The gender gap in the information technology (IT) industry is underscored by a lack of engagement of girls in computing and IT education, writes University of Melbourne professor Karin Verspoor.
She notes most IT classes in public schools focus on basic skills, such as accessing educational games and quizzes online and managing spreadsheets. Programming, computational thinking, and algorithmic problem solving typically are only taught in extra curricular classes and clubs.
Verspoor says opt-in training often precludes students who do not know what programming is or who do not identify with computer or gaming culture. Meanwhile, she says, gender stereotyping can dissuade girls from joining coding clubs, as parents tend to buy technology more for boys than for girls, and female students might feel unwelcome in a male-dominated club.
According to Australia's Digital Careers group, the best strategy to increase girls' interest in IT is a compulsory integrated digital technologies curriculum that is gender inclusive. Schools in the U.K. and Australia are beginning to implement coding curricula to teach computing skills and the collection and interpretation of data using automated tools.
In addition, the University of Adelaide is helping to prepare Australian teachers for the new curriculum by offering online courses about digital technologies.
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