Blogging my homework: Teaching IT should not be gendered

This is cross-posted from my class response on Blackboard to the reading Not just a dollhouse: what The Sims2 can teach us about women’s IT learning.

I tried to keep an open mind as I read this article. I really did. I have to tell you it was hard when the article about how a game could help explain how when approach IT learning was framed in the following way:

about 60 per cent of Sims players are reported to be female, leading to the common perception that The Sims is a ‘‘girl’s game,’’ with articles in the popular press pronouncing The Sims to be ‘‘the new dollhouse’’

I knew I wasn’t going to be a passive reader of this paper the moment I read this:

While this drop (enrollment in formal computer science degree programs) has been attributed in part to the IT industry crash in the early years of this century, many educators admit that much computer science instruction is vastly ineffective and outdated, with prerequisites such as advanced mathematics courses that are no longer relevant.

Sigh.

First of all, this is an extremely simplified view of why CS enrollments are down. These enrollments are down mainly in the West, and probably have more to do with the fact that so many CS jobs were outsourced. Besides techie parents (including myself)  discouraged kids from going into CS, the entry level computing jobs CS grads require to really build skillsets were the first to be offshored.

Secondly, only someone who does not actually work in my industry would say that advanced mathematics courses are not relevant to someone who is planning to build code, do networking, etc etc. That is just a stupid and silly statement.

Obviously the authors of this paper mean something else when they talk about computer literacy. It almost sound as if they mean technical proficiency – not setting up and building the systems but interacting with widgets and information. Two different things.

As a technical woman, I really have a problem with equating what women can or should be prepped to do in a digital world with that sort of work. Its almost like the digital version of “woman’s work”. Maybe that is what sets up the gendered environment that keep girls from pursuing technical studies.

There are many leaps in logic in the article as well. The authors suggest that girls do not find programming courses relevant because course content is not tied to their pursuits and existing uses of computing. This was supported by a reference from twelve years ago entitled “From Spice Girls to Cyber Girls? The Role of Educational Strategies in the Construction of Computer-enthusiastic Girls in Norway“.  That’s right, this article says computer instructions is not tied to interests of girls based on a paper written about a study of 41 girls from Norway more than a decade ago. Computing has changed so much since then, it has to make me wonder if computer instruction has changed as well.

What do the authors think computer instruction should be tied to so that it is more relevant to girls? Do they honestly the content most  relevant to girls is a game that can be described this way:

‘‘household simulator,’’ … with the objective of fulfilling needs and wants of virtual families through strategies that reflect rather blatantly consumerist and hedonistic values: buying and decorating houses, earning lots of money, partying, falling in love, and developing ‘‘skills’’ ranging from cooking to charisma.

Isn’t that just reinforcing old stereotypes of about the desires of women, and the work that women should do? Really what are ‘‘socially useful’’ activities? Is this subtle enforcement of how girls should be, what they should like, what activities they should pursue in order to be “socially useful” the underlying reason girls lose interest in technology when they become teenagers?

The article talks a lot about how boys bond and become more deeply interested in computer science because of gaming. For example:

Gaming seems to offer boys a means of developing technology-oriented peer social networks, something that even more tech-oriented girls seem to lack

Most tech-oriented girls game right along with the tech-oriented guys. Here’s my theory: the subtle pressures to act like a girl – to find more socially useful activities – may be too strong for some girls.  They give up hanging with the geeks to be socially accepted, and excuse themselves from the community that would push them to expand their expertise in all things digital.

We have to fix that. We have to keep girls connected to those gaming communities through their teen years. We have to find some way to help them to fight back the overwhelming societal pressure to take up “socially useful” activities. I believe this is the way we’ll get more women in IT.

Blogging My Homework: Embracing Interactivity

This week in my Multi-Media class we started reading Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds by Clark Aldrich. This will mean much complaining about Second Life in my tweet-stream soon, as we will have an assignment based on virtual worlds soon. I apologize in advance for that. 😉

So far, I really like this book. The first sentence in the book is an example of a virtual situation:

Imagine that you get a phone call at 2 in the morning, and you are told that you just won $1000.00. But there is a catch. You have to spend it all before sunrise.

Notice that virtual had nothing to do with technology? That its more about the story you are telling? This concept hooked me on the book right away.

But it was Chapter 2 – Embracing Interactivity – that has had my mind going since I read it. He provides 7 interactivity levels as a rubric of sorts. Levels 0 – 3 are Pre-Game levels, and Levels 4 – 6 are game levels.

  1. Level 0: Instructor speaks regardless of the audience. Think talking head
  2. Level 1: Instructor pauses to as single answer questions. When the question is answered, the class moves on.
  3. Level 2: Instructor tests the audience, and depending on the answer skips ahead or backtracks
  4. Level 3: Instructor polls the audience
  5. Level 4: Students engage in a lab that has a single solution
  6. Level 5: Students engage in open-ended lab and create unique content
  7. Level 6: Students engage in a long, open ended process such as writing a story or creating and executing a plan. He mentions Thiagi’s training games here.

