Today my middle school had a panel presentation to share with one of our distinguished alumni (Mary Ann Wark) how the laptop program she helped to found 7 years ago has evolved. Mrs. Wark mentioned how one of the guiding principals behind the laptop program was leveling the playing field. One special concern was how boys were more apt, 7 years ago, to use computers when they were in a lab. Giving laptops to all students and making them part of daily academic life meant both girls and boys would have equal access and opportunity to the technology.
When she asked students about how they used the technology, at school and at home, girls popped up readily to share. It was clear that our girls and our boys are using the technology for academics and personal time. It was especially poignant to me when she noticed that our panel of 5 students presenting included only one boy Normally, I’m attentive to such things and try to keep presentations gender-balanced. Today’s students were selected by our MSAT team – selected by project, not by gender.
…Among Web users ages 12 to 17, significantly more girls than boys blog (35 percent of girls compared with 20 percent of boys) and create or work on their own Web pages (32 percent of girls compared with 22 percent of boys).
Am I surprised? Hardly. In this crowd, it was evident that girls were the publishers and boys were the gamers. There was some crossover, but the point was made, just the same. The article made me thing of an eighth grader named Hannah. She mentioned her struggle to give up non-school use of her computer for Lent. She said she’s lost and struggles to find things to do in her spare time. She’s not big on tv or telephones, isn’t up to reading after two hours of homework, and going to a friend’s house after homework is done isn’t really an option if you don’t have a driver’s license. She said the only way she can manage is to remind herself that Easter’s coming, and she’ll soon be able to resume her social life.
At this point, I realized something. When I was a 7th grader, I discovered the telephone, much to the dismay of my mother. My family lived in a rural area, and my mother (a single parent) often worked late. The telephone was a lifeline to my friends. In the age of karate lessons, tutoring, and tons of other after-school opportunities, social networking seems like a logical choice for most teens and tweens. And how many boys were on the phone in the 1980’s? Not many – they were too busy on their Atari’s.