Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NY Times reminds about women in computing issues

So, what is it with women and computing, and why don't games work? Are they not "fun enough?"

A recent article in the NY Times appears to address this ongoing question,as have many others (including SIGCSE 2008). Mark Guzdial addressed this recently on his blog (with some interesting comments).

Not that I want to start trouble, but I really believe we should monitor such issues of diversity as they indicate barriers to education may exist -- note, I wrote "may exist." There is a difference between correlation and causality (I know you already know, just a reminder, ya' know :-).

Mark is also correct about the limits of our statements about effectiveness of any tool or pedagogy.

What I like most about the article and one of the comments from Mark's post is that it is OKfor women (actually anyone) to not select computing as long as it is a fair, barrier-free choice (i.e., it's all about accessibility). Instead of starting with diversity, we should be using it as the indicator that something might be wrong with access, but not a conclusion. Also, by focusing on access, we are not only addressing diversity (i.e., access for the under-represented), by also trying to find ways to deliver education to all -- and thus true diversity.

And what's the thing with games? Instead of looking for a silver bullet in teaching, games appear to be a viable alternative for many students. Perhaps we should be looking to increase the toolkit for educators, as well as the guidance on the context to effectively use each tool.

Often the best way to teach is to provide examples; here is an article with a set of role models for women on the web -- Marissa Mayer is featured here as well.