On Monday I taught my first game creation class. I have decided that since I have worked with game education programs for so many years doing research and running conferences it was time to put my ideas to work and see if my research would be applicable in the real world.
The first class had 13 students attend who are in the 6th grade in an Austin public elementary school. The school is diverse both racially and socioeconomically and the class had 4 African American students, 4 Latino students, 4 European-American students, and 1 Asian-American student. Some of the students who had signed up for the class were not able to attend on the first day so these numbers will change as the class progresses.
One of the goals for this class was to try out some theories regarding how to increase the number of women in technology careers. While the number of women in STEM fields is increasing there is still a long way to go before parity will be reached. I had run STEM classes and empowerment classes for middle school girls in the 90s and witnessed and advised some of the girl technology classes in the past 10 years, but even with all of that support, women are still not entering STEM fields in the same numbers as men.
After doing several years of research on this topic I have come to the conclusion that both genders benefit from mixed-gender classes. Girls and boys need to learn how to work together in a technology setting so that they will be comfortable with each other in the classroom as they progress through their education. If boys become used to technology classes where they are the vastly dominant gender in high school or college, then they will not notice the missing women in their workplace.
In an effort to try and fix this I implemented a potential solution when I created the class before I started the class I let the students know that, it had to be 50% female and 50% male for the class to go forward and if we lose anyone we need to recruit another person of the same gender to replace them, using the idea that the boys and girls had to be equally invested in the attendance of the students who had signed up for the class. This rule was implemented as a way to look at how to increase the number of female students in mixed-gender technology programs.
Since we didn’t have everyone show up on the first day I am not sure how practical this will be to implement perfectly since I am working with such a small number and one student missing class really challenges the numbers.
However, we did have 7 female students and 6 male students attend the first class and they were all equally excited to be there and happy with the mix.
Suzanne Freyjadis is interested in changing how bias and perspective work in the media to create barriers.