Learning like a girl

In my book, The Butterfly Effect, I include a chapter on girls and learning. I believe that once girls reach high school, parents can feel ill equipped to help their daughters learn, hence I was keen to pass on the words of wisdom I had gathered during my years of teaching – and learning – in schools.   

The ‘really big school’ can seem impersonal and overwhelming. The curriculum is more complex. There are new school subjects today that we couldn’t have even imagined when we were at school. Some of the information our teens are learning is outside our realm of experience. Yet teenagers spend only 15 per cent of their time at school, which means our support at home is still essential.

A simple starting point: get to know your daughter’s studying habits and ask yourself: how does she like to learn? When, how and with whom does she do her best learning? If you are unsure, ask her and ask her teachers. Find out what works and how you can make her learning environment at home even better. For more specific guidance on how to do this, I think Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, a respected parenting author, has a helpful way of looking at the role of a parent in a child’s education. She likens it to the role a good sports coach has in an athlete’s training:

From sports psychology, we know the best coaches focus on improving technique and skill . . . They make rewards reflect achievements; teach individuals to manage their own mistakes, learning and progress; and reduce anxiety by finding out what is causing it and addressing that directly.”

Rather than being overwhelmed by how to help your daughter learn school subjects you don’t entirely understand, you can use the idea of becoming her coach to break down your role into doable tasks: helping your daughter improve her techniques and skills; rewarding her achievements; allowing her to learn from her mistakes; giving her the freedom to manage her own learning; and offering her your loving support, so that she is not left feeling anxious.

One of the areas that seems to cause the most angst with parents is IT. Particularly if Mum and Dad are not confident users of technology.

I was interviewed for two interesting Sydney Morning Herald articles on this topic last week ( both were published today and were picked up nationally).

Too boring: girls miss the IT boat. Read full article at the link provided.

An extract: 

As new media technologies continue to intertwine into our everyday lives and careers, there are fears girls are being left behind, with many finding computer subjects boring or irrelevant.

A study of attitudes to technology and career skills conducted by the Victorian Government in 2001 showed that 36 per cent of girls, compared with 16 per cent of boys, found information and communication technologies boring.

Almost 10 years later, little has changed, believes the educator Dannielle Miller. She says she has picked up on an alarming trend during her work with girls in primary and high schools across Australia and New Zealand, dealing with things like self-esteem and body confidence.

Miller, the chief executive of Enlighten Education, a company she helped found to foster education and self-esteem among young girls, says a big proportion of future job opportunities will be involved in the IT field.

”Increasingly jobs will require high-order IT skills,” she says.

”If we have a generation of young women who have been excluded from that knowledge then there is going to be a stark gender divide which will be quite problematic.”

So Much Homework, so many distractions. Read full article at the link provided.

An extract:

PARENTS who peer over their teen’s shoulders during homework time may be alarmed by all the distractions that are taking place.

How can they concentrate amid the lure of MSN, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, the internet, music and a nearby mobile? Can this seemingly distracting environment actually be positive to their child’s learning? Can it offer them life skills to navigate today’s increasingly digital world?

”When I’m doing my homework I will have Facebook, MySpace and MSN open and I will flick through all the screens constantly,” says Caitlyn Wilcher, 17.

Wilcher is studying for the HSC at Blaxland High School, yet no matter how pressing her homework is, these screens are constantly open, she says.

”When the pressure is on I still leave everything up but don’t check it as frequently and stop talking so much on MSN. I tend to talk about the homework when it’s crunch time.”

Increasingly, homework done on the computer is becoming a social event. Dannielle Miller says parents need not be too concerned about these apparent distractions but rather should try to help young people navigate this environment.”

Love to hear more about how the girls you care for learn.

3 thoughts on “Learning like a girl

  1. Selena says:

    My girls are only 7 and 6, so not using the computer for homework just yet. Still, they prefer to do their homework (albeit a very small amount so far) in a social environment – the middle of the lounge room floor, with everything else going on around them.

    The teenage girls using all sorts of other applications at the same time as their homework… that’s just how I do my own work! And I seem to get it done, somehow!

  2. Ella says:

    I spent almost all of years 8, 9, 10 and 11 with MSN open. We used to run study groups online! My parents used to have a fit, and my mum took to having an internet password that I had to ask for every time I wanted to use the internet to stop me doing so much while I was studying, but now I’m at uni, I find I study with facebook open. I won’t have MSN on my computer because it’s too much of a distraction, but I think it’s quite helpful to have something to divert my attention just for a few minutes, because it means the time I spend on my assignment can be broken down a little bit and doesn’t get so overwhelming!!!

    Just my 2 cents!

  3. Francesca says:

    Having a background in teaching technology and creative arts I have seen the power of technology as a creative learning tool first hand. Our teens lead ‘wired lives’. They live in a world where they connect daily with technology through sms, chatrooms, facebook, vidpods just to name a few. It is no surprise that technology is part of the way they study whether it is at a higher level through the use of ePortfolios, as a problem solving tool to chat about the most recent assignment or even to have a quick break from study. Not only do we need to accept that technology is part of our girls lives but also find ways to empower them to be even more IT savvy.

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