Are girls interested in technology?

A guest post by Ulrika Sultan

[A note from Torben: Today, 23 June, is International Women in Engineering Day. Marianne Culver (President, RS Components) says Let’s inspire more young women to fall in love with engineering.]


ITU Special Envoy for Women & Girls In ICT, Geena Davis with a young inventor at World Maker Faire, New York, 22 September 2013.

There are conditions in society that influence girls from an early age with specific attitudes and roles that hinder them. Feminists scholars of technology (e.g Harding 1986, Cockburn & Ormrod 1993) argue that everyday discourses of technology cultivate a prominent factor that effect stereotyping and gender norms in a negative form, promoting stereotyping in the field of technology. Other factors, including lack of confidence, lack of support at home, lack of encouragement in the classroom and lack of support from peers and other authority figures, can explain why so few girls pursue a career in technology. Studies have also revealed that ineffective teaching methodologies may favour boys over girls. These norms fuel ideas of what technological agency is and what ”technological” looks like. These discourses can disguise girls’ engagement and interest in technology. Maybe there needs to be a significant cultural change.

In my research, I want to test the dominant discourses around girls as not interested of technology. Are girls seen as beings that have to become interested in technology or as beings that are interested in technology already? Are girls constructed to be beings not interested in technology? Are there unconscious or conscious attitudes that declare girls as less able than boys and therefore, leading to differences in teaching and/or encouragement. Is there a problem with the concept of technology in technology education? Many questions appear when reading others’ research in the field.

Sylvia Todd: Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show – TEDxSanDiego 2013

The overall hypothesis in my research is that girls are interested in technology. Technofeminism is my theoretical lens. A technofeministic view of the learner regards the learner as a part of socially situated learning, constructed by society’s views on the learner. I don’t want to link the social construction of gender to the social construction of the user of technology. I’m merely interested to see if there is a construction of girls as beings that are not interested in technology.

I hope that the results of this study-to-be can generate new understandings regarding whether girls are constructed as being interested in technology, or described as and looked upon as not interested in technology. This could lead to further questions, such as if there is a problem with the concept of technology and how we teach it in school. If there is a problem with the concept of technology and how we teach it in school this can be seen as highly relevant for the research field of technological education and be seen as a contribution to the competence of the knowledge of teaching technology.

I know that comments are always welcome on this blog so if you are a teacher and have any views on ways to engage girls with technology and or comments about the way girls respond to technology in your school I’d be delighted to hear them.

References

Harding, S. (1986). The science question in feminism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Cockburn, C., & Ormrod, S. (1993). Gender and technology in the making. London: Sage.

Ulrika Sultan

Now a doctoral student in technology education at Linköping University, with special interest in girls engagement in technology. I’m also a lecturer at Orebro university. There I educate preschool and primary teachers-to-be in technology and the natural sciences. My previous experiences include working as a licenced teacher in preschool, preschool class, compulsory school, and the recreation centre. My latest working experience before becoming a graduate was as Head of the municipal engineering school, KomTek.

 

 

 

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Are you using biomimicry in D&T?

A guest post by Rebecca Mallinson

Fish Gill Design used to remove trapped air from water pipelines

Fish Gill Design used to remove trapped air from water pipelines

Biomimicry is the manufacturing of materials that imitate the phenomena of life’s natural processes. From 2014, biomimicry was introduced as a design methodology within the UK Design & Technology curriculum with the aspiration to align the subject more greatly with design outside education.

Burrs are the most widely known biomimic inspiration - responsible for velcro

Burrs are the most widely known biomimic inspiration – responsible for velcro

As an anthropology researcher at the crosshairs of Material & Visual Culture, Sustainability and Education, my interest lies in how this directive is technically interpreted and taught for Key Stage 3 students. How is such a complex subject understood, embraced and employed to create artefacts where ‘thought is made concrete in design’? In abstracting nature’s properties, are we teaching a re-assertion of our own power over it, or fostering an apotropaic (harm-averting) closeness with our increasingly vulnerable environment? Is there an immateriality – a spiritual rather than physical quality – to embedding biomimicry within a design curriculum?

Beijing National Aquatics Centre inspired by bubbles

Beijing National Aquatics Centre inspired by bubbles

I would love to be able to explore this for my masters dissertation at UCL but to do so, I need to find D&T teachers willing to be interviewed. This could be via email/Skype/phone or in person depending on your location.

Anyone is welcome to contribute their perspective whether they have:

  • Embraced this element of the curriculum and found innovative ways to articulate it?
  • Examples to share of how students have employed biomimicry within their artwork from the most mundane to the most spectacular?
  • Experienced creative, strange, fascinated or confused responses from students?
  • Felt skeptical about its inclusion within the curriculum entirely?

If you would like to know more and/or participate, please email Rebecca at rebecca.mallinson.15@ucl.ac.uk before Friday 28th April.

Rebecca MallinsonRebecca Mallinson

Working with the Creative Directors at London College of Fashion, Rebecca has coordinated industry projects with Microsoft, United Nations, SHOWstudio and Cass Art alongside the design/organisation of catwalk and exhibitions. Her previous experience encompasses Research & Policy at the Crafts Council plus supporting researchers at Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Textile Futures Research Centre which each stimulated her interest in the potentials of design embracing natural technologies.

Alison Hardy: How have D&T departments responded to the new national curriculum?

We know that there are all kinds of pressures on D&T departments at the moment, from staff recruitment, through adapting to changing curricula, to the ways that the EBacc is influencing SLTs’ views of the subject.

The informal feedback that I’m getting from teachers is generally not encouraging, but with islands of “I don’t really see what the problem is”. However, it would be really useful to get a less anecdotal picture of the situation. This would help with campaigns to support D&T in the curriculum, such as those from the D&TA and baccforthefuture, and should also inform efforts to help strengthen D&T departments

Alison Hardy

Alison Hardy

Fortunately, Alison Hardy at NTU is working on this. She says:

Can you spare a few moments to complete a questionnaire and maybe a follow up interview?
A group of 6 students at Nottingham Trent University who are studying Childhood Studies have been commissioned by me to undertake some research. I’ve asked them to find out ‘How have D&T departments responded to the new national curriculum?’.
Your responses will help us at NTU prepare our trainee D&T teacher by giving them up to date information on what is happening in schools.
The survey can be found here: http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/6O5OS/
All of your responses will be kept confidential – they won’t even tell me who has replied!
Thanks,
Alison
Please help Alison – and the subject – if you are able.