Girls, Boys, and Bots: Gender Differences in Young Children’s Performance on Robotics and Programming Tasks

Amanda Sullivan, Marina Umashi Bers
Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice  •  Volume 15  •  2016  •  pp. 145-165
Prior work demonstrates the importance of introducing young children to programming and engineering content before gender stereotypes are fully developed and ingrained in later years. However, very little research on gender and early childhood technology interventions exist. This pilot study looks at N=45 children in kindergarten through second grade who completed an eight-week robotics and programming curriculum using the KIWI robotics kit. KIWI is a developmentally appropriate robotics construction set specifically designed for use with children ages 4 to 7 years old. Qualitative pre-interviews were administered to determine whether participating children had any gender-biased attitudes toward robotics and other engineering tools prior to using KIWI in their classrooms. Post-tests were administered upon completion of the curriculum to determine if any gender differences in achievement were present. Results showed that young children were beginning to form opinions about which technologies and tools would be better suited for boys and girls. While there were no significant differences between boys and girls on the robotics and simple programming tasks, boys performed significantly better than girls on the advanced programming tasks such as, using repeat loops with sensor parameters. Implications for the design of new technological tools and curriculum that are appealing to boys and girls are discussed.
early childhood, robotics, programming, gender
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