#mml12 reflections 1: CPD, technology & gender issues

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The Mystery and Magic of Language, a great title for a great conference. I thoroughly enjoyed a weekend surrounded by interesting and passionate ESOL practitioners. However, not surprisingly maybe, the key themes of the conference for me have been around the Magic and Mystery of Learning – my own, experienced teachers, new teachers as well as language students. Whilst trying to decide what the key themes of the conference have been for me, I’ve found that I’ve been challenged to ask key questions.

KQ1: What are the barriers to (middle age) women (teachers) to engaging with technology? My thoughts on the gender (im)balance within FE and within aspects of e-learning within FE are not new. It became obvious to me many many years ago when I first started attending e-learning conferences that these events were male-dominated, which was so strikingly different to the ESOL department I worked in as well as the wider FE organisation. Over the years I just seem to have come to accept this fact and stopped questioning it, but three things recently have brought this to the forefront:
gender imbalance 1: at the the KC Star Awards the only category that had more male nominees than female was in the Creative Use of ILT
gender imbalance 2: attending a round table discussion on the college’s ILT Standards at the teaching and learning conference I was the sole female voice gender imbalance 3: At the session CPD, social media & technology the ratio of men:women was roughly 70:30, while the ratio of men:women within the wider conference was about 20:80.

It was one of the women in the group that raised this as a point and we discussed this further after the session. It was at this point that she also highlighted that there was quite a high number of middle age women at the conference, and this is why this is included in the question.

After the session I asked a couple of random people I’d never met before their thoughts on this. Random Person 1 said: 1) passwords created a closed system, she struggled to remember them all and it was very off putting. 2) technology is unpredictable and she felt the hardware didn’t keep up with the software. 3) responsibility for learning and the need for technical support. She said it was her responsibility to manage the classroom environment and you couldn’t rely on technical support coming quickly to resolve any issues so much easier to not to plan to use it.

Random Person 2 said: it wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in technology, it was just that she was more interested in other things.

I attended a workshop on pronunciation for beginners after my session and I found my mind not really being able to concentrate on pronunciation issues as I mulled over the gender/tech question. What I did notice during this session was that the (middle aged, female) presenter had various examples of how she used technology, whether this was for research, for creating materials or in the classroom. She shared a variety of web based resources and, as was common in other sessions, asked for email addresses for anyone who wanted her to share her materials.

With my interest in CPD in general, and bottom-up, teacher-led CPD in particular I am now pondering an LSIS bid on gender of the use of technology for learning.

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