This is all very familiar to me. I have my CompTia CTT+ (certified technical trainer certification), and many of these things are required to pass that certification.

But then Aldrich explains interactivity levels and leadership models. He referenced leadership theory as explained by Gary Yukl. Alrdrich says that “the levels of interactivity correspond to specific leadership styles, which predict surprisingly well the subsequent effect on the so-called “target of influence” (in this case, the student).”

For example, Levels 0 -2 correspond to leadership styles such as “pressure, legitimate authority, and directive”. In other words, I’m the sage on the stage, I say you have to take this compliance training, now click next!!

But Aldrich says by the time you get to level 6, the leadership style changes to “collaboration and participation”. The learner is in control of the experience, and because of that (s)he is able to make the learning experience more meaningful.

I think this is very applicable to how learning organizations approach social media. If you put up a community, but expect to manage the learners with pressure, legitimate authority, and directive, students won’t connect with you. There is nothing in it for them, they will do what you have mandated and no more. If you are able to move to true collaboration and participation, letting the students be in charge of their own learning experience, they will have a reason to connect and re-connect to your community.

In other words, how we lead the community will determine how learners choose to connect and interact.

I think I’ll have to look for Yukl’s book at the library. But if you get a chance, read Alrdich’s book. I’m really enjoying it!

Blogging my homework: Podcast Pedagogy

NOTE: this post is copied and pasted directly from a Blackboard post I made. We were asked to tie what we know about how people learn with how podcasts might be designed.

I think any podcasting pedagogy has to be linked to the principles of connectivism. Here are the connectivist principles I think relate most to podcasting:

  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. A learner can exponentially improve their own learning by plugging into an existing network.
    Applying this to podcasts: podcasts by the way we have defined them should be a series of snack-sized instructional goodness that are available via some sort of syndicated feed. In other words, podcasts containing educational nuggets are available via a network. If we can get a learner to plug into that network, they can improve their understanding about the topics the podcast covers
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances. Learning (in the sense that something is known, but not necessarily actuated) can rest in a community, a network, or a database.
    Applying this to podcasts: A syndicated podcast can be shared with more than the individuals with whom we share the feed link. Google can index it, and based on Google’s algorithms it will show up in searches based on the code we have provided on the page where the feed resides. People can find the syndication feed in ways that make sense to them, and they can use the learning nuggets for things we may not have even considered when we designed the podcast.

Maybe the biggest thing to realize is we can’t control how our learners use the podcasts. George Seimens puts it this way:

Maybe for podcast pedogogy we have to start thinking of how the little bits of information we create in a podcast will influence our learners.

Blogging my homework: Timeline – To which generation do the first digital natives belong?

Since I’m way behind, I’m just going to copy and paste my paper (lame, I know!).

Here’s the link to my timeline.  I got the idea from the latest issue of EMC On magazine (I blogged about that here).

Here’s the paper, it explains the rationale.

The intended audience for my timeline would be anyone learning about social media. The intended use is to dispel the notion that individuals in their late teens and early twenties are “digital natives”. The term digital native is used to describe an individual who has always been exposed to digital technologies. The question is to which generation do digital natives belong? Some learning objectives would be:

  • Describe major events in Internet, web, social networking, and web history
  • State the dates that bound the generations called “Gen X” and “Digital Natives”

The lesson containing the timeline would be a historical lesson on digital technologies. The timeline would serve to put the technologies into perspective, and to show that the real beginning of what we are calling Web 2.0 began 40 years ago.

The bands on the timeline were constructed to reinforce the idea that many people that fit the description of Digital Native are Gen X’ers. The top band shows the dates where Gen X starts and ends, but continues to chunk time in 10 year increments. The bottom bands shows the dates where Digital Natives start and end. Important events about Internet history, web history, social networking history, and social media history are identified in the middle band. Even as the user scrolls to look at events that occurred at the beginning of the Digital Native timeline, you can see how the oldest Gen X’er is at that time.

I wrote the descriptions in the bubbles as I would a blog post. I used very little content to explain the event, but I hyperlinked to an article with more detailed information. I technically broke the Spatial Contiguity principle by linking out to more information, but that was by design. The lesson objective was to show that digital advances have been occurring since the late 1960s, not to teach complex technical innovations over the last forty years. The explanations of technical events on the timeline were short enough to satisfy the needs of novice learners, but links were provided for learners who wanted to dig deeper on the history of a particular technology.

Keeping to the Redundancy Principle, in most cases I used icons with the simple explanations. I chose icons because in the case of social media most people will have at least seen the icons before. With some of the older technologies, if it was not possible to find an appropriate graphic I did not include one.

Instructional Design Books I’ve read for my IS degree

Cammy Bean started me thinking about the books I’ve kept from my IS program over in her thread What is Instructional Design?

Since I am slacking this morning – totally delaying starting my homework and work – I thought I’d drag out the books I’ve kept from my IS program. Here they are, in no particular order:

I am in my last semester. I’ve been arguing with everything the first book we are reading says, so not sure if I’ll keep it. Its Mayer’s Multimedia Learning.

So – what have you read for your IS degree?