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Boys dominate girls at the computer screen

Computers in the classroom are still seen as toys for the boys by girls, according to research presented at this week's British Psychological Society conference.

Girls paired up with boys for non-computer based tasks held their own when the partnership between the two broke down. But when a computer was the issue it was the boys who came out on top.

Researchers Helen Fitzpatrick, of Strathclyde University, and Margaret Hardman, of Bolton Institute, warn their work has implications for how teachers make use of computers.

They observed seven and nine-year-olds from four primary schools in Bolton. Same-gender and mixed pairs were told to work on two similar tasks involving word beginnings and endings - one computer-based, the other involving a board game.

There was a high level of collaboration by both age groups on both tasks.When collaboration broke down, the children in same gender pairs were equally assertive, confident and competitive.

However, boy-girl working partnerships broke down more readily. When this happened, girls dominated physically and verbally on the board game - but the boys took over on the computer.

The boys dominated - insisting on "their goes," making assertions and issuing orders - and became more bossy as they got older.

The girls believed they were as capable as the boys - indeed, the younger girls were more confident using computers - but lacked personal confidence. Computers were seen as a male preserve.

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