Researchers who quizzed 600 primary pupils about how they would prefer technology to be used in their learning were taken aback by their answers. Although disappointed by the level of technology in schools, the 7 to 11-year-olds thought that, with minor changes, what there was could be used in more engaging and exciting ways.
So instead of "radical demands for virtual classes or robot teachers", "The majority simply wanted the occasional chance to bring their own devices into school," says Dr Neil Selwyn senior Institute of Education lecturer and co-author of Primary schools and ICT: Learning from pupil perspectives. "They also wanted a greater say in the rules and regulations that surround ICT use in schools," he adds.
"The kids in our study were remarkably ‘school-savvy’ as well as being ‘technology-savvy’. Most accepted the need for school ICT to be more serious and perhaps less exciting.”
The year long investigation carried out by researchers at the IoE's London Knowledge Lab encouraged learners in five primary schools in London and the West Midlands to produce drawings, videos and online content to illustrate their present and perceived future use of ICT for learning.
Among its findings were: more than half of the students surveyed had a mobile phone and nearly 90 per cent a games console; Outside the classroom, in their spare time, 80 per cent regularly played computer games and more than one in five used social networking sites such as Bebo, Habbo and MySpace. Also revealed was the fact that pupils were unsure about how to stay safe on the internet; only one third declared any knowledge of e-safety and 60 per cent said they would welcome more help from their teachers on the subject.
Most pupils only want a "moderate loosening of the restrictions on their ICT use"
But, alas, the technology skills learners demonstrated at home every day were not being capitalised on in the classroom. According to the youngsters, while at school they mainly used technology tools for word processing and internet searches.
However, Neil Selwyn believes: "Schools shouldn’t panic and make drastic changes to pander to what they think students might want. Despite their high-tech activities at home, most pupils seem to want relatively low-key changes at school – most notably a moderate ‘loosening’ of the restrictions on their ICT use.
"Instead they should concentrate on ways of getting kids more involved in the decision-making processes surrounding what devices can be brought into school or what websites are filtered. Any big changes to a school’s ICT provision should be gradual and consider the views of everyone in the school.”
Even though the research highlights the gap between home and school technology use, it describes pupils' engagement with technology as "unsophisticated". The report says: "Inside-school ICT use most often consisted of schoolwork-related activities such as information and picture retrieval. Outside-school ICT use was dominated by games and, to a lesser extent, chatting and emailing. There were few instances of creative and/or collaborative uses of Web 2.0 applications."
The research says there is an obvious need for primary pupils to be enthused about learning, and about learning with ICT, and warns: "Without sustained efforts to 'sell' ICT-based learning it is unlikely that young people will force any 'bottom up' change in schools' uses of ICTs."
The book from the research project, Primary schools and ICT: Learning from pupil perspectives, by Neil Selwyn Sue Cranmer and John Potter, is published on March 4, 2010 by Continuum (ISBN 1855395789).