Different worlds? A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use

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1 SPECIAL SECTION Different worlds? A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use N. Kent & K. Facerw Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, UK wnesta Futurelab, Bristol, UK Abstract Keywords This paper explores young people s access to and use of computers in the home and at school. Drawing on a questionnaire survey, conducted in 2001 and 2003 with over 1800 children in the South-West of England, on group interviews in school with over 190 children and with visits to 11 families, the paper discusses: (1) children s current use of computers in the home and in school; 2) changing patterns of computer use in home and school between 2001 and 2003; (3) the impact of age, gender and socio-economic area on young people s computer use in home and school. The paper then goes on to discuss young people s perceptions of the differences between home and school use of computers and to address the question of whether young people s home and school use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) are really different worlds. Through analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data, the paper proposes that the boundaries between home and school are less distinct in terms of young people s ICT use than has previously been proposed, in particular through young people s production of virtual social networks through the use of instant messenger that seem to mirror young people s social school contexts. The paper concludes by suggesting that effective home school link strategies might be adopted through the exploration of the permeability of home/school boundaries. computers, home, ICT, instant messenger, school, young people Background The InterActive Education Project s central objective is to address the question of how information and communications technologies (ICTs) can be used to enhance teaching and learning. While the rest of the papers in this edition focus specifically on the practices, people and policies of the school as an educational institution, this paper focuses specifically on the relationship between the techno-popular cultures (Green & Bigum 1993; Marsh & Millard 2003) that Accepted: 10 August 2004 Correspondence: K. Facer, NESTA Futurelab, 1 Canon s Road, Harbourside, Bristol BS1 5UH, UK. students bring into the school setting from their use of ICTs in the home, and students experience of ICTs within the school setting. Existing research in this area (Sefton-Green 1998; Downes 1999; Kerawalla & Crook 2002; Somekh et al. 2002; Facer et al. 2003; Holloway & Valentine 2003) points to clear differences between computer use in the home and in the school. These earlier projects have identified, for example, significantly higher frequencies of computer use in the home than in the school; different approaches to learning with computers in the home from those in the school; and an emphasis on different ICT-related activities in the home compared with the school. This early research has led many commentators to suggest that schools need to take into account, when attempting to enhance 440 r Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2004

2 A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use 441 teaching and learning using ICT, students expectations for quality of technical provision, for self-directed use of computers and their developing understanding of the potential of ICT through authentic uses of computers. It has also suggested that students regular computer use in the home is leading them to expect to take on roles of expert and teacher with their peers, a role that may be challenging or problematic within the current organisation of teaching and learning in schools. Earlier studies also suggested that outside the school setting, there were a number of inequalities in respect of student access to and use of computers. Socio-economic status (Rudd 2002), social networks (Facer 2002), age (Colley & Comber 2003) and more prominently gender (Harris 1999; Volman & van Eck 2001; Rudd 2002, Colley et al. 1994) have all been identified as key structuring elements through which young people s access to and use of computers is played out in the home. This strand of the InterActive project was formulated specifically to draw on and to update this earlier work in order to identify the implications of students current home use of ICTs for approaches to teaching and learning with ICTs in schools. It documents changing access to ICTs out of school and concomitant changes and development in young people s patterns of out of school use of ICTs. The project explores differences between home and school uses of ICTs and how the different worlds of home and school use of ICTs overlap and interrelate. This project explores variables such as age, gender and socioeconomic status as possible structuring factors in shaping ownership, access, and expectations of computer use in the home while retaining an awareness that individual interactions with the tools and resources available in the home setting may offer new ways of thinking and learning with digital technologies to young people. Methods In order to understand the ways in which the wider patterns of age, gender and socio-economic status may structure young people s access to and use of computers, we have conducted two large-scale surveys of computer use in the home and school. However, as we recognise that these surveys describe only broad-brush patterns of behaviour, we have also conducted schoolbased peer group interviews and home-based interviews and observations with young people and their families. These are intended to provide access to the experiences of individual young people that might lie behind the patterns of behaviour identified in the questionnaire. Data collection and analysis The questionnaire The questionnaire was designed drawing on an instrument previously used in the ScreenPlay Project (Facer et al. 2003) in 1998, which was altered to reflect categories of computer use that had emerged during the qualitative stages of that project. In total, the questionnaire comprises over 200 questions concerning young people s computer ownership, access and use in the home and school. It also consists of questions on Internet access (via multiple devices), mobile phone use and location of and access to ICTs in the home. The questionnaire was initially tested with colleagues and then the instrument and analysis were piloted in a local Bristol 1 primary school in May This paper concentrates on the responses to three questions. First, how frequently young people used a computer at school for a range of activities; second, how frequently they used a computer at home for a range of activities and third, how frequently they used the Internet at home for a range of activities. The same scale of frequency was used for each question; the response categories were Every day ; 2 3 times a week ; About once a week ; At least once a month ; Less than once a month; and Never. The exact wording of these questions and the individual activities are appended. The first survey was conducted in the summer and autumn of All students from years 5 (age 9 10 years), 7 (age years), 10 (age years) and 12 (age years) in four primary schools, five secondary schools and one further education (FE) college in the Bristol area were sampled in order to cover young people in different stages of their 1 City in the South-West of England.

