Monday, 18 January 2010

Some data about students use of computers for homework and their mobile devices

A couple of surveys I showed at BETT last week caused some interest, they deserve a little more explanation and discussion.


How often do you use a computer for homework?

This fairly open question to 1400 students in Y7-Y13 generated this response with 75% of students using a computer several times a week for homework. The homeworks in question would be homeworks where students were sometimes asked to use a computer- for example maths putting their homework out through the learning platform or where students chose to use a computer- for example for research but there is still a lot of homework where there is no need to use a computer. That said 10% claim to never need to use a computer at home, how can this be so? I expect these are students who use computers in school, the home computer is there (we stopped doing home access surveys in 2007 when it hit 98%) but under a lot of pressure with many family members using one machine and a fair number of our students hand around at school until parents pick them up later using our Open Learning Centre and our Cyber Cafe for homework while they wait. Oh, and there’s always the odd student who seems good at avoiding homework altogether!


One question about this was why is our home access to IT so high, the answer is I don’t know, I don’t even know it is high. We are a fully comprehensive city school and I think our home access reflects the average position for families with teenagers. National data for households is not skewed by the pester power/ education need teenagers bring to a household. If we are better served it is maybe the school’s use of new technology (Becta Excellence award winner) promotes, literally, ‘buy in’ from parents and being an oversubscribed Catholic school our parents are very committed to the school.


What mobile digital devices do you own?

This survey was done to time with our new policy to allow students to use their own mobile devices in school under certain conditions. Conditions include agreeing to an Acceptable Use Policy, using the school wifi which is monitored and filtered, only using devices in lessons when the teachers has allowed it etc. The survey shows predictably every student has at least one mobile phone, but more useful is the very high numbers of lap tops, which if I break this down by age shows a skew of older students often having their own lap top for school work, particularly sixth formers. The high numbers of students who have great hand held devices like the iPod touch is very encouraging as the curriculum applications for such devices are really taking off and, unlike mobile phones, they don’t have the risks of mobile phone network connectivity that may interrupt learning with calls and texts.


Discussions about this data have noted devices are very common but not everyone has them and this brings up the inequality issue. Actually, it can improve equality; at the moment in a lesson with lap tops students will have to share, perhaps 20 machines between 28 students, if a few bring their own lap top/ netbook or other device the school’s machines stretch further.


If budgets do get tight in years to come making use the wonderful resource the students already own by developing safe wifi and AUPs would be sensible it seems.