Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gender Divide...why?

"In the theory of gender, I began from zero. There is no masculine power or privelege I did not covet. But slowly, step by step, decade by decade, I was forced to acknowledge that even a women of abnormal will cannot escape her hormonal identity." -- Camille Paglia

It’s no secret: men and women approach technology in different ways.

Why is this though? Why did this digital gender divide evolve? Many studies have “proven” its existence, citing that women use the internet mainly for social reasons and that men will play games, do work, etc. But why? Why don’t women use it for the same reason? What’s preventing them? What caused the crack in the usage distribution.

A Stanford study published by, called Gendering the Digital Divide, says that it comes down to gender. Gender, as defined by, is sexual identity in relation to society of culture, or the condition of being female. Note that this is different from sex, which is defined as the male or female division of a species, especially as differentiated with reference to the reproductive functions. Sex is biological, gender is not.

The study says “Women and men use the Internet differently and in different amounts because of social expectations guided by gender roles.” Women use the Internet less than men because they’re expected to. There are also things preventing women from using the Internet as often as men, like taking care of a family. “Women’s experiences with technology have historically been limited and dominated by men,” according to the Stanford study.

Technology can be looked at from many different perspectives: I believe that gender is one of them. It’s an important factor to consider when looking at reasons for technology, uses of technology, and the future of technology. What role did women play 20 years ago, what role do they play now, and what role will they play 20 years in the future? It’s our generation that gets to decide the answer; I’m going to do my best to make it a positive one.


“Grammar, which knows how to control even kings.” -- Moliere

IYO..txt grmr = ndb?

Or, in your opinion, is text grammar no big deal? Or do you think that it’s leading to student’s poor grammar usage in papers, emails, homework assignments and everyday life? Is texting to blame?

Well, IDK.
There’s no doubt that text messaging is all about convenience. It’s usually quicker to send a message than to call someone, wait for them to pick up, say hello, ask how their day is, and then get to your point. While making a phone call may be uncomfortably awkward while in the classroom, on a bus, or in a crowded room, texting allows people to send almost covert messages to each other without causing any ruckus. Since texting has become a phenomenon, texters have created their own language through which to communicate, of course adding to the quickness and ease of texting.

Is this language invading other aspects of our society?

My teachers seem to think so. At the beginning of each semester, every single one of my teachers needs to explain to me that emails are a type of formal communication. That means complete sentences, punctuation, capitalization—the works—and really, can you blame them? I often find myself neglecting to capitalize the letter “I,” I use the acronym IDK at least 5 times daily, and sometimes writing out full sentences feels like a chore.

Some scholars seem to believe that texting is a good thing. Kids need to read and write possibly hundreds of times daily to communicate. Timothy Shanahan, president of the International reading association, believes that texting puts pressure on students to be capable and efficient readers. “With so much written chatter, being able to read and write have become definite social advantages. There is simply much more pressure to know how to read than in the past…” This article points out that having a different set of words and abbreviations forces students not only to be comfortable with different styles of writing, but to understand in what situations to different aspects of language. (graphic =

Students now need to know how to write research papers formally, to correspond correctly with friends, colleagues and authorities. Students also need to be able to converse quickly through text messaging, and more importantly, they need to be able to distinguish between all of these circumstances.

This article on, called Texting is Not the End of English Grammar , argues that while ostensibly, text messaging seems to disregard all rules and regulations of grammar, intrinsically, all of these rules are still coming in to play. The grammar may be implied, rather than immediately obvious. While punctuation is not always included, it is implied by spaces. (ex. I love u c u l8r – no punctuation, but it is assumed that the two phrases are separate and independent thoughts.)
So what is it? Is it helping or hurting? Is texting making today’s younger generation illiterate, or is it making them adaptable?

Idk. L8r g8r.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Girls just want to have f...errr, Social Media?

“We are working hard to build a service that everyone, everywhere can use, whether they are a person, a company, a president or an organization working for change.” –Mark Zuckerberg, on Facebook getting it’s 200 millionth user.

University of Maryland Students: 36,000

2009 Population of the Unites states: 305,529,237

Facebook Users: 400,000,000 +

There are more then 400 million active Facebook users. There are only 305 million people living in America. 70% of Facebook’s users do not live in America, according to Facebook’s statistics page.

Facebook has come a long way since it’s conception in 2004 in the Harvard dorm room of Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook appears to have “stolen” many users from the now-old MySpace. The following chart shows a downward trend in MySpace users since Dec. of 08 occurring simultaneously with an upward surge in Facebook users. (Interestingly, the bottom line, Twitter, seems very stagnant. Has Twitter hit a user plateau?)

