Children disappointed by low-tech primary schools

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A new study reveals pupils’ concerns over ‘low-tech’ primary schools, but suggests that only minor improvements are needed

According to the newly published research study, the current generation of high-tech primary school pupils feel increasingly disappointed by the low-tech nature of their schools.

However, despite demands from many industry professionals to rebuild and restructure schools to suit upcoming cohorts of “digital natives” the vast majority of children reckon that only minor changes would be required to make their schools’ use of technology more engaging and exciting.

The year long study of over 600 pupils in primary schools across England asked children how they would prefer technology to be used in their learning.

“While we expected children to be making 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 from the University of London’s Institute of Education.

“They also wanted a greater say in the rules and regulations that surround ICT use in schools. 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”.

More than half of the 7-11 year olds in the study had their own mobile phone, and nearly 90 percent had their own games console at home. The study found that more than 80 percent of children regularly play computer games, and more than one-in-five make regular use of social networking sites such as Bebo, Habbo or MySpace in their spare time. In contrast, the most frequent school ICT uses were word processing and internet searching.

Selwyn concluded: “This study does highlight an obvious difference between home and school technology use. However, schools shouldn’t panic about making 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.

“Schools 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.”

The study also found a continued need for schools to work with children on issues of internet safety. Only one third of the pupils surveyed were knowledgeable about staying safe when using the internet. Similarly, more than 60 percent wanted more help from their teachers in terms of learning about ‘e-safety’.