Inspired by Jack Hagley’s infographic, “The World as 100 People,” we wondered how such a representation would look for the United States. As we began to research, we further wondered how the rates would compare to 1900. The infographic below is the result!
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change” (Eckhart Tolle). That’s why we’re contributing to the dialogue on gender differences in education.
#1: Challenges exist for both genders
Author and literacy advocate Pam Allyn has written several powerful articles that rally the public to recognize educational barriers to girls’ education across the globe, such as this one here, here, here, and here. She urges us to take action on terribly serious realities, including the fact that two-thirds of those who are illiterate are female. She has established “LitWorld’s girls’ LitClubs that meet around the world, sometimes in secret, to read together and write together” (“For These are All our Girls”). With all this action on behalf of girls, one might expect that Pam’s work is limited to that sex. But it’s not.
She has also written Best Books for Boys, in which she highlights several obstacles to boys’ reading, including the following: “the testing mania and the idea in our culture that learning is symbolized by children sitting quietly in their seats has been, in some cases, defeating for active boys” (p. 21). She regularly writes articles about all children, and the stories they have to share (such as this one, or this one). She even founded the Books for Boys literacy program.
There’s an important pattern here: one of recognition and action for all children. Those of us involved in children’s education must be willing to acknowledge that academic barriers exist for boys and girls alike.
#2: The challenges for each gender are different
Evidence of the unique educational challenges for both genders is mounting. We list a few points below.
Girls often receive cultural messages that undermine their self-images as learners, explorers, and thinkers. A recent commercial by Verizon illustrates this:
In the developing world in particular, girls are also faced with lower rates of enrollment due to a variety of cultural reasons. GirlEffect.org released a powerful video highlighting that cycle:
Boys often receive cultural messages in the classroom that passions and dispositions common to their gender do not belong. A recent video by Prager University summarizes the way this impacts boys’ education:
The rates for post-secondary degrees are consistently lower for males than females. Some of these numbers are shown in the infographic by National Student Clearinghouse below:
#3: 76% of teachers are female (source)–and that really matters!
Author Leonard Sax extensively researches gender differences, and has cited several ways female teachers might pay closer attention to the differing needs of their male students. One such difference lies in what’s more visually appealing to females than males. Says Sax:
“…boys are more likely to draw a scene of action, such as a monster attacking an alien; girls are more likely to draw people, pets, flowers, or trees, with lots of colors. The people in the girls’ pictures usually have faces, eyes, hair, and clothes; the people in the boys’ pictures (if there are any people) often are lacking hair, clothes, often the boys draw mere stick figures in one color. How come? The usual answer “Because that’s what we teach them to do” is unpersuasive, as I explain in Why Gender Matters. On the contrary, many of these boys insist on drawing these pictures not because teachers tell them to draw such pictures, but in spite of the teacher’s repeated pleas, “Why do you have to draw such violent pictures? Why can’t you draw something nice – like what Emily drew?” (source)
Another difference he discusses is hearing, even citing it as a possible contributing factor for the more frequent ADHD diagnoses for boys over girls. “…the average boy may need the teacher to speak more loudly–roughly 6 to 8 decibels more loudly–if the average boy is to hear the teacher as well as the average girl hears” (source). Teachers need to be aware of such differences to ensure they do not unintentionally favor their female students.
Awareness Point #4: Comparing which gender struggles more is unproductive to progress
As author William S. Wilson wrote:
“Comparisons deplete the actuality of the things compared.” (from “Conveyance: The Story I would Not Want Bill Wilson To Read”)
Articles like Bryce Covert’s “Enough Mansplaining the ‘Boy Crisis’ — Sexism Still Holds Back Women at Work,” offer criticism when concerns are raised for one gender, because they feel the other gender is more victimized. However, such comparisons undercut our collective efforts for children; we need “all hands on deck” in order to address the educational struggles facing all our youth. With objectivity and compassion, let us endeavor to understand and improve the state of education for children everywhere.
The dialogue on “digital divides” is extensive with regards to student learning and accessibility. But what about digital divides for learning and accessibility among teachers?
No Teacher Left Behind?
When I graduated from college in 2009, I had never heard of concepts like PLN’s, teachers using Twitter professionally, or encouraging elementary students to create digital portfolios with blogs. When I began teaching at a fairly new school filled with other recently graduated teachers, our video projectors were as high-tech as it got–though most classrooms still had overhead projectors, too. And when I finally began to explore 21st century educational technology years later (social media in particular), I discovered a rather counterintuitive pattern: despite being raised with the internet, younger teachers as a whole are not the fluent edtech masters one might expect.
Putting the Pieces Together
The more I started to catch up on edtech, the more aware I became of this pattern. For example, as the Flipped Learning Network has gathered statistics on flipped classrooms, it has shared findings using various Infographics. The one below states that 85% of teachers flipping their classrooms have at least 7 years of experience; another shows that for 46% of teachers polled, that number jumps up to 16 years!