(Photo from

Facebook and MySpace appear to have different age demographics, with MySpace appealing more to the younger ages (<18)> However, on both sides, female usage is higher than male usage. A study by iStrategyLabs
states that, in 2010, 54.3% of users are female, while 42.6% are male (apparently 3% are “unknown.” I’m going to assume that means unlisted.)
According to Quantcast, a Web site that has its basis in viewing statistics and demographics of other websites, females also account for more than half of Twitter users. For the past few years, men have dominated the internet and comprised the majority of internet users, but on many social networking sites, women rule.


So why is this? Why are female users more prevalent on social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter? And what does this mean for women in social media?

“One word: Opportunity,” according to Jessica Faye Carter, a columnist featured on According to Carter, social media not only presents the opportunity for companies to reach women (as consumers or employees,) but also for women to “lead, effect change, innovate, and build relationships across sectors, locally, nationally, and globally.” Social media may be helping to decrease the gender gap in online usage. Carter says that women now comprise 47% of mobile web users, a number representing a 43% increase between 2008 and 2009.

But why is social media the thing bringing women to the Web? What is it that is alluring about these sites?

Some say it boils down to science. Males are better at math and spatial reasoning, and women are better at tasks involving information processing and interpreting social information. (this article) Author Louann Brizendine, in her book The Female Brain, says that while men’s brains need to process 7,000 words per day, women’s brains need the power to process 20,000.

So is there really a biological reason for this? Do our female brains direct us towards social networking sites? Did my brain make me sign up for Twitter?


The ventral frontal cortex (VFC) of the human brain has been identified as the main player in social cognition (tasks including facial recognition, perceiving and experiencing emotion.) A specific part of the VFC, called the straight gyrus (SG,) may be responsible for better social awareness and interpersonal perception. According to studies done by Professors Wood and Nopoulos of the University of Iowa, the SG is larger in grown women. Interestingly, “psychological gender,” or whether you identify more with masculine or feminine traits, also has an effect on the size of the SG. So this introduces the age-old nature vs. nurture debate. Are women better communicators because genes influence their brains, or because social pressures cause them to more highly develop the part of the brain associated with communication? . (this article)

Whether it boils down to genetics, stereotypes, or pure coincidence, women have finally found an online world they can rule.

(For more stats on the gender differences in social media usage, check out this website!)

Happy Friday! :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way." -- Mark Twain

We’ve got one of those massive encyclopedia sets in my house, and I can recall pulling at least one of those volumes out weekly when I was young to do homework, research or projects. I loved the articles, the pictures and the crisp white pages. Oftentimes we would get assignments where we needed to consult an encyclopedia article, maybe even photocopy a page, a picture, or more.

And then I learned how to use the Internet and I never touched that encyclopedia again.

If I didn’t know a word when I was younger, I was told to look it up. Can’t spell it? Get the dictionary. Don’t know what it means? Get the dictionary. Need a synonym? Grab a thesaurus.

Then I discovered and now I don’t even own a dictionary.

When I was taking Spanish in high school, we often had to translate paragraphs that we would need for in-class discussions, and these assignments were often handed out the day before. For the year or two, we would all write the rough draft of our paragraph in English, and then diligently go through word by word translating from our Spanish dictionaries, consulting our notes and textbooks to make sure everything was conjugated correctly.

And then somebody found babelfish (a free online translation machine) and homework didn’t take nearly as long as it used to.

Do you catch the drift? So many of these reference items have moved online, it’s hard to remember a time when doing research meant going to the library. Now, instead of buying a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas, you buy an online subscription so that you can fully access the content on their site. This is just another example pertaining to education where technology has taken a process and made it so much easier, quicker and simpler.

Companies like Britannica have been experience serious financial difficulties, according to reports on their Web site. These companies are forced to compete with free online sources, such as Wikipedia. Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia where users can actually add or edit information to certain sites has become an online phenomenon. ‘Wikipedia’ is practically a verb nowadays. Time magazine calls Wikipedia a “force” and whether you love or hate the site, you cannot disagree.

Who knows what the future holds for our encyclopedias, our dictionaries, and our thesauruses. Will they still have a spot in classrooms? Will there still be shelves for them in our local libraries? Or will their content go completely online, making the Internet the one and only source of their information.

I guess we’ll see.

Til then, Happy Sunday!