3 442 N. Kent & K. Facer Table 1. Sample profile for 2001 and 2003 surveys survey 2003 survey Total number of respondents 1818 (%) 1471 (%) Ethnicity White Mixed 5 6 Asian 4 4 African 3 4 Other 1 2 Missing data 9 13 Gender Male Female School year Year Year Year Year Socio-economic background Highest quartile Middle-high quartile Middle-low quartile Lowest quartile 9 9 Data not available Derived using postcode data; see Facer et al. (2003). schooling, covering Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 (ages 9 18 years). This survey was then repeated with the same year groups in the same institutions 2 in the summer term A letter explaining the research was sent to all young people and their parents providing them with the opportunity to opt out of the survey. In the primary schools, children completed the questionnaire in prearranged lesson time with their class teacher and project researchers were present to answer any queries arising. In the secondary schools detailed written instructions were provided to form teachers who administered the completion of the questionnaires in form time, Personal and Social Education (PSE) lessons or equivalent. 3 In 2001, an overall response rate of 71% (n ) fully completed questionnaires was achieved and 78% (n ) was achieved in the 2 This excludes three of the original institutions: one primary school left the project because of practical considerations, one secondary school was unable to respond to the required timetable and the FE college was not included because of previous low response rates. 3 Period of the school day dedicated to pastoral care survey. The sample profiles for both surveys are detailed in Table 1. Peer group interviews and home interviews For the next phase of the project, young people from years 5, 7, 10 and 12 from each of the participating schools were selected drawing on the 2001 questionnaire as a sampling frame. The survey data were used to allocate young people into two groups: high home computer user (defined as reporting home computer and Internet use on a daily or two to three times weekly basis) and low home computer user (defined as reporting home computer and Internet use less than weekly). In total 192 young people were interviewed in school, in groups of between four and eight students, all of the same year group and level of home computer use as described above. The semi-structured peer group interviews lasted approximately an hour and comprised questions concerning participants access and use of computers both at home and school. Young people and their families were selected for home interviews using the 2003 questionnaire data as a sampling frame. They were purposively sampled to ensure the inclusion of young people with a range of backgrounds in terms of age, school, gender, socioeconomic area and also differing types of home computer usage. Of 28 families approached, 11 agreed to participate. Data collection in this area is still ongoing, but to date 19 interviews have been conducted with 11 families. The first interview included a family discussion covering the history of ICT within the household and current use of ICT, family learning resources/support networks and also an individual interview with the young person about their current ICT usage and practices and the social context of their computer use. The second visit to the family involved an observation of the young person s computer use, using a diary completed in the previous week as a prompt, an interview with the young person about home and school uses of ICT and also a follow-up interview with parents about their perceptions of their child s computer use. It is on the data from the 2001 and 2003 surveys, from the peer group interviews and from the home interviews conducted to date that this paper will draw to explore the following themes: patterns of young people s computer use at home and at school;

4 A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use 443 Fig. 1 Young people s experience of computer activity at home and school (2003). young people s perceptions of computer use at home and at school; beyond the home/school divide. how many young people frequently participate in the different activities. Patterns of ICT activities at school and at home This section summarises data from the 2001 and 2003 surveys conducted with over 3200 young people in total. It aims to identify broad patterns of ICT use in the home compared with school and any notable changes between 2001 and We then go on to discuss any differences in home use between boys and girls, young people from different socio-economic backgrounds and young people of different ages and explore whether this is reflected in school use of ICT. The discussion in this section is based on a subset of questions in the survey, which asked the young people to state how often they carried out each of 21 4 different computer activities at home or at school using a six-point scale from Never to Every Day. 5 For the purpose of this paper we have simplified the data and focus on two measures Ever used and At least weekly. The Ever category provides an indication of the young people s broader experience of different computer activities and the at least weekly category (which collates Every Day, two to three times a week and About once a week ) provides an indicator of Reported computer use in school and at home (2003) Figure 1 illustrates that the types of activities that this sample of young people report ever having experienced at home and at school follow broadly similar patterns in Experiences widely reported in both sites include writing 6 (over 80%) and fiddling 7 (over 70%) while less reported experiences in both sites include making websites, making films and animations. This finding in itself suggests that young people do not experience wholly different worlds in their home and school computer use, as many experiences are shared across both sites. There are, however, some clusters of experiences that are more likely to be reported as ever having been experienced in school or at home. Looking up information on the Web, using charts and graphs and using educational software, for example, are all more widely reported as having been experienced at school than at home. In contrast, downloading practices (software or music), consumption (Web shopping) and watching DVDs, or composing music, are all more likely to be reported as having been experienced in the home. Of the 20 activities detailed in Figure 1, 10 4 Some of the tables and figures do not relate to all 21 activities; this is because we did not ask about participation in some activities at school, such as use of chat rooms, and the category of composing music was included in 2003 as well as the separation of downloading music/software. 5 The exact wording of the questions can be found in the appendices. 6 The case studies have highlighted that this can involve a range of activities such as homework-related writing, writing stories and sending e- mails and instant messages. 7 Fiddling can be defined as nonspecific, exploratory use of the computer that often characterises young people s use of computers (see Turkle 1984).

