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2001 Fostering Girls' Computer Literacy through Laptop Learning: Can Mobile Computers Help to Level Out the Gender Difference?

Date: July, 2001
Author(s): Heike Schaumburg
Affiliation: Freie Universitat Berlin, Center for Media Research
Keywords: laptops, gender, literacy, confidence


One of the goals of introducing computers to the classroom is to support students who are more reluctant to the use of technology or who do not have a computer at home in acquiring computer literacy. Studies have shown that these students are often girls. The goal of the present study is to find out if the difference between boys and girls in computer literacy can be leveled out in a laptop program where each student has his/her own mobile computer to work with at home and at school. 113 students from laptop and non-laptop classes were tested for their computer knowledge and computer confidence. Students from laptop classes outperformed students from non-laptop classes in computer knowledge while there was no difference in computer confidence. In comparison to the non-laptop classes, the gender gap in computer knowledge was much smaller in the laptop classes. In computer confidence, no harmonizing effect of the laptops was found.

Key Findings:

  • Results show that the participation in the laptop program had a significant effect on students' computer literacy. In particular, the project fostered their knowledge of computer hard- and software as well as their knowledge on using the Internet for information retrieval and for communication.
  • The subjective confidence in using computers and the Internet was not impacted by the project.
  • In comparison to the girls of the control group, the girls in the laptop group had considerably more knowledge of computer hard- and software and of the Internet after participating in the project. The gender gap between boys and girls in computer knowledge was much smaller in the laptop classes.
  • The gap in computer confidence between boys and girls did not close in the laptop classes.
  • More research is needed to find out what exactly determines self-confidence in using computers.
  • The results warrant for caution when computer literacy is measured by self-assessment only, as self-assessment scales might be systematically distorted.

    Source Article: http://confreg.uoregon.edu/NECC2001/program/research_pdf/Schaumberg.pdf