Classroom Computer Games

It should be noted that children at play are not playing about; their games should be seen as their most serious-minded activity. --Michel de Montaigne, philosopher

(This blog post is an assignment done in response to a study conducted on the reasons video and computer gaming is or is not effective in the classroom)

“Playing and studying are not incompatible activities,” according to a study published on The article, titled Educational Video Games Effective In Classroom If Certain Criteria Are Met, explains that video games can be a complementary tool in the classroom as long as the game is designed with three important elements: the possibility for evaluation, adaptability and ease of integration (

The possibility for evaluation means that teachers must have some method of monitoring and evaluating all interactions that students have with the particular game. This means that in addition to supervising computer/video game activity in the classroom, teachers must somehow be able to measure any and all game play (with the particular teaching game) that happens in the home or any other out of classroom environment. This of course, provides an obvious obstacle. The idea behind this, however, is that teachers need to know how students react specifically to the game, the rate at which they progress, and how each individual student’s grades are positively or negatively affected by the game.

Adaptibility means that the game should be able to fit the “specific education needs of each student.” This also provides an obstacle to gaming in the classroom. Some students are visual learners, some are auditory, some learn by being shown something while others learn by acting things out themselves: each student has a different way of learning that the computer game may not encompass.

Ease of integration, or standardization, means that the game should perform on different platforms and should be easy to work into the current curriculum. Inflexibility of the curricula and aligning games with the curricula are two negative factors that are mentioned in the study “What Hinders Teachers in Using Computer and Video Games in the Classroom?” which is posted on elms. Inflexibility was listed as the strongest factor keeping the study participants from using computer or video games in their classrooms.

Some companies have picked up on this specific problem and are manufacturing products to help ease the difficult to integrating games into current classroom curricula. PlayingToLearn ( is a book that offers lesson plans that focus on or center around specific educational computer games. These lesson plans, in correlation with different games may serve to be the perfect combination of fun and education that students need. The study on elms says that “games have an attractive element that engages players.” This element may be what some students need in order to fully immerse themselves in different subjects, lessons or skills, and could be a definite reason to include the use of video games in the classroom.

Although there are obvious downsides to classroom gaming in addition to the obstacles standing in the way of integrating this into the classroom, there are studies that laud positive effects of video game usage. Resource management, multitasking and on-the-spot thinking, hand-eye coordination, spatial sense and math skills are several of these advantages listed in the article The Positive Effects of Video Games on Children, posted on ( These skills will most probably help students in other endeavors, making the games a useful addition to any curriculum.

I believe that video or computer games can and should be used in classroom settings, though at a well-monitored and completely supervised pace. This should also not be a daily thing; maybe two or three times weekly tops. Video and computer games should be something that complements the lessons being taught by the teachers, not something that replaces them entirely. The combination of the two can provide a fruitful learning environment for younger students ( I do not see the point of using said games in a high school or even a late middle school environment).

I personally played computer games that helped with my math when I was younger. Math Blasters, Math Adventures, Math Shop. All games that were used as a supplement to lessons, classwork and homework. I do think that with the right preparation, the right games can be an extremely effective classroom tool. Probably best to leave Grand Theft Auto at home...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – John Keating, Dead Poets Society

Do you remember the first PowerPoint presentation you ever did? I do.

It sucked.

I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember being dumbfounded by the PowerPoint technology. (PowerPoint, by the way, was invented in 1984! So it’s older than me… After playing around with it, I think I ended up with a white background, black words, and just about every ClipArt item I could find relevant to my topic. I figured the pictures were there, so why not use them?

In high school, PowerPoints were a pain. Everyone dreaded the assignment involving one, and everyone hated attempting to make theirs original, professional, pretty, cool, popular—the works. A PowerPoint was something to stress about.

Now that I’m in college, the tables have completely turned. You’d much rather an assignment involves an in-depth exploration of xyz presented by PowerPoint than an in-depth 20-page research paper. Another thing that I experienced only when I got to college: PowerPoint as a daily teaching tool.

I’m a sophomore, which gives me 4 semesters of classroom experience here at Maryland. Just for kicks, I took a poll of 15 sophomores, including myself, asking them the question “How many of your courses (teachers) use PowerPoint consistently as a teaching aid?” I asked them to divide this number by the total number of classes they have taken at this University, and I tallied the following results : 60% of the partipants classes DID use Powerpoint consistently, while 40% did not.

One thing the results do not show, but an interesting fact that I found is that PowerPoint usage depends greatly on major. If I remove the engineering students from the final results, the numbers change to 70% yes and 30% no. This article,, which starts out “Theorists can’t help it: When asked to explain something, they reach for a piece of chalk,” may explain the different in scores.

To me, it seems that the big question here is “does PowerPoint positively or negatively affect students success in the classroom?” According to a 2008 study conducted by Josh Susskind, professor of psychology at Northern Iowa, students felt that PowerPoint usage made class easier to attend as well as easier to understand. Students also claim that they took better notes, and that these notes were more organized, easier to understand, and useful in studying for exams when PowerPoint was employed. ( However, the study did not find any affect on student’s grades.

