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Integrating technology into the lives of girls

Robyn Treyvaud
Wesley College, Melbourne
Lori Rounds
The Woods Academy, Maryland, USA
This paper discusses a project that addresses the integration of technology into the education of girls. Based on research indications concerning girls and technology, the project addresses how girls can be encouraged to engage in the use of technology within everyday learning experiences. The outcomes of the project indicate that girls will use technology not as an end in itself, but rather as a tool to enhance learning within the curriculum. Results also indicate that girls prefer collaborative, rather than isolated, use of technology in education. Collaborative, project-based resources available on the Internet, as well as video conferencing technologies, serve as the framework for the implementation of the project.


This project explores the use of technology as a collaborative learning tool to encourage and support girls in the integration of technology into their educational endeavours. By incorporating some of the many web-based, collaborative resources available on the Internet into their learning environment, the project has had a positive impact on the girls' perceptions of technology. Initially, an all girl computer club was formed in Australia, Geek is Chic, and this has expanded to include girls in Washington DC. Together, these girls communicate, create and collaborate on projects that use emerging voice and video conferencing technologies as well as email and chat. In 2002, the international GuRL Friend project will involve the girls using KAHooTZ, multimedia software that has been developed by the Australian Children's Television Foundation.

Girls and Technology - can the two be successfully integrated? There is a significant body of research that validates what girls in school experience on a daily basis, that with regard to technology, girls lag behind boys in use, understanding and interest on many levels [AAUW, 2000,, verified 20 Aug 2002]. A growing number of studies indicate that girls are not involved in ICT at the level needed to advance the critical thinking skills that are highly valued in the areas of math, science and technology careers (Melymuka, 1999). Research explains the many reasons why girls do not engage in technology, and offers some suggestions to educators on what to do about it. Following the recommendations described in the research (Lanius, 2001) we have implemented a model designed to integrate technology into the education of girls. Indications from evaluation so far indicate the model as a successful tool, as the girls have grown to be confident technology users.

Considerations from the literature

As two educators interested in the promotion of girls' involvement with technology in our respective co-educational schools, we are seeking to address what research has shown, that girls need encouragement and support in their efforts to use technology in a meaningful way that meets their specific needs. We found a wealth of research available on gender issues and technology that have guided us in our project. The report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), "Tech Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age" (2000), a two year study in the US, analyses previous research, teacher survey responses and focus groups of middle and high school students.

The AAUW commission found that:

"Girls are concerned about the passivity of their interactions with the computer as a tool: they reject the violence, redundancy and tedium of computer games; and they dislike narrowly and technically focused programming classes." [Tech Savvy: executive summary, verified 20 Aug 2002]
These findings have significant implications for educators, with one of the key recommendations being that computation should be integrated across the curriculum, into such subject areas as art, music and literature as well as engineering and science...subjects that already interest girls, as well promoting critical thinking and lifelong learning. (AAUW, "Tech Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age", 2000). This recommendation also gives both educators and girls the opportunity to use the technology as designers, rather than being mere consumers.

The implications for educators of girls thoughts about computers

The perception by girls of the computer culture was one of a 'solitary, antisocial and sedentary world', a view that has implications for educators. It suggests they focus less on what's wrong with the girls who are reticent to engage with ICT and more on addressing these stereotypes. Most significantly, the report recommends the:
"Creation and support of computing clubs and summer school classes for girls, mentoring programs, science fairs and programs that encourage girls to see themselves as capable of careers in technology." (AAUW, "Tech Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age", 2000)
In addressing the negative stereotyping associated with technology (Melymuka, 1999) in her article in "Let the Boys be Mechanics: These Girls want to Drive" (ComputerWorld, 1999) provides a number of positive considerations. In this study, girls from a Boston-area high school were asked what they liked about technology. Responses included: the focus on the communication aspects of technology: email, mobile phones, chat, PC to phone; the "fun" nature of it; the way technology has sped up how information can be transferred; the use of technology as a tool to enhance the important aspects of their lives, rather than for it's own sake and finally, "Being techie isn't uncool for girls, provided it's not your defining characteristic. Girls base their relationships on a wide range of things." (Melymuka, 1999).

Sharon Sherman, Executive Director of Girls Count, a non profit organisation which was established in 1991 and is dedicated to broadening girls' educational and career opportunities in the technology and science arenas, believes,

"Teachers are among the most important adults in girls' lives and can be one of the key factors in whether girls integrate technology into their lives as a useful skill for many purposes and, if they are so inclined, as an economically sound career." Sherman (2001) [verified 20 Aug 2001]
Our ongoing project addresses the question, 'How' to integrate girls into technology by implementing the initiatives recommended in the research described above. There are many possible solutions to the problem, and we would like to offer one model that we have found to be highly successful in 'Integrating Technology Into the Lives of Girls.'

