This project explores young children's use of computers in their homes. The primary goal is one of better understanding the reciprocal relationship between the child and the computer within the socio-cultural context of the home. The secondary goal is to inform the work of teachers and educators who are seeking to develop programmes using computing technologies within schools. A blended theoretical framework draws on both pyschological and sociological paradigms. Within this framework the focus is on: the resources available and what affordances these enable; the socio-cultural contexts, the discourses and the family practices; the nature of the use and the affordances the children perceive; and how school experiences differ from those at home and the impact of teachers' discourses about educational computing.
A multi-method, multi-staged study was used to investigate the experiences of five hundred children from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds in urban Australia who regularly used a computer at home. Significant findings of the study were: (1) Common activities comprised: game playing; composing, editing and decorating written texts; and using information texts. (2) Complex and subtle gender and socio-economic differences interacted with varying family rules, resources, discourses, affordances, parental and sibling expertise and patterns of family use. (3) Parental discourses and computing resources combined to generate key affordances of the computer as both toy and tool. (4) Parental discourses revealed different and at times competing conceptions of childhood and computers--children are both 'experts' and vulnerable, while the computer is both essential for the future but also a 'culprit', drawing children away from traditional activities and skills.
(5) Children's patterns of learning and use are relatively constant across age, gender and family background--they generally learn by exploring and the dominant affordance is the computer as 'playable'. (6) Teachers' discourses and conceptions about schooling, children, teaching and learning lead to the marginalisation of computer use within the primary school curriculum. (7) Children's experiences of computers at school vary widely but generally they have less access, less control and less time to use computers in ways that allow them to draw on the expertise and approaches they have developed at home.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 60-03, Section: A, page: 0709.
Adviser: Don Williams.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Western Sydney Macarthur (Australia), 1999.