So I guess the question still stands. DOES PowerPoint affect grades? Is the technology a useful alternative to chalkboards and handouts? How do you feel about this?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


“In the beginning, there was nothing. Then God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was still nothing, but you could see it.” -- Groucho Marx

How do you define technology? Our formal definition probably will not agree, but the word technology will probably conjure up the same images for the majority of us. PDAs, MP3 players and iPods, laptops, digital cameras, and game consoles like Ps3.

Though these may be some of the flashiest and most recent examples, we often overlook many other examples of technology working in our daily life. The National Academy of Engineering, ( a private institution that advises the federal government and conducts studies concerning advancements in engineering and technology, defines technology as “the process by which humans modify nature to meet their needs and wants.” By this definition, technology encapsulates so much more than flashy LCD screens on devices we can conveniently shove in our pockets. Technology made the novels we read, the medicines we take, and the cars we drive. Technology powers our homes,

Many objects that we use and take for granted today had a simple predecessor. Even our textbooks are - in some way, shape, or form – technology. At one point in time, we all had to study oral tradition. To pull from my very limited historical background, I remember oral tradition as: the process by which stories, information and ideas were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Just recently in #info3pt0, a journalism “I” course, we discussed the newest piece of technology released by Apple, the iPad. Apple is hailing the iPad as “our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.” That unbelievable price, by the way, is a mere $499. (Unbelievable!) Anyway, a long long time ago, in a galaxy far away, no one would’ve cared about the iPad, because books did not exist. Something so simple, yet so revolutionary, is a piece of technology that we overlook everyday.

Obviously there are much more exciting advancements on the market today in 2010, and the speed with which these items have been and will continue to be adopted into society is alarming. I want to repost some information that Professor R. Yaros presented in class the other day concerning the spread of technologies.

It took newspapers more than 100 years to reach 50% of American households.
It took the telephone 70 years.
Cable TV reached Americans in less than 40.
The Internet took a seemingly microscopic 7 years.

How many years will it take devices like the kindle or the iPad to take over? Will people throw out books, newspapers and magazines to make room on their shelves for these devices? Will new technology be the old technology killer? We’ll see.

On a side note -- I’d be interested in knowing how many households today own an iPod. Let me know if anyone stumbles across that information, I tried my hardest, but the numbers were nowhere to be found!

‘Til then, Happy Wednesday :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ayo Technology

"Humans used to sit around and stare at each other all day. Got very boring. So they invented the snarfblat..." --Scuttle, The Little Mermaid.

1. I am a huge Disney movie fan.

2. Replace the word "snarfblat" with the word iPod, kindle, HDTV, laptop -you name it- and you've got the main idea of this blog.

In another class I’m taking this semester, we were asked to compile a list of “American entertainment” that we could leave in a time capsule for a bunch of aliens that would inevitably take over the Earth. We were given no specifics on how to fill this list out, what we could or could not include, or exactly what types of entertainment we should focus on. You may be thinking of some of your own examples, but our list included some classics like Casablanca, Grease, and an episode of The Jersey Shore. A boy band or two, Harry Potter and the Grammys also graced a list that, although diverse, had one alarming similarity: technology. We listed movies, TV shows, music artists, even video games, but no one suggested board games, playing sports, coloring, singing, or cooking—no simple entertainment was mentioned. Technology has transformed so many aspects of American life, and this blog is going to discuss America’s shift into the technological age, and American society’s general love for and acceptance of technology.

I'm going to discuss various leisure activities, sources of entertainment, information gathering, and several processes (like writing dreaded research papers) that have been forever changed by technology. I’ll discuss topics like how we listen to music in 2010 versus how our parents listened to music, how gossip magazines and tabloids have lost the spotlight to websites and blogs, and how technological advancements (like the iPod, iPad, or snarfblat) change lifestyles. Many technologies like iPods, smartboards, color TVs or even Internet databases have revolutionized ideas and industries. It is these revolutionary items that will be the focus of my blog posts.

One thing I will not discuss is the good, the bad, and the ugly of technology, because honestly, I do not know. I know that I would hate not being able to text message, that I love listening to my iPod, and that being able to stream movies directly from Netflix to the TV is too cool; but I also know that there were 10 million cases of identity fraud in 2008, cell phone use is a factor in about 342,000 auto accident injuries, and that 70% of employers have rejected an applicant because of online info. Is there really a right or wrong? Maybe, but I’m in no position to decide. I may offer opinions, but I will in no way pass off anything I believe as fact. (Call me on it if I do!)

Next time I’ll begin my discussion of “out with the old and in with the new,” and I hope that jour289i and my supplemental research will aid me throughout the semester and result in an entertaining and informational discussion of technology’s great “Now vs. Thens.” I hope you’ll comment and join in on the discussion!

‘Til then, Happy Monday :)