5 444 N. Kent & K. Facer Fig. 2 Comparison of young people s frequent (at least weekly) use of computers at home and school in were reported by a higher percentage of young people as having been experienced at school than the home. In contrast with Fig 1, which shows the percentage of young people who reported ever experiencing activities at home or at school, Fig 2 focuses on the percentage of young people who report at least weekly 8 use of the computer. When we look at this more frequent usage, it is only writing, looking up information on the Web, educational software, charts and graphs that are reported by more young people as weekly school activities than home activities. The remaining 16 activities are reported by more young people as weekly home activities. Looking at these two figures, we could perhaps conjecture that schools offer opportunities for young people to experience a wide range of different computer activities, while the home tends to act as a site where more young people engage in regular use of the computer for most activities. Comparison between 2001 and 2003 home/school computer use Between 2001 and 2003, our figures suggest an increase in the frequency with which young people report using computers in both home and school. In school (see Table 2) In school we see a particular increase in the proportion of young people reporting Internet use: looking up information on the Internet increases from 55% to 75% 8 This figure collates the response categories of Every day, two to three times a week and About once a week. weekly, browsing the Web for fun increases from 46% to 61% weekly and sending s increases from 29% to 49% weekly. Unsurprisingly, CD-ROM use during this period decreased. More young people in 2003 were also writing with computers on a weekly basis in school increasing from 58% in 2001 to 77% in 2003; working with charts, graphs or tables increasing from 23% to 31%; and playing games increasing from 31% to 46%. In the home (see Table 3) In the home between 2001 and 2003, we see a particular increase in the proportion of young people reporting media-related and Internet-based activities. DVD use increases from 16% to 26%; watching TV/ radio via computers increases from 23% to 36%; using the Web to look up information for school increases from 46% to 59%; and using the Web for fun increases from 71% to 78%. The use of online messaging services was not widespread at the time of the first survey and therefore was not included in the questionnaire. However, by the time of the group interviews and case studies it had become a prevalent computer activity at home and the significance of this will be discussed in a later section of this paper. Gender, age and socio-economic differences While the figures in the preceding section serve to provide us with an overview of young people s ICT use at home and at school, they may also mask differences that emerge along gender, age and socioeconomic lines. Given that earlier research in this field has suggested that these variables may play a sig-

6 A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use 445 Table 2. Comparison of at least weekly school use of computers in 2001 and 2003 (percentage of young people reporting participating in each activity at school at least weekly in 2001 & 2003). Base School at least School at least weekly 2001 (%) weekly 2003 (%) n n w 2 Significance (P) I write on the computer o0.001 I use the Internet to look up information o0.001 I browse the Web for fun o0.001 I fiddle around looking at different things o0.001 I send s o0.001 I play games on the computer o0.001 I draw/play with images/photos/pictures o0.001 I make or use charts, graphs or tables o0.001 I use educational software (to learn things) o0.001 I make/design things on the computer (like hats, o0.001 posters, invites) I use the Internet to revise for exams/tests o0.001 I organise the computer files/memory/systems o0.001 I watch TV/listen to radio/music on the Web o0.001 I download software from the Web o0.01 I use CD ROMs to look up information o0.001 I watch DVDs/videos on the computer o0.001 I make film/animations o0.001 I make websites o0.001 I shop on the Internet o0.001 nificant role in influencing computer use both at home and at school, it is necessary to examine how access and use of computers in and out of school are patterned within this sample along these lines. 9 Gender (see Tables 4 and 5) On a general level, in both 2001 and 2003 surveys more boys than girls report liking digital activities outside school: 82% boys and 58% girls in 2003 (w , df 5 1 Po0.001) and 78% boys and 50% girls in 2001 (w , df 5 1, Po0.001). Boys were also more likely than girls to report at least weekly use of the computer for fun 92% compared with 85% in 2003 (w , df 5 1, 9 While our sample reflects the overall ethnic make-up of Bristol schools, the small percentage of children from non-white backgrounds meant that it was not appropriate to conduct any statistical analysis along the lines of ethnic group. This does not mean, however, that there are no differences of any significance between different ethnic groups, rather that in order to understand these, it may be necessary to construct a research project that focuses specifically on questions of ethnicity, education and ICT, a project that is long overdue in this field. Po0.01). More significant gender differences are apparent if we look at daily use of the home computer: 46% of boys compared with 35% of girls reported using the computer for fun every day in 2003 (w , df 5 1, Po0.001). In order to explain this difference in very high frequency of use for fun, analysis of young people s reported daily activities shows that by far the greatest difference is in the area of games playing, with 32% of boys playing games daily compared with 17% of girls in 2003 (w , df 5 1, Po0.001). This is also consistent with other research that identifies the area of games playing as the most significant gender difference in use of computers (see, for example, Colley & Comber 2003 and Harris 1999). There are, however, other gender differences (see Table 4): more boys than girls reported frequent Internet activities (downloading music (w , df 5 1, Po0.001) and software from the Internet (w , df 5 1, Po0.001), playing Internet-based computer games (w , df 5 1, Po0.001) and shopping on the Web (w , df 5 1, Po0.001) in addition to watching DVDs (w , df 5 1,