Collaborative, student-centred learning

Our ongoing and evolving project is modelled after what research has already proven, that girls work better in collaborative projects involving other girls. The outcomes we have witnessed to date have been very promising, as the girls emerge feeling confident and empowered that they have used technology to transform their creative ideas into innovative projects. "I no longer feel that computers are the domain of my brothers. I feel like I can do anything with computers now." (Student, Woods Academy).

Since the project began, the girls have assumed responsibility for their own learning. They have learned to approach their work as a design team in much the same way a team in the corporate world works - they brainstorm, share, discuss, implement, evaluate, refine, and collaborate, all traits that are key to successful careers in the math, sciences and technology fields. The girls accomplish this by engaging in global dialogue with other girls around the world via standard and emerging technologies such as chat, PC-to-phone, and video conferencing technologies, to discuss, debate, define and create innovative projects that use technology. This project continues to evolve because the girls interests and needs continue to evolve as they experience new technology.

The research suggests that it is important for the girls to control their own projects, but at first we were not sure where to even begin. We decided to begin by asking the girls themselves. Their enthusiasm and inspiration led to the beginning of the Geek-is-Chic Club and the Global GuRL Friends Project.

The evolution of The Geek is Chic into the GuRL Friend Project

This innovative, and we believe, replicable global approach to expanding girls' technology horizons began in 1999 in Australia at Wesley College, a co-educational school P-12. A laptop program is introduced in Year 5, where students average about 10 years old and is implemented throughout the school until Year 12. Teachers observed that the girls in the Junior School classes were reluctant to use their laptops. In fact, some were actively resisting using ICT where possible. They appeared to have markedly different needs and uses of the technology available to them, in comparison with the boys, and we felt that we should provide the girls with an opportunity to share their experiences and thoughts with us. We invited a group of Year 5, 6 & 7 girls to attend a lunchtime meeting to discuss these issues and a possible solution. All of the girls were eager to attend and felt that the issue needed to be discussed. The Wesley College girls were asked to address three questions:
  1. What do you like/not like about computers? (Table 1)
  2. What do you think are the differences between the way that boys use computers and the way that girls use computers? (Table 2)
  3. What would most interest you in using computers? (Table 3)
The following comments provided by the girls were consistent with the research findings of AAUW (2000), Melymuka (1999) and Sherman, (1999)

Table 1: Likes/dislikes
Table 2: Differences
Table 3: Interests

We would be interested more in computers if we could:

Taking ownership of the problem - Geek-is-Chic

Taking into account the students' interests and their comments, collectively, two staff and 8 girls came up with an all girls technology club for the initial purpose of learning to create a website. We named the club GEEK is CHIC.

In the following weeks, during their lunch break, the girls worked on their personal web pages, at the same time, chatting, sharing and supporting each other. They located sites that interested them, emailed each other the URLs and when assistance was required, asked each other, before they asked us, the adults. This was a significant feature of the experience: the teacher/ learner role had been reversed as the girls grew in confidence and competence.

These web pages were laden with links to 'girl pages' that they had found on the web, and wanted to share with their peers, as well as every animated gif that they could find. Their work became a peak event for the Women Online Week, a Commonwealth of Australia initiative. The girls not only grew to enjoy working with technology, they thrived!

They went on to develop an award winning website,, and received the very prestigious Award for Excellence in the Junior Multimedia division from ATOM: Australian Teachers of Media in 2001. The girls wanted to continue the Geek is Chic Club, and to involve girls at other schools.

Expanding the GuRL Friend Project and addressing a global problem

At the World Conference of Computers in Education 2001 (WCCE), held in Copenhagen in July 2001, many of the research papers presented focused on the problem of gender inequities in technology use and implementation. A very positive outcome of attending this conference was the meeting of international delegates, who had a common vision of what could be done to address this gender problem, and what could be achieved globally using ICT with our students. Together, with our students, we began the Global GuRL Friends Project. This project involved girls from Wesley College, Prahran AU; Woods Academy, Bethesda, Maryland US and Lowanna College, Gippsland AU, using a range of ICT tools to make contact and work on collaborative projects. These tools: email, chat, voice, web cam, PC to phone, and NetMeeting have allowed the girls to experience the communication and exploration of personal relationships that is such a priority in their lives.

The evolution of the Global GuRL Friends Project

Today, teams of girls in Australia work, via the Internet, with teams of girls in the USA on projects of common interest to both groups. To date, they have explored the geography of each country through the creation and publishing of multimedia presentations and websites. They have learned to work collaboratively both within their local group as well as the global group using the emerging video conferencing capabilities of Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo's PC-to-Phone, and Microsoft NetMeeting. These technologies, coupled with the more traditional email and chat capabilities, have provided the communication tools needed for the girls to successfully collaborate. As a result of this global collaboration, they are now much more confident users of technology.

