Redefining Geek takes a close empirical look at what it means to be good with technology, unpacking what is often thought of as the “natural” ability of younger generations. Drawing on rich qualitative data and extensive quantitative data, Puckett finds that at the core of technological competence are five technology learning habits, including three general habits and two technology-specific habits.
The five key technology learning habits:
- Willingness to try and fail
- Management of frustration and boredom
- Use of models
- Design logic
Using this redefinition and a measure called the Digital Adaptability Scale (Download PDF) , the book examines differences in these habits by race, class, and gender. On the one hand, findings show girls need help in developing the two technology-specific habits (design logic and efficiencies). These habits require explanation and/or are often hidden, suggesting girls experience gatekeeping where these insider tricks are not equally shared. On the other hand, findings reveal no significant differences in the technology learning habits by race/ethnicity or class, suggesting that many low-income and racial/ethnic groups experience gatekeeping of a different sort, going unrecognized and unrewarded for their technological talents.
Overall, Redefining Geek complicates digital divide narratives about who is and is not tech-savvy that can obscure gatekeeping dynamics and perpetuate the very problems they seek to address. Instead, the book calls for a deeper look at the engines that fuel gatekeeping and a society so driven by competition that it fails to fully develop and recognize its own talent. Puckett argues that by redefining what it means to be a “geek” as someone with strong learning habits—and equitably building, recognizing, and rewarding these technology learning habits in all kids—we can create a more inclusive and equitable technological future.
A portion of book proceeds will benefit Urban Promise Academy in Oakland, California.
For media inquiries, please contact: Carrie Olivia Adams, Promotions & Marketing Communications Director, University of Chicago Press, (773) 834-6084, firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Redefining Geek will serve as an essential guide for a generation of educators who are grappling with how best to teach and lead in this technological age. Puckett draws on a deep data set to redefine what it means to be competent with technology, bust a pile of myths much in need of busting, and offer clear steps for helping students develop the habits they need to succeed in life, work, and play. This book will guide how we tackle digital inequality and support the learning process of young people of all races, ethnicities, and genders for years to come.”
John Palfrey, president, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
“Through her solid research and her experiences with working with diverse student learners, Puckett does an exemplary job in helping readers understand and rethink what it means to be technologically competent. This is especially important considering our world is more reliant on technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic and having tech skills is essential. This knowledge and her guidance–coupled with a thorough examination of how our biases can further exacerbate the digital divide–is beneficial in designing tech educational curriculums and programs that are more inclusive and supportive to the diverse communities that they are serving. A must-read for any professional seeking to improve and advance technology education.”
Susanne Tedrick, author of Women of Color in Tech
“Puckett is a terrific writer with a broad, precise, empathetic, and thoroughly researched account of technology education and where it falls short. In Redefining Geek, Puckett carefully dispels myths about natural technological ability and grit that perpetuate existing inequalities. She offers practical and innovative ideas to make STEM more inclusive. Providing fresh analysis with new stories and actionable examples, Redefining Geek is a smart, engaging look at what needs to change about education in order to bring about technology that benefits us all.”
Joanne McNeil, author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User
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