7 446 N. Kent & K. Facer Table 3. Comparison of At least weekly home use of computers in 2001 and 2003 (percentage of young people reporting participating in each activity at home at least weekly in 2001 & 2003). Base Home at least Home at least weekly 2001 (%) weekly 2003 (%) n n w 2 Significance (P) I write on the computer o0.05 I use the Internet to look up information for school o0.001 I browse the Web for fun o0.001 I fiddle around looking at different things o0.001 I send s o0.001 I play games on the computer o0.001 I draw/play with images/photos/pictures o0.001 I make or use charts, graphs or tables NS I use educational software (to learn things) NS I make/designing things on the computer o0.05 (like hats, posters, invites) I use the Internet to revise for exams/tests o0.001 I organise the computer files/memory/systems o0.001 I watch TV/listen to radio/music on the Web o0.001 I download software from the Web o0.05 I watch DVDs/videos on the computer o0.001 I talk in chat rooms o0.001 I play computer games against other people on the Web NS I make films/animations o0.001 I make websites NS I shop on the Internet o0.001 NS, not significant. Po0.001), making films or animations (w , df 5 1, Po0.001) and making websites (w , df 5 1, Po0.001)). In contrast, more girls than boys reported writing with the computer at least weekly (w , df 5 1, Po0.001). This is in line with previous studies that have highlighted girls preference for writing (e.g. Selwyn 1998). However, there is also research that contradicts these findings, suggesting that the gender gap for writing is reducing (Colley & Comber 2003). For many activities there were no notable differences between genders, for instance fiddling, sending s, use of the Internet for revision or information for school. In terms of the frequency of school use, some of these patterns are replicated, with boys more likely to report being involved in a range of ICT activities at school, particularly games playing, and using the Internet for a whole range of reasons (for fun (w , df 5 1, Po0.001), to download music (w , df 5 1, Po0.001) and software (w , df 5 1, Po0.001), to watch TV (w , df 5 1, Po0.001) and for shopping (w , df 5 1, Po0.001)). However, there are areas where there are no gender differences: equal proportions of boys and girls report using computers at school for writing, , fiddling and searching the Internet for information. Socio-economic area There are clear differences in ownership of home computers and particularly the Internet according to the socio-economic area of the young person. 10 In 2003, reported computer ownership among those young people from the highest socio-economic areas was 96% compared with 81% for those in the lowest socio-economic areas (w , Po0.005). Similarly, reported Internet access stood at 87% for the 10 The analysis refers to children coming from areas with the highest/ middle-high/middle-low/or lowest socio-economic profiles. This is not to say that the individual child is necessarily from the highest/lowest socio-economic background, but that the area in which they live (to a detail of 14 houses) can be characterised along those lines.

8 A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use 447 Table 4. Percentage of boys and girls reporting participating in each computer activity at home at least weekly in Base Home at least Home at least weekly boys (%) weekly girls (%) n n w 2 Significance (P) I play games on the computer o0.001 I browse the Web for fun o0.05 I write on the computer o0.001 I fiddle around looking at different things NS I use the Internet to look up information for school NS I send s NS I draw/play with images/photos/pictures o0.05 I watch TV/listen to radio/music on the Web NS I make/design things on the computer (like hats, NS posters, invites) I download software from the Web o0.001 I download music from the Web o0.001 I use the Internet to revise for exams/tests NS I organise the computer files/memory/systems o0.001 I use educational software (to learn things) NS I play computer games against other people on the Web o0.001 I watch DVDs/videos on the computer o0.001 I talk in chat rooms NS I make or use charts, graphs or tables NS I make films/animations o0.001 I shop on the Internet o0.001 I make websites o0.001 NS, not significant. highest groups compared with 65% Internet access for those in the lowest socio-economic areas (w , Po0.001). Although those young people from lower socioeconomic areas are more likely to have access to digital TV, games consoles and mobile phones with Internet connection, this does not translate into a consistent pattern of greater use of these alternative devices to access the Internet. Those young people from the lower socio-economic areas are more likely to use mobile phones to access the Internet, but not games consoles or digital TV. In terms of computer activity and frequency of computer use in the home in 2003, there are few consistent differences between young people with home computers and the Internet living in different socio-economic areas. However, there does appear to be a tendency for young people from the middle to lower socio-economic areas to report more frequent use of the computer for schoolwork at home (53% of the middle-low quartile weekly compared with 36% of highest quartile) (w , df 5 3, Po0.05). Similarly, there are few consistent differences along socioeconomic lines in terms of activity and frequency of use in school. A more pertinent indicator of the role of socioeconomic area in shaping computer use at school, however, is identifiable when we compare those who have computers at home with those who do not. What is noticeable is that those young people with home computers are more likely to experience particular computer activities at school and to use school computers more frequently for these activities. Although there are no differences in some of the universal school activities such as writing or fiddling, there are notable differences in use of the Internet (for fun, searching for information, revision, using and downloading software and music) and organising the school computer files. This suggests that school use of computers is more likely when young people already have a computer at home (see Somekh et al. (2002); Rudd (2002) and Selwyn (2002) for similar findings).

9 448 N. Kent & K. Facer Table 5. Percentage of boys and girls reporting participating in each computer activity at school at least weekly in Base School at least School at least weekly Boys (%) weekly Girls (%) n n w 2 Significance (P) I write on the computer NS I use the Internet to look up information NS I browse the Web for fun o0.001 I fiddle around looking at different things NS I send s NS I play games on the computer o0.001 I draw/play with images/photos/pictures NS I use educational software (to learn things) NS I make or use charts, graphs or tables o0.005 I use the Internet to revise for exams/tests NS I make/design things on the computer NS (like hats, posters, invites) I organise the computer files/memory/systems o0.005 I watch TV/listen to radio/music on the Web o0.001 I download music from the Web o0.001 I download software from the Web o0.001 I use CD ROMs to look up information NS I make film/animations o0.01 I watch DVDs/videos on the computer o0.001 I shop on the Internet o0.001 I make websites o0.001 NS, not significant. Age (see Tables 6 and 7) Age seems to be a significant factor associated with the type of computer activity young people are involved with at home. As age increases there is an overall trend for computers being used less frequently for leisure activities but more frequently for schoolwork. For example, in 2003, 60% of Year 12 students report using their home computer for schoolwork at least weekly, compared with 18% of Year 5 students (w , df 5 3, Po0.001). There is also a reciprocal decline in games playing by age, with 54% of Year 12 students reporting at least weekly games play compared with 87% of Year 5 students (w , df 5 3, Po0.001). Looking at the activities in more detail the pattern is more complicated; see Table 6. Most activities appear to increase with age, particularly writing, which increases from 59% reporting writing on an at least weekly basis in Year 5 to 80% in Year 12 (w , df 5 3, Po0.001). Use of the Internet, as one may expect, tends to increase in frequency with age. Activities such as using the Internet for revision (w , df 5 3, Po0.001), for fun (w , df 5 3, Po0.001), to shop (w , df 5 3 Po0.001), to look for information for school (w , df 5 3 Po0.001) and to download music all demonstrate clear increases in frequency with increasing age (w , df 5 3, Po0.001). For communication activities on the Internet, Year 10 is the age group most likely to report highest usage of chat rooms and s, along with Year 12s (w , df 5 3, Po0.001); they are also most likely to use the computer for watching TV (w , df 5 3, Po0.001) or listening to the radio. (w , df 5 3, Po0.001). However, there are also computer activities that do not demonstrate such clear age-related patterns. Activities that remain relatively constant across age groups are the use of educational software and fiddling. There are also activities that appear to peak in use among particular age groups, for instance Year 7 students most frequently make films and animation (w , df 5 3, Po0.001), and play with images or photos (w , df 5 3, Po0.001). This

