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Article Critique #2:

Middle School Students’ Technology Practices and Preferences:

Re-Examining Gender Differences

Leslie M. Miller, Heidi Schweingruber and Christine L. Brandenburg

Camille Maydonik


ETEC 500 Research Methodologies in Education

Instructor: Dr. Clifford Falk

University of British Columbia

July 4, 2010


Miller, Schweingruber and Brandenburg’s (2001) quantitative research study,

“Middle School Students’ Technology Practices and Preferences: Re-Examining Gender

Differences” attempts to determine if there is a gender gap between middle school

students in regards to their technology practices and preferences. In their literature

review, Miller et al. discuss male and female stereotypes in regards to technology and the

gender gap. In light of these stereotypes, the researchers also present the idea that with

greater access to the Internet, technology acculturation is at work and is narrowing the

gender gap.


This research study took the form of a 68-item survey, whereby 568 middle

school students participated from eight different Houston-area public and private middle

schools that encompassed four school districts between October 1998 and April 1999.

The questionnaire, completed with paper and pencil, consisted of closed and open

questions and was completed during regular class time for 30 minutes. The final sample

of students was 512 as a result of 56 students who did not report essential demographic

information. Of the 512 students surveyed, the researchers used socio-economic status

(SES) to ensure that their sample was representative of a diverse student population.

Therefore, the final sample of students included 158 high disadvantaged students, 170

middle disadvantaged students and 184 low disadvantaged students, with gender

represented equally in each SES category.

The questionnaire focused on three areas: “(a) self-perception of computer skills


and their acquisition; (b) exposure to technology at home and at school; and (c) media

style and content preferences” (Miller et al., 2001, p. 125). Through the analysis of their

data in these three areas, Miller et al. (2001) found that the gender gap is in fact

becoming narrower and that “students of both genders and schools of all socio-economic

levels are well on their way to becoming part of the digital culture” (p. 135).


The article and research conducted by Miller et al. is an important contribution to

the field of education and technology. Their research was conducted according to

educational research standards and their findings support their beliefs regarding gender

differences and technology preferences and practices. However, I believe that this

research study and article could be improved in a number of ways.

My first critique is that the authors do not describe how the sample was chosen

beyond telling us the number of schools and the milieu in which they are located. We do

not know how the schools were selected or how the students in those schools were

selected to participate in the questionnaire. When analyzing table 1, it is clear that the

percentage of students surveyed ranges from 6.6% of the total population of one school to

65.5% of another school. Even though SES further grouped the students, I would argue

that this is not a valid representation of middle school students.

Secondly, the authors do not define essential demographic information. Although

we can assume that it has to do with SES, it is not specifically stated. As 56 students,

approximately 10% of the whole sample, were left out of the final results, the audience is

left wondering exactly why. Furthermore, the authors do not define the word use, in

relation to computers. In their study, 97% of students indicated that they know how to

use a computer. Although not impossible, perhaps this result is so high because the

students would not want to be perceived as not being able to use a computer either by the

researchers or their peer group. I believe that the lack of defining this term affects the

reliability of the study.

My third critique is in keeping with defining important terms. Throughout the

article, the authors used the term gender gap. Then, as part of their discussion, they used

the term digital divide to imply the same concept. I have always thought of digital divide

as a generational divide, not a gender divide. I believe that the authors either need to

refine what they mean by digital divide or commit to using one term throughout their


Overall, the article written by Miller et al. is well written and executed. It

addresses the issue of gender in technology and addresses the shift from teaching to

learning. Understanding gender in the digital age is a necessity.



Miller, L.M., Schweingruber, H., & Brandenburg, C.L. (2001). Middle school students’

technology practices and preferences: Re-examining gender differences. Journal

of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 10(2), 125-140.