth to their academic thinking and communication. In our survey, female, rather than male, students seem to be interested in technology for the reason that it helps them experience a different structure of learning — cooperative and dialogic — process and thereby enhance their learning of course materials. Our findings in this paper are in consonance with those by Coy et al. (2001), Killion (2000), and Palloff and Pratt (2001).

 

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Conclusion

Applying the metaphor of Coy et al. (2001), students' learning using IT can be compared to complex interactions within a spider web, with fibers connecting all participants, thus multiplying collaborative learning links. Students become aware of their potential to learn difficult materials when they use technological tools in a special environment. Learning in this constructivist environment facilitates seeking knowledge through experiences that students design for themselves, engaging in interactions with others, including teachers, within the context of a course. Gender-differentiated approaches of, and attitudes towards, learning with the use of IT need to be recognized in teaching and learning higher education courses that use IT. Teaching methods, courseware, and learning tools, all need to be carefully designed in order to enhance both female and male students' unique learning processes and outcomes. End of article

 

About the Authors

Indhu Rajagopal is an Associate Professor in the Division of Social Science at York University in Toronto, Canada.
E-mail: rajagopa@yorku.ca
Direct comments to rajagopa@yorku.ca

Nis Bojin is a research student in the Division of Social Science at York University in Toronto, Canada.

 

Notes

1. Continental North America — Canada and the United States — is more homogenous in the percentage of population that uses computers and new technologies. Therefore, it is easier to neutralize the overall economic factor that facilitates or prevents access to, and use of, computers. We must allow for the fact, however, that an individual's income is indeed related to his or her access to a computer at home or in the workplace. Jeroen de Kloet (2002) notes that the highest percentage and highest number of Internet users are in North America.

Internet Use Worldwide (as of August 2001)
Source: de Kloet (2002), Table 1; www.nua.ie; www.prb.org.

 
Million of users
Percentage of users
World Total
513
 
Canada and U.S.
181
35.3
Europe
155
30.2
Latin America
25
4.8
Asia/Pacific/Middle East
149
29.0
Africa
4
0.7

 

2. The prompts and tools of our sampling on the Internet were: listed e-mail addresses, ICQ, Newsgroups, and banners posted on educational technology centers associated with higher education institutions. We gathered equal number of male and female student online responses. We also collected the same number of male and female respondents from our printed survey. To overcome the limitations of not being able to draw a representative sample using the Internet, we tried the double-track. The rationale behind this double-track administration of the survey was to compare samples that were drawn simultaneously using the Internet and the postal system to a representative population being studied (Best et al., 2001). We wanted to make sure along the lines of Best et al. (2001), that our conclusions about the gendered variables, based on the Web survey, were similar to those that were drawn from our mail-out survey responses. This comparison allows us to suggest that for future surveys on new technologies and their use by specific populations, perhaps we could rely on the Internet surveys alone. However, one has to be aware of the limitations of the Internet in its ability to draw representative samples of Internet users. Since the issues we study relate only to a population that must have access to computers and use IT in their learning, the only requirement for responding to the survey was that the respondent should be a student in a college or university, who uses IT in his or her learning. For this analysis that applies to all students using IT, we did not disaggregate our data along students' age, or disciplinary area of their courses.

3. They all signed a consent form for participating in the survey. Web survey responses were received as e-mail, strictly maintaining respondents' anonymity, a method we designed using the form script in HTML. All data were then transferred from the original form-script data into Microsoft Excel format for disaggregating data. Equal ratios of male and female respondents were drawn from the Internet survey. From the mail-outs, we collected all responses whether male or female. These were administered in-class in both large and smaller courses in Arts as well as in Sciences. This process elicited a large number of male and female respondents and allowed us to maintain the proportion of responses form the Web survey and the mail-outs to maintain parity between the two tracks of surveys.

4. Shashaani, 1994, p. 362.

 

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Editorial history

Paper received 19 October 2002; accepted 24 December 2002.


Contents Index

Copyright ©2003, First Monday

Copyright ©2003, Indhu Rajagopal

Copyright ©2003, Nis Bojin

A Gendered World: Students and Instructional Technologies by Indhu Rajagopal with Nis Bojin
First Monday, volume 8, number 1 (January 2003),
URL: http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_1/rajagopal/index.html





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