10 A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use 449 Table 6. Percentage of each school year group reporting participating in each computer activity at home at least weekly in Base Year 5 Year 8 Year 10 Year 12 w 2 Significance (P) n (%) n (%) n (%) n (%) I write on the computer o0.001 I use the Internet to look up information o0.001 for school I browse the Web for fun o0.001 I fiddle around looking at different things NS I send s o0.001 I play games on the computer o0.001 I draw/play with images/photos/pictures o0.001 I make or use charts, graphs or tables o0.01 I use educational software (to learn things) NS I make/design things on the computer o0.01 (like hats, posters, invites) I use the Internet to revise for exams/tests o0.001 I organise the computer files/memory/systems o0.001 I watch TV/listen to radio/music on the Web o0.001 I download software from the Web o0.001 I download music from the Web o0.001 I watch DVDs/videos on the computer o0.001 I talk in chat rooms o0.001 I make film/animations o0.001 I make websites o0.05 I shop on the Internet o0.001 NS, not significant. may be associated with image-related work carried out at school; as is highlighted below, young people in Year 7 are also most likely to use school computer use for these activities. Are these differences in use of computers at home by age reflected in young people s use of computers at school? Broadly these patterns are also to be seen in school use of computers. The more frequent games playing among younger young people is also seen at school, although the differences are less marked than for home. In addition, the higher frequencies of use of the Internet among the older age groups are also repeated in school use of computers. Interestingly, the more frequent use of home computers for playing with images and photos and for making films and animations among Year 7 students is also seen at school (w , df 5 3, Po0.001). However, there is no significant difference in the frequency with which young people of different ages report writing at school. These findings suggest a link between the types of activities young people are carrying out at home and at school. They cannot, however, tell us whether it is greater use at school motivating young people to use their home computer for similar activities or an interest at home that is carried over to their work within school. These relationships and links between home and school use are being explored in more detail through our home interviews with young people and will be reported at a later date. Getting connected: young people s perceptions of school and home use of ICT The preceding section of the paper has provided some insights into the differences and similarities in terms of broad levels of use and types of computer activity at home and at school. This section will now go on to discuss young people s comments on the differences between home and school connectivity. It will highlight continuities with previous studies and identify new and emerging themes. It is important to note here that while young people may have access to free use of computers at lunchtimes and breaktimes in school, school use of computers in the following discussion refers specifically to activities within formal lesson time.

11 450 N. Kent & K. Facer Table 7. Percentage of each school year group reporting participating in each computer activity at school at least weekly in Base Year 5 Year 8 Year 10 Year 12 w 2 Significance (P) Write on the computer NS I use the Internet to look up information o0.001 I browse the Web for fun o0.001 I fiddle around looking at different things o0.01 I send s o0.001 I play games on the computer o0.001 I draw/play with images/photos/pictures o0.001 I make or use charts, graphs or tables NS I use educational software (to learn things) o0.001 I make/design things on the computer o0.001 (like hats, posters, invites) I use the Internet to revise for exams/tests o0.001 I organise the computer files/memory/systems o0.001 I watch TV/listen to radio/music on the Web o0.001 I download music from the Web o0.01 I download software from the Web NS I use CD ROMs to look up information NS I watch DVDs/videos on the computer o0.05 I make film/animations o0.001 I make websites o0.01 I shop on the Internet o0.001 NS; not significant. Home use of computers Previous studies have identified a number of characteristic features of young people s home computer use: in the home computer use tended to be embedded in young people s existing hobbies and interests; young people committed substantial periods of time to particular projects using the computer (either smaller activities lasting several hours, or sustained development of expertise in one area over a period of years); young people were often supported by a wide availability of human and material resources offering justin-time help as and when required; young people often acted as experts and teachers within family cultures (Sutherland et al. 2000; Somekh et al. 2002; Facer et al. 2003). During the course of this study, these features were still identifiable as significant in shaping young people s home computer use. For example, when talking about their home computer use, young people continued to locate this as part of a wider context of hobbies and interests: Year 13 boy who plays guitar in a band uses the Internet to find websites where people place the music from newly released tracks. He re-visits the Internet site regularly to find either new tracks or better versions of favourite tracks. Year 6 boy using Internet to look at models of bikes he wants for his birthday. His father identified a couple of websites and he was in the process of thoroughly exploring all the options before making a choice. Year 13 girl who is very interested in the Matrix and Lord of the Rings. She visits their websites, and writes fan fiction, posting it on these sites. Year 8 boy finding cheats on Internet to play new computer games. He discusses with friends what cheats they have and which websites are the best to visit. Similarly, the perception that home was a site in which young people could take longer with less time constraints to explore and use the computer continued to be in evidence with this cohort of young people, as evidenced in their critique of school time constraints: But there s quite a lot of us in the computer room and you can t just go onto them (computers) and then time runs out and you haven t done it, finished it. (Year 6 student, case study interview). Because you could make computers a bit faster, because sometimes you have to wait for ages for stuff to

