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Abstract

The decline in new entrants to IT professions coincides with the burgeoning use of new information and communications technologies among adolescent users. Teenage girls embrace a wide range of new technologies, yet are less interested in IT-related careers or college majors than their counterparts in earlier years. In order to forestall further declines in IT college majors, educators in middle schools and high schools must learn how to better instill an appreciation for IT career opportunities in their students. The purpose of this paper is to report on our descriptive study of teenagers’ technology-based perceptions, habits and interests, and to explore the link between these usage patterns and other personal attributes concerning technology access in their homes and schools. Analysis of more than 300 surveys reveals both similarities and differences in male and female elective technology use. Of particular note is that many of the gender-related differences do not appear until high school. This signals that students must be made aware of the importance and benefits of computing technology for purposes other than leisure or social interaction in the lower grades, and also in the home. We also find significant differences in gender-based usage patterns and perspectives on computing. With this understanding of current usage patterns, educators and employers will be in a better position to review IT-related pedagogy and curricula, and to appraise IT career options in a more informed light.

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