How Can Unbiased Software Facilitate Girls’ Interest in IT?
A Checklist for Evaluating Software (Case Study 1)
To avoid gendered outcomes, we recommend that teachers carefully select and use software that appeals to girls as well as boys. A sample tool for guiding this selection is provided on the back of this sheet.
EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE IS GREAT, BUT …
Educational software (ES), including games adapted for classroom use, can increase students’:
Unfortunately, ES often has embedded gender stereotypes that reinforce masculine and feminine social roles and may promote gendered career interests. These embedded stereotypes can also create discomfort or anxiety that lead to under-performance and less interest and self-efficacy in IT.
TEACHERS INFLUENCE THEIR STUDENTS
Because teachers influence their students’ occupational intentions, they may be able to use this influence to reduce the gender imbalance in computing. Girls’ positive attitudes toward computing can be promoted when teachers:
QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN EVALUATING EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE
Consider the content, appearance, and structure of the software. To what extent are there both male and female central characters; and do they act in non-stereotyped positive ways? For example, do girls have roles beyond being a victim or a prize? Are women’s interests central or “special”? Do the appearance, packaging, voices, and soundtrack take into account preferences of different groups? Can the program accommodate different learning styles, roles, and skills? Is it possible to use the software in a collaborative way? Teacher responses to these questions will help make the extent of embedded gender bias apparent and help guide selection of the least biased software.
- Bhargava, A. (2002). Gender Bias in Computer Software Programs: A Checklist for Teachers. Information Technology in Childhood Education Annual, 205-218.
- Heemskerk, I., Brink, A., Volman, M., & ten Dam, G. (2005). Inclusiveness and ICT in education: a focus on gender, ethnicity and social class. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21(1).
- McNair, S., Kirova-Petrova, A., & Bhargava, A. (2001). Computers and Young Children in the Classroom: Strategies for Minimizing Gender Bias. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29(1).