Home-School use of ICT

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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.

7 thoughts on “Home-School use of ICT

  1. Derek I read down the list of bullet points in this blog and the thought that came to my mind is that most of the concerns expressed would be simply answered by forgetting about home use of computers and just focusing on school use. For example:

    Children who have more opportunities to access information/educational opportunities outside of school are more likely to be motivated by school work.

    But is this because they have so few opportunities inside school to access information/opportunities? Children with access to the equipment at school may well be more motivated to doing the school work at school rather than at home.

    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.

    What if access to the website/intranet formed part of the normal school day? If the need to access it for information is created then the benefits from intranet opportunities can be realized. Are we hoping they will want to access school work at home?

    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.

    Many teachers do this with homework because they want to encourage this sort of use of ICT tools but they just can??t get it done in the day with 30 children and one or two computers. Change the ratio of computers to children, train the teachers in effective use and I don??t think we will be concerned about children having access at home they will be able to use the tools effectively at school. There is little research that says homework is of any value anyway so why do we want to get uptight about high-tech homework. Give them the tools at school and let them ride bikes, kick balls and climb trees outside of school hours.

    The majority of pupils did not email their teachers for help with school work.

    Maybe they talked to them instead? Or maybe they didn??t and the teacher never promoted the opportunity for email interaction. Again I think if this can be achieved in class with equipment provided by school then you will build a culture of openness and exchange. I still get emails from students I taught 3 years ago in a technology rich environment.

    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.

    This is why we ??educate?? children. These criticisms don??t exist in a vacuum. Plagiarism is no better because a child has copied longhand from an encylopaedia or no worse because they have cut and pasted from Encarta. If the teacher is going to accept either from a child the problem lies with the teacher. We must educate. That??s our job. I??d say education about plagiarism is important but so is discernment and evaluation of authenticity. We must teach children to cross reference information and for me, the real way around plagiarism comes from Jamie McKenzie who urges teachers to ask questions that require children to ??make an answer?? not ??find an answer??.
    Handwriting is another interesting issue. Is it still important? I??m not sure about this?
    Potential for distraction is made in the point below.

    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

    I??m not sure that I understand this statement but it seems to me to be saying that increased game time (or maybe tv) equals decreased academic achievement??? Is this what is being suggested? Now that is an interesting issue and I??d love to see the research on that one. Wouldn??t you say there was a negative association if you are getting a decrease in attainment? Statistics! You can make them say what you like.

    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.

    I think this is the most significant issue. My experience three years ago in a classroom with 13 computers between 31 children convinced me that having enough equipment to allow school to be done differently was significant in creating the reality. My children used the computers for large parts of the day. They emailed, researched, created, surfed the net, interacted in discussion forums, blah, blah blah, because they could. They had access to the gear when they needed it. If they had a question it was a simple matter to grab a computer and google it. Appropriate use of the gear was my job in terms of the sorts of tasks and questions I encouraged.

    Addressing the professional development needs of teachers is, I agree significantly important. I worry that teachers are often so far behind their pupils that catch up is nigh on impossible. I do think that the most significant role teachers have in all this has nothing to do with technology but everything to do with teaching children to become better learners. The paradox is that the teachers who are best at that very often model it by their willingness to become learners themselves and the teachers who are the poorest at developing learning are themselves poor learners. How do we help teachers become better learners?

    Phew what a rant that was!

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  2. Hi Derek
    As an interesting coincidence I checked out your blog having just posted about a rich home technology learning experience on mine http://sonjanz.blogspot.com/ for anyone interested in how one family had a very special learning experience thanks to the internet on ANZAC Day.
    As to what happened when my seven year old tried to share that learning at school … I am probably still too frustrated to comment.

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  3. Hi Derek,
    I’d be very interested in a study like this conducted in a NZ context. A while back now, I wrote a paper for Knowledge Tree asking for something like it. In that paper’s references is a link to this research paper from the US: The Digital Disconnect: The widening gap between Internet-savvy students and their schools. I thought it was equally thought provoking, and a model for similar research needed here.

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  4. Like Leigh stated Derek , the paper he wrote for the Knowledge Tree pretty much summed up the pace of change needed here in Australia.

    It would be interesting for Leigh to be given a chance to do so of the same ilk in NZ. I’d like a copy of the comparison from your and leigh’s perspective.

    Great link to a great resource and thankyou.

    Regards,

    Alex Hayes

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  5. You see many childeren don’t have computers at all. The percentage of childeren on net is very negligible. But that doesn’t mean ICT should be neglected, it is the fusion of current best practices and ICT that will be the future. Even with all the resources, countries like US lags behind in terms of science and mathematics at schools level. India for example Science and Maths marks are only considered as good for rating a school children. http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14198984 – Tamil Nadu state is leading the way in providing computers for school children.

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