One aspect of online learning that is not often discussed but I feel is important to consider is technology and gender inclusiveness. Gender inclusiveness refers to the practice of presenting material in a way that does not exclude one gender over another and matches ability levels and learning approaches of both genders. There are indications that the use of technology in education affects girls and boys differently. A great example of this is in a BBC article about using technology in a school science project. The teacher noted that the girls and boys responded differently to the project. Boy teams focused on the programming and were more dominant whereas the girls were more democratic and were more social, focusing on writing the script and building before programming. As a designer, choosing the tool and approach that matches both styles is critical for a successful learning environment.
Why is this important to consider? Nationwide trends show that there is a gap in the use of computers and technology between boys and girls. Boys think computers are cool for “design, games and video” and girls refer to them as “boring and hard” (O’Brien, C, 2009). Improving positive attitudes about technology and computers start with including and engaging both genders in design. Designers need to look at the content, interface and instructional structure of the tech tool and ensure inclusiveness that allows both groups to be comfortable with the tool.
What are some of the issues that need to be considered in the design? Since girls report having fewer technology skills than boys, basing the tool on prior knowledge of both the tool and content would be important. Boys like to “do” things and enjoy having choices whereas girls like to have things explained to them before they get started so providing a multimodal approach would beneficial. Girls tend to enjoy collaborating and working together were boys having a more competitive nature. Design the educational tool to include all approaches would make it more appealing. Since girls have reported less tech skills than boys, having an opportunity to receive help and immediate feedback might increase positive feeling toward the tool. A final inclusive approach to consider would be to allow participant to have their own input and be allowed to take responsibility which might increase ownership of learning.
Try and do your own research on this subject and you will find it difficult to discover quantified studies. More research and sharing of experiences like the Lego class needs to be done because technology is being integrated into school curriculum at a fast pace.
BBC News (2002). Lego Robot Challenge Aids Learning. Retrieved August 13, 2010 from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/2527875.stm
Black, L. & Scogan, L (2000). The Technology Gap. Retrieved August 13, 2010 from: http://www.womensmedia.com/new/girls-tech-gap.shtml
Heemskerk, I., ten Dam, G., Volman, M. & Admiraal, W. (2009). Gender inclusiveness in educational technology and learning experiences of girls and boys. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(3), 253-276.
Obrien, C. (2009). Gap Between Boys and Girls Persist in Tech. Retrieved August 13, 2010 from: http://www.physorg.com/news164511553.html