jump to navigation

‘You go, girls’ and female role models in a post gender world? August 15, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Education Policy and Politics, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
Tags: ,
add a comment

From Dr Susanne Gannon

Here, Susanne Gannon reflects upon the significance of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, for young women, and whether it has made any difference to the roles that our youth-oriented media play in constructing female gender identity.

The sudden ascendance of Julia Gillard as Australian PM in late June took most of us by surprise. Many women like me, who have worked for gender equity in education for some years, have been further surprised by the ambivalence of our feelings and of the complex community reactions to what should be a remarkable historical moment. While Australia was the second country in the world to give (most) women the vote in 1902, it took another 41 years until the middle of the second world war until women were elected at the Federal level in 1943, and 106 years from suffrage until we had our first female Prime Minister. Next weekend’s election will decide whether or not we will have our first elected female PM.

Many would say, particularly since the election was announced and media attention has mostly turned to polls (and even, on occasion, to policies), that gender is now irrelevant. In a post-feminist world, a world where ‘girls can do anything’ as our IWD slogans put it, or of ‘girl power’ as the magazines put it, personal success is shaped by each individual girl making the most of her opportunities. Some academics argue that this ‘individualising’ discourse, characteristic of neoliberalism, makes it more difficult to recognise the impact of social and institutional factors that impede girls’ success (see for example, new work by Jessica Ringrose in the UK). On the other hand, gendered role models – whether they are firemen who read books or women who become politicians, or electricians – are popularly seen as beneficial in their capacity to expand young people’s horizons.

In order to examine this complex context and how it is playing out, I’ve collected popular media texts directed at women and girls particularly in the three weeks between the Gillard ascendancy and the gazetting of the election. My archive includes all the major women’s and girls’ magazines, and some news articles. I’d love to hear directly from girls about their initial responses to the female PM but university research protocols mean that ethics procedures are too time consuming so for the moment I have kept my gaze to materials in the public domain. The article “You go, girls: Gillard’s rise to top hailed as an inspiration” in Sydney Morning Herald (June 28th) is one of few that focused on girls’ responses to Gillard. Whilst the headline, supplied by a subeditor, reinforces the new PM’s gender, the three girls interviewed simultaneously celebrate and dismiss this factor. Though Matilda sees this is a very significant event, she notes that she does not expect Gillard to do anything differently as PM and so “Gender is not an issue in that sense” and she stresses that “As an 18-year old female today, I have always believed that I can do anything my male counterparts can, and now I know that that really is true”. Lauren also notes that this merely reinforces what she already knew: “Julia Gillard being appointed Prime Minister hasn’t inspired me or allowed me to see the world in a new perspective. I suppose I felt like women were already equal to men here in the Western world… I already knew that a woman could be the prime minister of Australia. Aren’t you being sexist if you’re shocked or surprised that a woman has made it to that position?”  Finally, Rayan finds her immigrant origins at least as significant as her gender: “She is inspiring for young females from migrant backgrounds… whether you are a student, graduate or a mother then you can be a leader. It shows you can have lots of disadvantage but still get to the top. No matter where you come from, where your parents grew up, no matter the obstacles, we can get somewhere in life.”

Keen to see what they had to say, I had my newsagent put aside the new editions of Dolly and Girlfriend. The July edition of Girlfriend hit the stands after the ‘coup’ with an editorial focusing on ‘firsts’ and stories focusing on first kisses and first jobs. Nothing about firsts in the PM department, though plenty of ‘good news’ about the Australian tour of the teen stars of the newest Twilight movie. The August issue keeps its focus on who and what matters most in the teen celebrity world. The August Dolly, which landed next after the ascendance of Gillard, firmly ignored the JG factor as well, though in Dollyworld (wearing my truly fabulous free new headphone beanie) I learned a lot more about the hottest new boy stars on TV and readers’ secrets than I ever intended to. Meanwhile some of the women’s magazines were in a frenzy: promising us the “real Julia” (Who and New Idea) several weeks before she did, sending in the stylists (Grazia), and producing souvenir editions (New Idea, Women’s weekly). More on those later, and the contradictions embedded within those stories, as I wade my way through them. For the moment I feel like I’m oscillating between worlds.

The context for my interest in the Julia Gillard factor and in looking at gender and young people is a planned visit to Canada next month to develop a project on neoliberalism and girls with Marnina Gonick in Nova Scotia, an expert in the emerging field of ‘girl studies’, and Jo Lampert of QUT, Brisbane.  Both of these scholars will be visiting UWS in mid 2011 for a one-day seminar on this topic. Please email me directly if you’d like me to let you know the details.

Susanne Gannon is a prolific publisher on issues of gender and social equity, and also coordinates the Master of Education (Leadership) program at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.

