Gender identity and meaning making in specialist IT classes. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada, April 11-15, 2005
An exploration of how year 12 students in a New Zealand high school make meaning of their experiences of different specialist IT (information technology) courses shows that gender identity is a potent factor in their experiences. At a personal level, individual students, males and females, construe their experiences of CPS (computer studies) and TIM (text and information management) courses differently. However, students tend to think of different computer activities as masculine and feminine practices. They imbue courses with masculine and feminine identities, depending on the type of computer applications, knowledge and skills that are emphasised in the courses. These are socially defined notions of computing activity as gendered practice. Also, students’ experiences are tied up with ideas about what sort of computer practices are consistent with their developing and personal identities as male and female students of IT and computer users. This has implications and raises questions for those who are concerned with a perceived ‘problem’ in the under representation of females in computer science and related courses. It suggests that the ‘problem’ is more complex than it may initially appear.