Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Primary Students' Perceptions of School ICT Use: Exploration or Restriction?

Are primary school students disengaged from learning as a result of  School ICT use? Recent studies by Selwyn (2009, 2009b) shed some light on this question. Firstly, one study (2009) analyses students' drawing of ICT use:

 “drawing can be seen as an inherently child-centred procedure,  with the non-verbal nature of drawings freeing the child to express emotions and  attitudes that would be otherwise difficult to assess" (see also Fury et al., 1997;  MacPhail & Kinchin, 2004 quoted in Selwyn 2009).
Secondly, Selwyn has concentrated on surveying student perceptions of ICT use both at home and school and considers the relationships between these two types of use. His work depicts a bleak picture for primary students in these studies, disengaged from ICT use at school and with no evidence of the transforming and empowering influence of classroom ICT use often claimed by education technology commentators. Various important themes emerge from these works:
  • Primary teachers are more technically confident and more likely to make regular use of ICT in their teaching than their secondary school counterparts (Barker & Gardiner, 2007; BESA, 2007 quoted in Selywn 2009b) but there is a strong sense school ICT use being shaped by the nature of individual schools.
  • The dominant school mode of ICT engagement is direct instruction rather than construction of knowledge, with computer work mainly involving writing-up , making presentations and, for  older children, spreadsheet and database work (2009b, p. 928)
  • There was a lack of evidence of the use of Web 2.0 applications both inside and outside of school. This strongly contrasts the hype about "digital natives" collaborating on the Internet.
  • Importing popular outside-school, digital practices and artefacts as a means of engaging students may actually backfire. At the same time, developing forms of classroom technology provision that fit better with the needs, values and experiences of young people is only possible through meaningful dialogues with pupils about their home use of ICT and future forms of educational ICT use.
  • In Selwyn's analysis of students' drawings of school ICT use, personal ownership, play, fun were the strongest themes to emerge from the data in terms of what students wanted in the classroom of the future. There was also a pleading tone from the students and an understanding that school restrictions of ICT such as filtered Internet access were unlikely to change. 
Clearly there is a need to reconsider the role of ICT in the primary classroom in enthusing children about learning  and examining what make some schools more successful than others in this endeavour. It may be argued that the need for personal ownership created by the one-to-one classroom model and constructivist pedagogy would lead to more engagement. The importance of establishing dialogue with students about their ICT use seems also to be important. Educators can no longer assume they know what is best for their students in terms of ICT use at school.

Selwyn, N., Boraschi, D. & Ozkula, S.M., 2009. Drawing digital pictures: an investigation of primary pupils' representations of ICT and schools. British Educational Research Journal, 35(6), 909-928.

Selwyn,N. , Potter, J. & Cranmer,S., 2009b Primary pupils’ use of information and communication
    technologies at school and home. British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 40 No 5, 919–932.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Charlie,
    It is interesting to reflect that all the dot points above have something to tell us about constructivist pedagogy... which relates to our discussion the other day about the "chicken and the egg" relationship between the two. Re dot point one, primary pedagogy does tend to be more constructivist than secondary (although I haven't got a reference at hand to back that up!!). And it is interesting to reflect on whether school culture influences teachers to become more constructivist in their teaching. It can certainly work the other way if a constructivist teacher isn't supported in a very conservative school structure.

    The points made by Selwyn re dialogue also resonate re constructivism.. both in terms of consulting with young people about the technologies used in their classrooms... and also in terms of the use of Web 2.0. I've often wondered why more teacehrs don't get involved in Global Learning projects (a-la Judy Harris) - again, very constructivist...

    Anyway, great to see you thinking about the role of young people themselves in your work..