Incorporating Internet resources

In 2002, The Global GuRL Friends Project will take advantage of the relationship established in 2000 between the girls at Wesley College and the KAHooTZ School Trial, under the auspices of the Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF). KAHooTZ grew out of a desire to provide 5-13 year olds with a powerful set of creative technology tools and an online educational community, eager to share, exchange and collaborate. The GuRL Friends will use the multimedia features of the KAHooTZ software: animation, linking, sequencing, adding sounds, musical composition, text, draw tools and clip art allow the students to develop Xpressions (a multimedia story), and to examine and de-construct the content of others in a protected online space.

Imagination Place in KAHooTZ is an interactive online club that was created by the Center for Children and Technology, based in New York. Research undertaken by the Center showed that girls and women are most interested in what technology can do for people and how it will affect their lives. Imagination Place was developed to provide girls with the opportunity to develop and share their visions of technology, using KAHooTZ.

2002 will see the participants of the GuRL Friends Project in the USA and Australia, using these tools of technology to create their innovations and chat with each around the globe about their designs.

Using the protected online space of KAHooTZ combined with the program sharing and video and voice conferencing capabilities of NetMeeting and Yahoo Messenger, the girls will be able to establish their own global and creative learning community, where they examine and de-construct the content of others. They will create "networks" of content by linking Xpressions made by themselves and others in the project.


The key to integrating girls into technology is not as simple as sitting a girl in front of a computer. But it is as simple as uniting girls in collaborative projects that require the use of technology as an implementation tool, and supporting them in their efforts to successfully complete their projects. We have also found that with the wealth of the many project-based resources available on the Internet, that it is not necessary to create projects from scratch. These resources, coupled with emerging voice and video conferencing technologies, provide the basis for initiating global projects that excite, interest, and drive the girls to a new level of involvement in technology. Feeling empowered through a sense of ownership about the technology has been a major key to the success of the model. The girls are now sought after by other students, both boys and girls, for their technical expertise. No longer feeling criticised or intimidated by the technology or by boys, the girls have emerged as confident collaborators, designers, and leaders in ICT.

We have realised that while we cannot change cultural biases and inequities overnight, we can affect positive change, one classroom at a time, locally and globally. Even if the girls decide that a career involving technology is not for them, they will at least have made an informed decision. Our model for changing girls' perceptions of and involvement with technology might be just what you need to 'Integrate your girls into technology.'


Melymuka, K. (1999). Let the boys be mechanics: These girls want to drive. ComputerWorld, January.,11280,33609,00.html [verified 20 Aug 2002]

Spender, D. (1995). Nattering on the Net: Women Power and Cyberspace. Spinifex Press, Australia.


Cynthia Lanius GirlTech
GirlTECH is sponsored by the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice University USA. 10 Ideas for Getting Girls Interested in Computers, 2001. [verified 20 Aug 2002]

Gen Tech
Is an applied research project whose mandate is to create conditions within which girls and women have maximum access to, and confidence in, a wide range of new information technologies. [verified 20 Aug 2002]

Geek is Chic
Developed in Australia by Wesley College female students and staff. [URL not found 26 Aug 2002]
Developed by Year 7 Wesley College girls. [URL not found 26 Aug 2002]

Networked Learner
After the World Conference of Computers in Education 2001, Lori Rounds established an online community of delegates. [verified 26 Aug 2002 at

Tech-Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age (2000)
The American Association of University Women
Executive summary of study undertaken by AAUW
The commission's themes and recommendations, while focused on girls in schools, would, if addressed, improve the quality of the computer culture for all students. [verified 26 Aug 2002]

KAHooTZ is a creative and secure online children's community.
The Australian Children's Television Foundation has developed a unique online educational community using KAHooTZ with a select group of schools in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia, Northern Ireland, Indonesia and the USA.

Imagination Place! In KAHooTZ
It is an interactive design club for children. It offers girls and boys activities and tools to:
- Investigate technology and invention in their everyday world
- Analyse needs and problems that could be solved by new design and inventions
- Stretch their imaginations to come up with inventive ideas
- Use technology to create their innovations
- Chat with club members around the globe about their designs

Resources for conferencing software using, voice, video, chat, pc to phone, program sharing, file transfer and whiteboard. [verified 26 Aug 2002]
No costs are required for this software.

Yahoo Messenger

Yahooligans Messenger...for younger students

Messenger Help

Web cams in Messenger Help

Voice Chat Help

PC to Phone Help

MSN Messenger

NetMeeting Download

NetMeeting Features

NetMeeting Resource Kit

Authors: Robyn Treyvaud, Curriculum and PYP Coordinator Learning, Technologies Coordinator, Junior School, Wesley College, 577 St. Kilda Road, Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria 3181. Email:

Lori Rounds, Director of Technology, The Woods Academy, 6801 Greentree Road, Bethesda, Maryland 20817, USA. Email:

Please cite as: Treyvaud, R. and Rounds, L. (2002). Integrating technology into the lives of girls. In S. McNamara and E. Stacey (Eds), Untangling the Web: Establishing Learning Links. Proceedings ASET Conference 2002. Melbourne, 7-10 July.

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