Gender and digital media in the context of a middle school science project (Goldman-Segall)

Goldman-Segall, R. (1998). Gender and digital media in the context of a middle school science project. Meridian, An Online Journal on Middle School Education1(1), http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/jan98/feat_3/gender.html.

This article describes a two-year ethnographic study of middle school students participating in a science and social studies curriculum in boys and girls conducted a “socio-scientific” investigation of an endangered rain forest using digital video technology. Goldman recommends that more partnerships be formed between students, teachers and researchers in order to promote “knowledge cultures of inquiry.” In particular, Goldman would like students to use such social structures as opportunities to “genderflex” and discuss their “flexible gender attitudes.” Concludes Goldman, “Adventures in genderflexing by young people while constructing social and scientific knowledges can lead to a fundamental change in how disciplinary fields are constructed in the future carefully, inclusively, and with awareness of both the thinking young people bring to the science discourse and the social structures within which these practices occur.”

“In addressing how to solve the hurdles young women encounter in the science classroom, various approaches have been proposed. On the one hand, some theorists say the curriculum should be gender neutral, and on the other hand, others argue that differences between the genders need to be acknowledged so that girls are not counted out. Challenging gender difference, biological determination, or epistemological pluralism (Turkle & Papert, 1990), Bryson and de Castell (1993) argue that a greater emphasis is needed on how gender differences are produced, ‘What is required is greater emphasis on the ways in which differences are produced through social relations and institutional practices, rather than on how to create, reify, and consolidate differences by liberalizing curricular options or increasing the number of legitimated “ways of knowing” from one to two (p. 65).'”

“…Sutherland (1996) concludes that, ‘to initiate effective change in gendered classroom practices, the children must be included in and empowered by the process of change; they must be able to both witness and understand the influence society has on them and have a voice in conceiving the form that change may take (p.66).'”

**Study conclusions:

1. Richer Digital Media Fluency — “Young people, especially girls and some boys, spoke about themselves and about their activities in ways which show that they became more fluent in the use of the media and about the role of media when thinking about complex socio-scientific issues.”

2. Gender is a Flexible Construct

3. Science and Society More Closely Linked in Media-Rich Learning Cultures — “The use of advanced technologies seems to aid people’s studying the world as a member of that world. It builds an alternative paradigm for doing science, one that is personal and collaborative simultaneously, multidisciplinary, and respectful of diverse ways of making meaning from what is observed and understood.”

**Implications for the Science Curriculum:

“Science education needs to include a network of human relationships focusing around topics that involves young girls and boys, topics that are broad enough to contain many points of viewing issues so that individual and group concerns can overlap and interrelate.”

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