12 A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use 451 load up when you re trying to look for stuff. By the time it s loaded you know you ve finished the lesson. (Year 8 student, group discussion). The aim of this section of the paper is not to revisit those features identified in earlier studies, but to explore in particular a key theme emerging from these more recent interviews and case studies, namely, the implications of young people s increased use of the Internet and instant messaging for the home/school divide. As the earlier section of this paper highlighted, young people s use of the Internet in both home and school has increased between 2001 and This increase in prevalence of Internet connections is reflected in young people s conceptualisation of digital technologies as inherently connected; indeed, many young people felt they would not use their home computer if they did not have Internet access, and one Year 8 boy described the situation as A computer without the Internet is like a brain without a spinal cord. Since I ve got the Internet I ve been on it almost every day.... wouldn t use it at all if we didn t have the Internet. Unless you ve got something to type up then there s no point in using it (the computer) if you haven t got the Internet. (Year 11 students, group discussion). A computer without the Internet is a bit boring. Cos you just can t like, you can t and you can t search for anything unless you ve got like all of the disks and you can t download music or anything... (Year 8 student, case study interview). At the same time, the interview process identified the emergence of instant messaging in the home as a key feature of the connected computer. Through the interviews, many of the young people we interviewed explained that they logged onto messaging services as soon as they switched on their home computer and kept it open during the entire period they used the computer while involved in any number of other tasks. These young people appeared to be using instant messaging services in very similar ways to mobile phone text messaging, shifting between them depending on financial or logistical conditions. All the time, the first thing I got to is like MSN, see if anyone s online. (Year 8 student, case study interview). Yeah, it s like you start your coursework and you ve been taking quotes off the net and you ve got your Messenger up and you end up talking to people. I just like it because I just chat to people on MSN or whatever and type up some work. (Year 11 students, group discussion). I text from the Internet cos it s free. If I m on the Internet I send loads of text messages, but if I m not on the Internet I just use my phone. (Year 8 students, group discussion). I text my friend a lot. Also I set up a link with friends on the Internet and instead of having to type out the whole words I just type out text talk. (Year 6 student, group discussion). Indeed, the language they used to talk about instant messaging services and text messaging was frequently interchangeable, with instant messaging reportedly being used for a range of similar reasons to texting: for chat, for making social arrangements and discussing home work activities. In addition, the language young people use while texting, either via messaging services or mobiles is similar; they are using the same abbreviations and textease. In 2003, then, young people s home use of computers continues to be shaped by the home environment, by young people s own interests and the time afforded them to explore in an unconstrained fashion in the home; yet, home computer use is also increasingly seen as a connected activity, not simply in terms of the ability to access information, but as a rich instant communications system, linking young people with their peers outside school. School use of computers Young people s comments on school use of computers were, in this as with many previous studies and as discussed above, characterised by a concern that schools did not allow young people sufficient time to develop activities, and were insufficiently responsive to their interests. Without downplaying the importance of these criticisms, and their potential significance for our current approaches to education, we necessarily need to acknowledge that a formalised education system, with a national curriculum, attempting to meet the needs of a wider society, is unlikely at present to

13 452 N. Kent & K. Facer offer a fully responsive and personalised learning experience for all young people. Perhaps in response to young people s perceptions of the home computer as connected, as enabling communications and ease of access to friends, people and information, it was in the area of Internet use that young people s critiques of school activities were most vocal. Class activities involving Internet searches were criticised either as overly prescriptive.... They tell us exactly what to do. They tell us what to do and then it goes wrong so then they blame it on us... They give us weird websites that you type in for ages and um... The thing is they usually get them wrong and they don t work because they re so long. Yeah you spend half a lesson trying to put one website in and it still won t work. (Year 8 students, group discussion) or as insufficiently focused you just either type your work up or something, there s not actually something that the teacher says Look up this, it s like Look up whatever and that s too broad, there s too much.... Maybe if the teacher said Look up this or they found a page before and then said to you Look up this page, you might find interesting stuff. (Year 11 student, case study interview) and the use of filters in school was singled out for particular criticism:...some Internet on the computer goes faulty and it just doesn t load, so it starts crashing. But there s some websites that are safe but the title s no good so it bans it. (Year 6 student, case study interview). If they ve got any words... like you can t go on Wessex Water site cost it s got sex in it and anything s been banned. (Year 11, case study interview). These criticisms do not, in themselves, serve to highlight more than the growing frustration of young people used to fast and functioning equipment in the home and the fundamental difficulties of introducing potentially disruptive technologies such as the Internet into the schoolroom, with their erosion of the geographical boundaries between school and the outside world, and their seemingly endless opportunities for exploration and diversion. More pertinent to our discussion than these criticisms, however, were perhaps the observations by young people about the social context of their computer use in the school. In the home, young people described their development of a social network via instant messaging, while in the school young people were primarily using computers within lessons where they are surrounded by a large group of peers in their immediate social environment. One consequence of this was the frequent reporting of practices involving co-operation, sharing and division of labour. Young people also reported offering and receiving help, support and guidance from peers in their class and about the joint production of work with ICT at school as an acceptable method of working. They appear to be using both the affordances of ICT (the ease with which they can copy and amend each other s work ) and the social situation (working in pairs or small groups) to share the production of work. Beyond the home/school divide It is arguable that young people s home use of computers, through instant messaging and the production of a virtual social context in the home, is shaped by their expectations of social contact formed in the classroom and school, and that draws on many of the characteristics of the interactions they describe with physically co-present peers in school. This latter observation of the portability of social practices from school to home provides an interesting challenge to the clear delineations between home and school as sites of computer use, indeed, as sites of learning, which have been identified in earlier studies. It suggests that the school might act as a site of informal learning (informal give and take between peers) and the home as a site for formal learning (with young people working together to meet the challenges of school set curricula). The distinction between home and school is further eroded when we consider some examples from our case studies of the transfer of experience between home and school. For example, one Year 7 girl talked about being introduced to Power- Point at school in order to make presentations and stories. After enjoying this school-based activity, she

