Stella Houston


McNair Project: Increasing Positive Attitudes and Skills of Low-Income Mothers in Computers and Advanced Technology (1997)

Mentor: Linda Thurston, Ph.D.

Recent studies on the issues of gender and computers indicate that women and girls are less interested in computers, have fewer skills, and use them less than male counterparts. Low- income mothers, especially, may suffer because of lower educational opportunities and fewer employment experiences. My question is: Does participation in twelve hours of training in computers effectively increase the awareness, positive attitudes, and skills of low-income mothers in the area of computers and advanced technology?

Volunteers from local social supportive services participated in this research. Included in the curriculum were very basic computer skills, Internet accessibility, and benefits of using computers. I expected the volunteers to feel more connected to society, and empowered to participate more fully. The experimental measurements were interview questions asked in a focus group setting and a questionnaire given before and after the training. A follow-up interview will be conducted to assess the continuation of the group interactions and their uses and interests in computers.

Preliminary findings indicate that women and mothers want more knowledge about computers. Several had previously made attempts to make themselves more computer literate by enrolling in classes. However, for them, the classroom environment was not very friendly. The atmosphere of our group setting was more comfortable for them. The interviews and focus group discussions revealed that their attitudes did indeed change in a positive direction, and their skills have increased significantly, leading them to consider more training, purchasing their own personal computers, and becoming tutors to their friends with computers.