21st Century Learning .… the teacher librarian and the school library August 6, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Early Childhood Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
Tags: , ,

from Jane Hunter

 In her 3rd posting on our 21st Century Learning blog, UWS academic Jane Hunter examines the way a teacher and school librarian collaborated in using blogED, the blog tool for schools developed by the NSW Department of Education and Training. Jane reports that 800 schools now regularly engage their staff and students in blogging.


School libraries play a significant role in building capacity for student learning in the 21st century. In several articles over the past year Lyn Hay, Colleen Foley, Cath Keane and Ross J. Todd have written comprehensively in the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) journal Scan about the changing focus of the library, often called an ‘information or resource centre’ in NSW and US schools. In my third post I would like to describe the work of one teacher-librarian and an early career teacher who ‘teamed up’ in the trial period of blogED to deliver some challenging technology-based English lessons to students at a south-western Sydney secondary school.

“For years I have been blogging with multiple hands on every resource – now everything in my practice is synergising. I don’t actually find my core content has shifted that much, still lessons on information literacy (and bibliographic record retrieval and analysis), narrative structure (text type and genre analysis), and collaboration with KLA teachers to deliver the specific syllabus outcomes they seek. I’ve always asked the students to have a workbook, I use the NSW Board of Studies ‘All My Own Work’ module by blending digital delivery with hardcopy – this has been a big winner”, said Vaughan Debenham, teacher-librarian at Bagnall Girls’ High School.

Vaughan used his experience to work with teachers at his school who were keen to learn more about blogging. Lizzie Page is a novice blog user. She teaches English and observed Vaughan use blogs with students in the school library. She watched him upload material to the media library, map backwards from the syllabus outcomes, and insert pictures as well as links to other blogs. Vaughan continued, “Lizzie came to the library a few times with questions of a technical kind, for example, formatting and moderating. I told her to log on and be my pioneer as I didn’t know it all but was willing to learn with her”. The idea of learning alongside a colleague, or as a ‘digital pair’, features in education literature on the challenges new media poses for teacher learning (Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Ito & Horst, 2008).

Lizzie believed the topic of non-fiction and media in the Year 8 English syllabus was an ideal vehicle to ‘test’ her blog pedagogy. The blog was titled “Non Fiction and Media: Visualisation of Human Interrelatedness”, and content was based on the documentary film “Baraka”. She said, “I chose a non verbal film; it’s very influential in its meaning without being didactic. I used stimulus posts on the blog containing multiple media resources including links to DET documentary resources, the “Baraka” website, the U2 video “Cedars of Lebanon” from YouTube, a jpeg of a DVD cover”.

In email feedback to Vaughan about her ‘first’ blog steps Lizzie stated, “it was exciting and gratifying to see some of the creative work the students completed. Having the blog meant every member of the class was able to view and critique each post. In this way the students became their own leaders and could forge new paths for learning whilst at the same time being challenged to think creatively, being aware of the many avenues to learning, to making, to designing”.

From a pedagogical perspective Lizzie argued that the blog gave her a medium to communicate with all of her students at once. This action and the immediacy of post responses to each student enhanced their ability to gain different perspectives and more interaction. The students believed this assisted clarification of the film’s meaning. It is the collaborative nature of blogging, in a supportive environment, that enables deep learning, engagement and reflection to take place (Kist, 2010; Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Todd, 2009). Lizzie said, “the establishment of a collaborative learning community was the biggest benefit for me and I expect this will only be enhanced with further immersion in the technology”.

The latest edition of Scan published this coming week contains the full text of this case study in an article (this post has used pseudonyms for the teacher names and school) which includes three other teacher stories, two (Kate and Mitchell) are featured on the SoE blog. Refer Hunter, J. & Corish, S. (2010) ‘blogED in the Connected Classrooms Program is for pedagogy and student learning’, Scan 29(3), pp. 6–11, at: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/scan/content/index.htm

Since blogED was provisioned by the NSW Department of Education and Training in March 2010 more than 800 schools have jumped onboard, with 7,500 blogs created by teachers, highlighting 17,000 posts by teachers and 19,000 posts by their students (source: CCP Bulletin No 34, 23 July). For more information about blogED see:


References:   Ito, M. & Horst, H. (2008). Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. Berkley Press: University of California.   Kist, W. (2010). The Socially Networked Classroom. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.   Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record 108 (6), 1017-1054 (on-line at http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/journal_articles/mishra-koehler-tcr2006.pdf).   Todd, R.J. (2009). Research columns two, 2009: School libraries and continuous improvement. Scan 28(3), 16-17, 26-31.

Jane Hunter is an academic in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.

%d bloggers like this: