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Running Head: A FEMALE COMPUTER USERS CRITIQUE

A Female Computer Users Critique of Miller et al. (2001) Ashley Bayles University of British Columbia 40912024 ETEC 500 65D Dr. Janet McCracken Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A FEMALE COMPUTER USERS CRITIQUE

A Female Computer Users Critique of Miller et al. (2001) Miller et al. are interested in dispelling outdated claims there is a lack of female representation in technology fields. They want to show that the advent of the internet, its use, and how increasing presence of computers in both homes and schools are narrowing the gender gap in technology. Their findings are based upon survey results from 512 middle school students and explore three main areas: student self-perception of skills and acquisition, exposure to technology, and content preferences. The survey aims to include students from different socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds and an equal number of males and females. Students from eight Houston public and private schools were involved. While the list of potential flaws in this study includes outdated research, researcher bias, sampling errors, and research methodology errors; this critique will focus on the validity errors in the sample and research methodology. The problem of validity errors in the sample is of great concern to me because it negates the ability to generalize any conclusions made. Miller et al. state that they ensure validity in the sample by assigning students to one of three socioeconomic groups as determined by the schools percentage of students enrolled in a free or reduced lunch program. While the students may have attended a high disadvantage school that does not ensure that the students selected are in the program or come from a high disadvantage family. Furthermore, students were only selected from 8 different schools across four different school districts. The authors do not mention how many schools or districts there are in Houston so one can only guess at how representative the schools and districts

A FEMALE COMPUTER USERS CRITIQUE

selected are of the city as a whole. This is not likely to be a very representative sample of the entire Houston district of schools since Houston is such a large city. Also, in Table 1 (Miller et al., 2001, p.128) we see that within each school there is a large difference in the percentage of students surveyed in each school. A few of these are the high disadvantage schools (campuses 1, 3, and 4) so it could easily have an effect on the representation of the data. Another problem with this research is that the authors did not test the questionnaire before administering it. The questions are unclear and leave much room for interpretation by respondents. One of the questions asked if students know how to use a computer (Miller et al., 2001, p.129) which is extremely vague as there is no definition of what they mean by this. Perhaps some students think it means to just turn on a computer, while others think it means being able to use advanced software such as PhotoShop. The researchers claim that 80% of the males and females report having internet access at home, but they neglect possible SES differences. Another question asks students to rate their expertise, and many claim they are experts, but again the term is not defined in any way. Problematically, the survey is administered in science or computer technology class and it is not clear if these courses are electives or not. Students who are in a computer technology class would most likely be more familiar and comfortable with technology than students who did not select this course. The authors admit that they did not consider enrollment in computer related courses, which puts all their results into questions, especially after they include a report that states there is an alarming gap between the number of males and females using computers in school settings, particularly in computer course enrollment numbers (Miller et al., 2001, p.136).

A FEMALE COMPUTER USERS CRITIQUE

Looking at these issues with the sampling, as well as survey questions and administration issues, I find this article to be unreliable and I would not include this article in any research I complete. While the authors do acknowledge the need to have time to spend on a computer in order to become proficient, the problems in their research detract from the value of this article. I hope that future research would include more information on the digital divide among socioeconomic classes as the digital divide is no longer about access so much as training and time to mess around as stated one survey question stated.

A FEMALE COMPUTER USERS CRITIQUE

References Miller, L. M., Schweingruber, H., & Bradenburg, C. L. (2001). Middle school students' technology practices and preferences: Re-examining gender differences. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 10(2), 125-140.