14 A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use 453 found the program on a home computer and went on to use it further at home: The first time I tried PowerPoint (at school) after a few weeks I really got used to it and I thought This will be fun if I can show Mary (sister) and my dad. When I went home, checked on my web page and I didn t have it. And so I said Oh Dad, have we got PowerPoint? and he went onto his page and he had it, he never used to know what it was. So I had to go and show him everything which took ages. He kept complaining, and then I said It s simple cos I know. And so I finally persuaded him to download it onto my web page. (Year 8 student, group discussion). The girl then goes on to talk about how she continued to play with PowerPoint at home and how this fed into her computer use at school: So I got on there (PowerPoint at home) and then I got like a little head start, every time I go on... I got like a little head start, booster. At the same time, our survey results would suggest that it is difficult to assume a clear demarcation between home and school. For instance, there is a crossover between home- and school-based activities with nearly 60% of young people browsing the web for fun and over 40% playing computer games on a weekly basis at school. At the same time, young people are choosing to use the home computer for what could be considered more formal learning opportunities; 60% use the Internet to look up information for school at least weekly, 30% use the Internet to revise on a weekly basis and 29% report using educational software on a weekly basis. Schools, too, are changing their policies on access to and use of computers. There is evidence from some of the schools we have been working with that students are beginning to have greater access to computers outside formal lesson times. During these periods, young people s school-based use of computers is less formalised and the practices appear to be closer to those of home computer use. If young people continue to experience greater informal access to ICT within schools it may be that practices surrounding school and home uses of computers will converge. Recently, the possibilities for bridging the home school divide were explored by John Cabot City Technology Centre for students aged between 11 and 18 years who carried out an experimental E-learning Day, 11 where all Year 8 students worked on computer-based tasks from home, with teachers available for help and support via or telephone. During the day, the young people used instant messaging services to communicate with their peers, sometimes small groups of friends, but at others up to 30 or 40 students being logged onto the messaging service at any one time. Messaging was being used, not only to maintain social contact throughout the day but also to discuss the school tasks, ask and answer questions about the work, exchange ideas and answers. The young people were using the capabilities of ICT (through instant messaging and attachment of electronic documents) to collaborate with their peers, sharing ideas and the work they had produced. In many ways the Internet, and particularly instant messaging services, was allowing them to create a virtual social environment. Summary This comparison of young people s home and school ICT use has highlighted a number of similarities and differences between the two worlds. If we focus solely on the types of activity young people are involved with in both sites, however, there is often broad congruency, with schools reflecting home use and vice versa. The differences between home and school in terms of activity, then, are not black and white, rather activities in different sites tend to be inflected with particular practices. For example, the home tends to be a site in which young people engage in computer activities often associated with leisure, such as games play or media activities, which are often less usual in school. In contrast, schools seem to act as an important gateway for many young people to engage with resources such as those that offer mathematical manipulations (using charts, graphs, tables) that are less frequently in evidence in the home environment. At the same time, the school seems to act as an important site for young people to experience a wide range of computer activities, with the home offering a 11 Naomi Kent collaborated on a small-scale evaluation of this experimental day. Data were collected through observations during the day, including visits to six students homes during the day, follow-up focus group interview with eight students and focus group interview with all Year 8 tutors and questionnaire data from all students involved.

