One schoolgirls’ story: Why schoolgirls are not interested in studying IT

October 8, 2013 at 1:02 am 9 comments

An interesting though somewhat sad story from a school-age girl (probably high school level?) about why she’s not interested in Information and Communications Technology.  A good part of her story has to do with self-efficacy — how do you get better at this?

Throughout my first two years, my ICT assessment levels have always been much lower than other subjects and this can put you in the frame of mind that you’re bad at ICT, and if there are other subjects you’re better at, surely it’s simpler to take them for GCSE. And of course, IT is not the ideal job for me if I can’t even pass an exam.

Unless computing was made a compulsory subject like a language or maths, I don’t think this will change. To improve your English you can read, and to improve your ICT there are particular websites, but I certainly would not spend time on them and I’m sure my friends wouldn’t either

via Why schoolgirls are not interested in studying IT – WITsend.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kathi Fisler  |  October 8, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Years ago, I read a book called “The Female Brain”, by Louann Brizendine. The main bit I remember from it was that pre/early teen girls’ brains are neurologically wired for socialization. Attention to and awareness of social support and relationships is what the female brain does at that age.

    Assuming that’s true, how do we work with it in designing appropriate CS educational experiences? Perhaps activities in which social interaction is part of the path to success would help, by letting girls practice skills they are already (subconsciously) working on. I suspect the key is to have the interaction be inherent, rather than artificial (pair programming, for example, would be the latter). This also suggests that merely putting our old styles of problems into “help the world” contexts won’t get to the heart of the issue.

    The piece hit on one of CSed’s other big challenges: how to make it possible to stop working on something. Non-engineering disciplines have an advantage over us: you can give up and still convince yourself that you got somewhere. When you are building something and it doesn’t work (or the tool is giving you errors), it takes a strong sense of self to say “there’s value in what I did and I’m stopping”. Programming tools have a long way to go to make it easy to stop while keeping you moving.


    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  October 8, 2013 at 8:36 am

      The results on pair programming are pretty strong. Your comment suggests you think it would be ineffective. Why? Do you see flaws in the existing studies?

      • 3. Kathi Fisler  |  October 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm

        I don’t doubt that pair programming has both sociological and educational benefits in early CS courses. I see the original article as discussing factors that make girls want to stay in ICT, not factors for success in individual courses. I don’t recall the designs of the existing studies on pair programming — do they look at potential impact of pair programming on long-term retention in the subject, or mostly at experience within a course?

        My original comment was trying to ask whether our current approaches to convey social aspects of CS target the right kind of socialization. I suspect that pair programming doesn’t dispel students’ ideas that programming is still more an individual than a social activity (extrapolating out to a career). That doesn’t discount its local impact in courses.

        • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  October 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm

          No, the effect is measures into the next year. I hypothesize that it is directly addressing misconceptions about social settings of programmers.

          • 5. Bri Morrison  |  October 9, 2013 at 11:27 am

            Yes but pair programming is still *pairs*. I think the idea Kathi is getting at is that at the middle school age, girls want to socialize and solve problems in groups (>2). One idea that is gaining traction is the idea of “alternate reality” situations where groups of girls solve problems involving cryptography, pandemics, etc. using computational skills.

            • 6. Kathi Fisler  |  October 9, 2013 at 12:10 pm

              Or maybe work on problems where each person contributes something different to the solution, rather than working together on exactly the same problem (a difference between livecoding and typical pair programming, for example). Or maybe work on something more conceptual than programming, but still in ICT. Both “programming” and “pairs” constrain the nature of social interaction relative to what goes on across ICT.

  • 7. astrachano  |  October 8, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Image counts, from the article: I think of someone working in IT as male, old, bearded, not bothered about his clothes, his looks, or going outside. All his friends are boys and he’s never had a girlfriend. He gets excited about new gadgets and he likes reading comics even though he’s over 40, and he collects things, like little figures from games.

    • 8. astrachano  |  October 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

      addendum: send women/girls to Hopper

  • 9. Just how much ICT is enough I.T.? | B.A.T. '66  |  October 8, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    […] One schoolgirls’ story: Why schoolgirls are not interested in studying IT […]


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