I’ve just been browsing a recent report from the DfES in the UK titled Children and Young People’s Home Use of ICT for Educational Purposes (downloadable PDF) which contains some points worth noting – particularly in light of the discussions taking place about the use of OLEs as a means of supporting home-school links.
While the sample size for the study is relatively small, (they studied home use of about 1200 pupils across 12 primary and secondary schools during the summer term 2004), many of the key findings are worth noting and considering in terms of the trends that are being identified – particularly given the fact that a lotwill have moved on since this research was undertaken.
Some of the key findings are:
- There were very high levels of home computer ownership across all year groups (89%) (Incidentally, this is about the same as reported recently in <Time Magazine's cover story (March 27, 2006) which reports that today 82% of kids are online by the seventh grade, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. )
- Children who have more opportunities to access information/educational opportunities outside of school are more likely to be motivated by school work. It thus highlights the importance of parental support and the need for schools to address disparities in parents?? levels of motivation and ability to provide for and assist their children.
- The majority of children in years 6, 9 and 11 reported using a computer at home for school work for 1 to 2 hours per week although patterns of use also varied with season and the stage of the school year.
- Use of ICT for school work outside of lessons intensified with age due to the increasing demands of coursework and exam revision pressures.
- Girls were more likely to use home computers for school work than boys (particularly in the subjects they enjoy such as English, history and science), reflecting their more conscientious attitude to education rather than a preference for ICT.
- Parents placed relatively few rules on computer use at home either because they trusted their children to use the hardware and software appropriately or because the technology was located in a family room where they could exercise informal surveillance.
- Home-school links were generally poorly developed. Only 10% of pupils stated that they visited the school??s website/intranet frequently, over 50% had never visited it. Many children (and the majority of parents) were not aware their schools had this facility; or had technical difficulties accessing it; or found the site boring/not useful.
- The majority of teachers interviewed did not set homework explicitly to be done on a computer because of their concerns about digital divides in terms of children??s access to home-based ICT. Children, however, implicitly absorbed the message that they should use a home computer if they had access to it.
- Children made very little use of ICT home-school links. However, where school revision websites were used, they were highly motivational and their use could be promoted more widely by teachers. The majority of pupils did not email their teachers for help with school work.
- Parents wanted to be able to contact schools via email, to have training and help from schools in relation to supporting their children with school work using ICT and to have more information about which websites they should encourage their children to use.
- Teachers have a lack of understanding about what home-school ICT links might involve and are fearful about the potential impact on their time of establishing ICT home-school links, for example having email contact with pupils or parents.
- Some parents and teachers identified what they felt to be educational disbenefits of ICT use. These included the perceived enhanced ability to plagiarise by cutting and pasting from the Internet, the possible negative effects on handwriting and the potential for distraction by non-educational uses of ICT.
- There was a statistically significant positive association between pupils?? useof ICT out of school for leisure purposes and decreases in attainment. This effect was over twice as large an effect as the positive association of using ICT for educational purposes. In other words, it is not access or general use of ICT per se that could raise attainment, but rather how the technology is used that matters
- The main barriers to using ICT for educational purposes out of school lessons included: a lack of explicit instruction to do so by teachers; a lack confidence in how to use the technology; not regarding ICT as applicable to specific subjects; a lack of interest in particular subjects per se; the limitations of home-based ICT (e.g. 97% of children with access to broadband used the Internet compared to two thirds of pupils with dial-up access to Internet); the limitations of ICT available at school out of lesson time (poor specifications, inability to customise school computers, frustrations of website filters etc.); a lack of time to use school based ICT out-of-lessons (because of limited equipment, its location, booking systems); and the limited appeal of school computer clubs. Here, there are clear implications in terms of addressing how schools deliver out of school ICT opportunities for their pupils in ways that make them more attractive for children.
The report has a good section on implications that is worthconsidering – especially in the NZ context. Among it’s conclusions are the following statements:
- The clear relationship identified in this study between subject specific use of ICT in the classroom and subject specific use of ICT for school work outside of lessons highlights the need for good scaffolding in terms of introducing children in the classroom to how technology can be used in specific subjects across the curriculum and showing them how this ICT use can be developed at home for school work in specific subjects.
- More generally, home-school ICT links appear to be poorly developed. Teachers have not had training in developing these uses of ICT, therefore do not have extensive understanding of what this might involve and are fearful about the potential impact on their time of home-school ICT links. Further attention to these matters is needed in pre- and in-service teacher education.
It would be very beneficial, I feel, to engage in a robust discussion in the NZ context to see just how these findings might hold up here. My feeling is they’d be pretty well on the button – which raises all sorts of questions for me at a time that we are so enthusiastically promoting the developmentof broadband networks, together with the use of OLEs/school intranets as a means of broadening the educational opportunity for our students. I’m the first to put my hand up and confess to being a part of that enthusiastic group – but I am very aware of the warnings in this report and elsewhere of the need to simlutaneously address the professional development needs of teacherrs in a rigorous and systematic way.