15 454 N. Kent & K. Facer complementary site for regular engagement with a narrower set of computer activities. Another overlap between home and school seems to exist in the reciprocal impact of the two sites, in which, for example, patterns of access and use of computers outside school are being, to some extent, reproduced in the school setting: young people with computers at home using them more at school, boys who are more frequent and wide-ranging users at home, using them more and for a wider diversity of activities than girls at school. At the same time, schools can have a reciprocal impact on home use. In respect of age-related patterns of use, for example, we can see the significance of school-related activities as older age groups move away from games play and increasingly use home computers for school work over time. Both the different and complementary roles of home and school in terms of computer use, and the still evident tendency for schools to reproduce existing social patterns of access and use, suggest that there remains an important role for schools in attempting to ameliorate the constellation of practices identified as the digital divide. On a policy and management level, schools will need to continue to explore how wide ranging an experience of computer use they offer to young people across the whole curriculum as schools act as an important gateway to experience; at the same time, attention should be paid to the extent to which school ICT provision encourages those young people either less likely to be interested in computer use, or less able to access computers outside school. At the same time, young people s increasing use of instant messenger systems in the home, and the similarities in the exchanges supported by these resources with the exchanges between co-present peers in the classroom, has led us to an increased awareness of the permeability of the boundaries between school as a site for formal learning, and the home as a site for informal learning. That young people are acting as teachers and experts in the home (for example, the young girl teaching her father about PowerPoint in the example above) suggests that there are features of formal school practices being carried into the home environment, albeit with young people acting as teachers. At the same time, the patterns of social interactions around computers both while students are co-present in the classroom, and while distributed in the home, suggest that informal learning practices are present in both school and home settings. What this encourages us to consider, instead of a distinct polarisation between home and school practices, is a reconceptualisation of learning on a continuum of formal and informal practices, with the specific location (of home or school) not in itself finally determining, instead rather providing a context for, which of these practices are adopted and approved. Given this continuum, it might be useful for schools and education researchers to explore which features of informal learning approaches are being adopted in schools already, examining when young people s selfmotivated learning is taking place (perhaps in lunchtimes, perhaps through projects) or exploring how young people s adoption of the roles of teachers and experts outside of school are being developed in group classroom situations. At the same time, we might want to understand which features of the formal learning practices of school are being successfully brought into the home environment. What this focus would propose, then, rather than the establishment of clear policies for teachers and managers, is an attention to the ways in which young people are already bringing into the school the expertise and interest from their home setting. Rather than setting up the school as a site of problematic learning with ICTs (as some earlier studies have done), this approach instead suggests that there are already a number of ways in which young people s informal and formal learning experiences with ICTs are overlapping and feeding each other both in the home and the school, and that the further exploration of this process might provide the most effective and interesting strategy for creating home school links. Acknowledgements This paper is based on the work of the project Inter- Active Education: Teaching and Learning in the Information Age. This is a 4-year research and development project funded from December 2000 to August 2004 by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ref; L ) as part of Phase II of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (see The project is directed by

16 A comparison of young people s home and school ICT use 455 Rosamund Sutherland (University of Bristol) and codirected by Susan Robertson (University of Bristol) and Peter John (University of Plymouth). Other members of the team are: Dele Aboudrin, David Badlan, Rebecca Ball, Sally Barnes, Richard Brawn, Bryan Berry, Rob Beswetherick, Andrew Biggs, Chas Blacker, Adrian Blight, Jan Bovill, Helena Brazier, Nick Breeze, Linda Bridgeman, Natalie Butterworth, Chris Carter, Ruth Cole, Ellie Coombs, Roger Dale, Chris Davies, Tim Davies, Richard Eon, Keri Facer, Fern Faux, Marina Gall, Alan George, Marie Gibbs, Steve Godwin, Andrew Harman, Jo Heppinstall, Suzanne Houghton, Ben Houghton, Sally Jenkins, Judi Johnston Hubbold, Pam Kelly, Naomi Kent, Linda Baggott LaVelle, Elisabeth Lazarus, Kerry Manley, Ross Martland, Sasha Matthewman, Angela McFarlane, Sam Mills, Simon Mills, Heidi Moulder, Federica Olivero, Pat Peel, Richard Rees, Sven Rees, Catherine Robertson, Andrew Rome, Emma Scott-Cook, Joe Sharp, Tim Shortis, Paul Stephens-Woods, Daniel Sutch, Alison Taylor, Paul Taylor, Ian Thompson, Maria Thompson, Celia Tidmarsh, Neil Todman, Pat Triggs, Toby Tyas, Nigel Varley, Marnie Weeden, Paul Wilson, Rachel Yates and Rachel Zewde. References Colley A. & Comber C. (2003) Age and gender differences in computer use and attitudes among secondary school students: what has changed? Educational Research 45, Colley A., Gale M. & Harris T. (1994) Effects of gender role identity and experience on computer attitude components. Journal of Educational Computing Research 10, Downes T. (1999) Playing with computing technologies in the home. Education and Information Technologies 4, Facer K. (2002) What do we mean by the digital divide?: Exploring the roles of access, relevance and resource networks. The Digital Divide. BECTA/HMSO, Coventry. Facer K., Furlong J., Furlong R. & Sutherland R. (2003) ScreenPlay: Children and Computing in the Home. Routledge, London. Green B. & Bigum C. (1993) Aliens in the classroom. Australian Journal of Education 37, Harris S. (1999) Secondary school students use of computers at home. British Journal of Educational Technology 30, Holloway S. & Valentine V. (2003) Cyberkids: Children in the Information Age. Routledge, London. Kerawalla L. & Crook C. (2002) Children s computer use at home and at school: context and continuity. British Educational Research Journal 28, Marsh J. & Millard E. (2003) Literacy and Popular Culture in the Primary Classroom. Paul Chapman Publishing, London. Rudd T. (2002) ICT and the reproduction of inequalities: a Bourdieuian perspective. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Bristol. Sefton-Green J.) ed. (1998) Digital Diversions: Youth Culture in the Age of Multi-Media. UCL, London. Selwyn N. (1998) The effect of using home computers on students educational use of IT. Computers and Education 31, Selwyn N. (2002) Telling Tales on Technology: Qualitative Studies of Technology and Education. Ashgate, London. Somekh B., Lewin C., Mavers D., Fisher T., Harrison C., Haw K., Lunzer E., McFarlane A. & Scrimshaw P. (2002) Pupils and Teachers Perceptions of ICT in Home, School and Community, A Report to the DFES. DFES, London. Sutherland R., Facer K., Furlong J. & Furlong (2000) A new environment for education? The computer in the home. Computers and Education, Special Edition 34, Turkle S. (1984) The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. Simon and Schuster, New York. Volman M. & van Eck E. (2001) Gender equity and information technology in education: the second decade. Review of Educational Research 71,

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