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Beyond pink computers

Source: Netguide Live, January 7, 1997 By Jennifer Block

Not too long ago, Cynthia Lanius, a high school mathematics teacher in Houston, asked her class, "How many of you would like to get on the Internet?" Of her 35 students, one girl and eight boys rushed up to her desk. When Lanius asked who would like to see the late Latina singer Selena's home page, most of the remaining girls came up, subsequently exploring other sites as well.

"Girls in general are not interested in technology for its own sake," Lanius says. "They enjoy what they can do with the Internet, such as chat rooms, word processing, and research for school projects. But technology in itself doesn't appeal to girls."

But now, several projects are reaching out to girls, without resorting to bubble-gum-pink backgrounds and Barbie chirping, "Math is hard." For example, Webgrrls and Lanius' GirlTECH are going out into the community to educate parents, teachers, and professionals about the need to pique girls' interest in technology. Meanwhile, Women of NASA is profiling female astronauts and scientists, while Girl Games, an interactive-software company, is designing CD-ROMs that encourage girls to explore technology.

Lanius is skeptical of using video games to entice girls into technology, however. "Frankly, I'm not sold on computer games for girls as a cure-all for the problem," Lanius says. "Male students tend to see the computer as a toy rather than a tool. And while games might make girls more familiar and, therefore, comfortable and confident with computers, some teachers view games as a negative."

"What works with girls is showing them the efficacy of computers and what they will do for them," says Lanius. At the forefront of this effort are Girl Games' monthly online newsletter about women's history, current events, and girls' issues, and Club Girl Tech, which combines attitude, fun graphics, and pro-women articles. Given these and similar programs, maybe society can get beyond pink is for girls and computers are for boys.

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