Critical Reflection #4
Morbey, M.L. (in press). Women, Discriminating Technology and Art Education: How Might It Be Different? New Technologies and Art Education: Implications for Theory, Research, and Practice. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.
October 9, 1997

In her article discussing art education and gender discrimination in computer technology, Morbey (1997) gives an overview of the problem of gender bias in technology. Proponents of this view believe that females face discrimination in technology because the foundation of computer science -- modern science -- is inherently biased toward males’ ways of exploration, thinking, and problem solving. They argue that since women and men differ in their cognitive approaches to tasks, women face an uphill battle to succeed in a discipline designed from the male perspective.  It is their view that women are unjustly excluded from technology because it is a male construct. But it is not always so. Elliott (1992, as cited in Morbey, 1997) investigated computer learning and play at a pre-school. Her results suggest that given equal time, encouragement, and instruction, there are no gender differences in computer ability.  How might this finding influence how we perceive the role of gender in information technology?

If we start with the assumption that all children are born with a capacity to succeed with computer technology, and acknowledge that there is a wide discrepancy in the number of males and females using computers in later years, then we must look to pedagogical and cultural issues for an explanation and possibly a solution to the question of why this is the case. I want to emphasize that in doing so, we must also be careful not to generate a “reactive discrimination” against boys.

If we can accept that boys and girls learn differently in later years, then we must provide learning opportunities which stimulate boys and learning opportunities which challenge girls. Teachers must modify instruction to allow for gender differences. In fact, I would suggest that teachers go even further and attend to the individual child’s learning style in order to tailor a programme that would be optimal for that student. Rather than base the learning experience on a gender framework, use the framework to identify specific ways to help the individual.

We cannot undo wrongs that have already occurred. There is no going back to “reinvent” the computer and alter how its history may have discriminated against women and minorities. What we can do now is strive for gender equality and gender equity in access and instruction in information technology. Our Western culture has been traditionally dominated by the “maleness” characteristic of  Newtonian science. Recently, however, there has been a growing acceptance of more “feminine” qualities into our culture.  Eastern cultures value connectedness with nature and more qualitative methods of examining our relationships with each other. As the world becomes more globalized, cultures are spreading and influencing other cultures. This has resulted in change -- the only constant in our postmodern society.

Elliott (1992, as cited in Morbey, 1997) has shown that there is a time when there are no gender differences in attitudes towards computers. Hopefully, by attending to gender differences throughout a children’s development, teachers and parents can help provide more equitable learning experiences for girls.