Making sense of gender and ICTs in education Cheryl Brown Laura Czerniewicz University of Cape Town ICEL July 2009 Making sense of gender and ICTs in Education Cheryl Brown and Laura Czerniewicz
This presentation • The study & our context • Findings re: gender & ICT access & use • The challenge • Exploring theory • Theoretical choice • Where to from here
The study • Access to and use of ICTs by students in Higher Education in South Africa • Phase 1 (2004) & Phase 2 (2007) - two surveys of 10 110 students in total • twelve universities in South Africa • quantitative analysis of 58question survey • qualitative analysis of the questionnaire’s open-ended questions • Phase 3 student interviews • Currently, interviews and focus groups • preliminary findings
South African context • HE restructured to address apartheid era inequalities across the system • Resource-constrained environment World Bank 2005
Findings about gender and access • Same access to physical resources on campus • Males students more autonomy of access • more male users with sole access to home computer • of these more likely to be males from high socio economic background • Fewer males report being secondary users of shared computers
Findings about gender and access • Don’t see any differences access • No, I don’t think that there’s much of a difference. It’s basically, like, here, we all get equal time at the computer. Ja, I don’t think it’s much of a difference. • Women have less autonomy of access • As women, we have too much responsibilities. …the food and all those things, and they want to take care of children. So most of them they are limited to have access to the computers, compared to men • Men dominate realm of computers • Now we, men, we are the ones doing the most computer work, we are doing the colleges, doing the computer literacy, what they know is, they don’t know exactly what a computer is doing.
Findings about gender and self efficacy • Male students report a higher level of • Expertise/ knowledge • Skills • Confidence • Echoes the literature
Findings about gender and use • Teaching and learning use (2004) • No difference overall • Male students report higher daily use of ICTs for study • Male students report higher use of ICTs to access information • BUT in 2007 • Female students use of ICTs for learning was lower than male students • Female students spend less time using ICTs for social recreational activities
Findings about gender and use • Women prioritise academic work..the women usually use the computers for work not really for pleasure lets say if a girl is sitting next to me an using her computer she’s just typing her stuff, but if its me I’ll go to facebook first and check our emails and then do our work and then when we are finished listen to some music • I’ve noticed men tend to use it on a more social level, and then the women will take it more professionally, their first priority would be getting the work done on it, and then getting to the social, and the guys would tend to do the social, and then once they’ve got nothing to socialise about or search on, then will get to the professional stuff.
Findings about gender and use • Activities (2007) • Male students use ICTs more for • Adaptive media such as tests tutorials and games • Productive media eg development and design of specialised software • Communication • Female students use ICTs more for • Finding and sharing information
Findings about gender and use • Men use computers for recreation • Because, you’ll find that men are, I could say boys, they like music and all, they like watching DVDs, they like playing Playstation, more than ladies. • And women don’t • Most of my female friends, they hardly check their emails, they are hardly on mxit. They simply use, making an example for here, they just use their pcs for typing and assignments and researching their work. • Men and women use ICTs for different types of things • You rarely get women accessing general and sports news. You usually get women on social forums.
Findings about gender and disciplines Business courses Science courses
Findings about gender and disciplines • Women still marginalised in disciplinary domains related to computers • Now we, men, we are the ones doing the most computer work, we are doing the colleges, doing the computer literacy, they [women] don’t know exactly what a computer is doing. • Apart from myself I don’t think I’ve met many women who actually enjoy doing that [take things apart on a computer]
The problem • Findings about gender differences ito ICT access and use are complex and contradictory • At the broad overall level no differences • At the micro level some differences • Initial interviews both support and contradict findings • Using the interviews • to illuminate, explain and extend the findings so far • Provide a nuanced account of gender and ICTs
Turning to the theory • Looking for a theory to • Accommodate complexity • Explain students’ agency in a gendered way • why they might choose to operate in certain ways within structural/ societal constraints, as wo • Include both genders • Examples exist of theory already usefully illustrating and explaining ICTs and gender, preferably in HE
Pursue the question • What role does gender play in student practices with ICTs? • How does gender as a factor interact with other factors?
Some theories • Expectations States Theory (Adibifar 2007) • Feminist Standpoint Theory (Ratliff 2006; Nsibirano 2008); • Critical Information Systems research on frameworks of power (Trauth and Howcroft 2006); • Bourdieu’s notion of habitus (Bourdieu 1990) as it has been used to understand gender differences (McNay 1999; Kvasny 2005);
Expectations States Theory • Based on the premise that individuals conform to societal expectations of performance based on their gender • Used to understand gender stereotypes in society (eg gender differences in students perceptions of the use of ICTs, Adibifar 2007) • Value • Apparently, extends beyond “just gender” to incorporate other aspect of an individual’s background • Flexible enough to be able to examine differences between societal perceptions between cultural groups
Critical IS theory • Goes beyond a description of gender differences • Sets out to find out why an inequality exists, and to search for underlying causes • Been used to understand issues related to women and IT (eg women’s recruitment and retention in the IT field and the digital divide amongst women minorities, Trauth and Howcroft 2006) • Value • Focus on power relations • Interest in agency, understanding how people step beyond their constraints.
Feminist Standpoint Theory • Views the world from the position, point of view or insights of an individual • Has been used by as a lens for unpacking African-American women’s use of ICTs and as a way of looking at gendered meanings in the relationship between education and computing • Value • it illuminates women’s interests and needs, their experiences and their situated knowledge.
Bourdieu’s concept of habitus • Encompasses aset of dispositions that are learned over one’s life history and which mediate and guide individuals’ practices • Been used to understand gender identity, to explore the specific experiences of African - American women using ICTs and to unpack gender and mobile learning • Value • multi-faceted way of exploring several dimensions: power relations, social status and economically opposed structures • individuals’ past experiences and life histories • and taken-for-granted cultural assumptions.
Habitus • a property of actors that comprises a ‘structured and structuring structure’ • It is ‘structured’ by one’s circumstances, such as family upbringing and gender. • ‘structuring’ in that one’s habitus helps to shape one’s present and future practices. • is a ‘structure’ in that it is systematically ordered rather than random
Habitus • This ‘structure’ comprises a system of dispositions which generate perceptions, • appreciations and practices (1990: 53). • Disposition • the result of an organizing action, with a meaning close to that of words such as structure; • designates a way of being, • a habitual state (especially of the body) • a predisposition, tendency, propensity or inclination
Choosing habitus • On the plus side • Dispositions in context, relational • Enables examination of the intersection between gender & other factors • Use fo both male and female students • provides a way of examining both individual and collective experiences, • allows for an examination of power relations • BUT • Is notoriously difficult to operationalise
Research now • Using a qualitative methodology to get at technological “life histories” and experiences through • Wide ranging phone interviews • Including their first use of ICTs, motivations, types of ICTs used now , personal and academic use • Focus groups with a subset of respondents • Identify individual and shared habitus • Technological habitus? • Gender as a dimension of the story