Computing, Girls and Education: What we need to know to change how girls think about information technology.
Keywords:intervention programs, gender and IT, education, curriculum design, computing and girls
Despite significant efforts and many intervention programs over the years to encourage girls to study computing, we continue to see a declining interest. Girls’ lack of engagement with technology at school is resulting in fewer women entering the Information Technology (IT) workforce. Our research investigated whether a long-term intervention program with a specifically designed school-based curriculum could change girls’ minds about computing generally and increase their confidence and interest in an IT career. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected from girls and teachers before, during, and after this program was implemented. A conceptual model of the school-based influences on girls’ attitude was developed from the literature and used to explore the data. Findings from this four-year project added rich insights and resulted in a comprehensive model of ‘Factors that Influence Girls’ Attitude to IT.’ This research demonstrates that a carefully designed IT curriculum, delivered in single-sex classes, reinforced by opportunities to interact with role models, and timetabled in regular class time, can and does change girls’ attitudes to IT. We also found that the students reported improved confidence and increased interest in IT. We posit that our refined model of ‘Factors that Influence Girls’ Attitude to IT’ is a valuable reference tool. Teachers, academics and professionals who are implementing programs to promote IT to girls can use it.
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