Suggestions for building gender equity in digital technology at the classroom level
The causes of gender inequity are systemic, which indicates that change needs to happen at policy, curricula and industry levels. However, studies on intervention programs (Craig et al., 2013) and the selection of content and pedagogical techniques (Zagami et al., 2015) have shown that much can be done by teachers at the classroom level.
The Australian Interests and Recruitment in Science (IRIS) study by Lyons et al. (2012) revealed that women in science and technology rated the conventions of ‘working with something that is important to society, helping other people, contributing to sustainable development and protection of the environment’ (Anderson, 2015) as far more important in their work than men rated them.
Integrating these broader concepts into traditionally technical subjects may increase the appeal to non-male identifying students. Rather than teaching purely technical skills students could be asked to apply technical skills in order to solve societal problems.
Frameworks such as Bill Green’s 3D model which includes operational, cultural and critical elements (Bulfin & McGraw, 2015) or Vygotsky and Piaget’s constructivism (Albion, 2015) could be applied to lesson and unit plans to facilitate the application of technical skills.
Malone (2011) also advocates for the use of an ‘essential question’ when preparing a unit of work. In a Year 9 media class students could be asked to work in groups to answer the following:
“How could you use technology to strengthen multiculturalism and encourage cultural diversity in Australia?”
Students would then work collaboratively to brainstorm solutions and build working prototypes in an environment that mirrors a ‘start-up’ style digital technologies agency. Women who work in the industry may also be invited into the classroom to offer expertise, narratives of their experience and to act as role models for all students.
Applying this integrated approach to all subject areas aligns with the current Victorian Curriculum and would hopefully make careers in the digital technologies industry more appealing to non-male identifying students. It’s a small step, and one that needs to be made alongside broader systemic change, but it is something practical that I aim to implement in my future practice.