“…the majority of Gen Y teachers grew up using the Internet and technology. Given this simple fact, it would seem to be only a matter of time before a cohort of tech-savvy, actively tweeting, social media-integrating teachers take over our schools. The reality, however, is more complicated…being born at this time did not necessarily mean being born into a world of social media…nor did it necessarily mean being educated in a technology-rich learning environment.”
With regards to teacher education, it further states:
“Surprisingly, given that the vast majority of those entering the profession are digital natives, new teachers are no more likely to integrate technology into their practice than their veteran peers. The research indicates that it is not a lack of access, but primarily lack of knowledge and practice integrating the technology into their instructional pedagogy.”
To an extent, the shortcomings of collegiate teacher prep makes sense. As a recent Huffington Post article points out, college in 2005 was dramatically different from today (ie, neither MacBook Pros nor Twitter existed yet, and Facebook was still limited to college freshmen). Even the professors were unfamiliar with rapidly evolving educational technology tools and practices.
Meanwhile, teachers whose careers were already established when such tools debuted became the prime candidates for becoming the digital literates in the field. Thus, I would contend that older teachers are even more likely than younger ones to integrate technology in their teaching practices and professional development.
Closing the Gap
So how do we close the gap of teachers who do and don’t effectively integrate technology? The above-mentioned NASBE report cites policy and institution-based solutions such as improving technology instruction at the university level, as well as implementing quality, ongoing professional development and peer mentoring. While these are sure to help address the issue, we suggest it can also be remedied when teachers take individual action. With the wealth of free professional development available online (ie, communities of teachers on Twitter that share, discuss, and support), teachers can be quickly brought up to speed on the latest ideas. Our post on ways to become a 21st century teacher has specific ideas for such action. Let us endeavor to close any digital divide that arises to strengthen our global community of teachers and learners!
No one likes dedicating time to an unproductive, thankless task–especially if you’re a teacher maintaining a class blog that no one checks! Here are 10 of our time-tested strategies to improve your blog, and to encourage your students and parents to visit.
Some teachers see this word and want to run for the hills–after all, the list of educational strategies with this recommendation could probably stretch for miles. However, the good news is that this doesn’t have to be a time-intensive commitment when you employ one or more of the following tips:
Maintain a regular post structure so you don’t need to design a lengthy, creative piece each day. For instance, start each post with some quick highlights from the day, followed by a list of homework, and ending with upcoming school/class events. See my old class blog for an example.
Copy and paste content from the previous day and just make changes as needed. With the above example, you can just edit the highlights section and update any homework/events.
Download the app for your blog’s platform if it’s faster or simpler for you to post from your tablet or smartphone!
Use the post scheduling feature (included on both WordPress and Blogger) to publish at an exact time each day (that way, you can prepare it whenever you have a few minutes, but you won’t have to worry about hitting “publish” at a specific time after school).
#2: Use Tags
Add a tag or two to each post to help students and parents easily navigate your archives. Be sure to remember to add the tag widget to your sidebar as well!
#3: Share Pictures
Students of every age love seeing their pictures, and parents love seeing their kids in action at school! The result: an effective way to draw in your audience. This is where your platform’s app may come in handy as well so you can post directly from the device with which you took pictures. Of course, you may find you’d prefer to microblog your pictures using Twitter, but you can always also add a Photo Gallery section to your blog for students to explore. For posts with pictures, remember to add a “pictures” tag!
Creating a few drop-down menus of organized student and parent resources is a fantastic way to increase your blog’s usefulness and traffic! If you’re an elementary school teacher, you can make one page for each subject area that’s packed with links to relevant games and tools. However, be sure to screen every link, both for safety and for quality–even young students are tech-savvy enough to see through an arbitrary list of “games” that aren’t actually fun! Check out our list of student favorites!
#6: Don’t Get Discouraged!
It may take a few months before your class blog catches on with a regular traffic flow. Just keep looking for ways to make it as useful as possible for your students, soliciting their ideas to find out what resources would help them!
#7: Layout: Go for Simple
Ask yourself: do YOU enjoy looking at busy web pages with patterned wallpapers of dogs or bright bubbles that make the words difficult to discern? Keep the colors solid behind all words, and play with fonts, sizes, and text colors to ensure easy reading.
In all the back-to-school paperwork, be sure to promote your class blog link as much as possible! Let parents know the link is in your email signature, and remind them as necessary throughout the year!
#10: Throw in Intermittent Rewards
A fun way to encourage visitors is to periodically throw in an incentive. Give students a “Secret code word” in your post every now and then, telling them to write it on a slip of paper and to covertly hand it in the next day for a treat or bonus.