Video games, girls and education

October 15, 2008 at 7:41 pm Leave a comment

This Summer, I attended Girlstart’s ITGirl Summer Academy-a week long camp where our IT Girls examined gender equity in gaming and computer science, explored the power of new media in effecting social change, and planned and produced a virtual global awareness event in Teen Second Life.

Day 1 of the camp consisted of console gaming-the girls played a variety of video games on the XBOX 360, Playstation, and Wii and discussed female portrayal in gaming, game design and blogged about some contemporary gender and technology issues. The girls’ exposure to video games varied-some had never touched a controller, some had played only one or two types of games regularly, and very few considered themselves “gamers”.

While many girls’ opinions about gaming revolved around negative connotations of the word “Gamer”, most girls seemed to be very receptive to gaming. After a quick tutorial in Mortal Kombat, 2 of the 18 girls in the camp’s first session became almost obsessed, researching and practicing new moves and asking me questions about my experience playing competitively. As someone who loves gaming and credits it for her interest in technology in general, this almost brought tears to my eyes. Girls from the camp towards the end were considering asking their parents for tech gifts for Xmas instead of some of the things they’d thought of before. We discussed some of the stereotypes that surround gamers, why women have had so many challenges entering the field, and how things are changing.

One of the hottest topics today is surrounding the use of the Nintendo DS in the classroom. A Tokyo school recently began using the Nintendo DS in language classes (http://www.switched.com/2008/06/30/nintendo-ds-comes-to-school-in-japan-teaches-english/), and researchers are increasingly finding that recent advances in gaming technology are highly relevant to science programs (http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2008/04/30/04sciencegames_web.h01.html). Girlstart’s collaboration with the Educator’s Coop has introduced us to the fantastic capabilities of Second Life and we are in awe of its massive potential as a tool for education in math, science, engineering, architecture, design and tech fields.

Austin’s very own South by Southwest interactive conference (SXSW) considers gaming and gender issues and gaming in education two of the hottest topics for 2008/2009.

What do we do with all this information? Well here at Girlstart we decided to continue this conversation and submitted a panel idea to the SXSW interactive conference for 2009. The working title for the panel is “Gaming as a gateway drug: using video games to get girls into technology.” The presentation will consist of educators, industry professionals and community members and will explore how gaming can be effectively used to lure girls into building and pursuing their technology interests.

The decision will be made sometime towards the end of October/beginning of November, so I’ll be sure to keep you posted with updates on the panel as well as any developing news pieces on the use of gaming in the classroom.

-Dee

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Entry filed under: girls, Media. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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