The byte generation

Computers and Classroom Culture
April 26, 1996

This study explores the social and organisational issues associated with the introduction and use of computers in education through an in-depth look at one secondary school in the United States - an urban high school serving about 1,300 students of varied socioeconomic background. The book addresses two research questions. What is the effect of the instructional use of computer technology on students and on classroom social processes? And the complementary issue: how does the social context in which computers are used for instruction shape their use? The author is a social psychologist with a particular interest in equal opportunities. A great strength of the book is the elegance of the research methodology which informs its educational messages. The book should be of interest to students of educational research, as well as educators having a more specific interest in IT innovation.

Computer impact on social functioning was explored in classes using a programme supporting the learning of geometry proofs, and in introductory computer science classes. The author refers to constructivist theory in interpreting the manner in which students relished ownership and control of their learning. "He doesn't teach us anymore. He just helps us." Greater differentiation of pupils' needs was also in evidence, even in previously traditional classrooms. I found the discussion of teachers' authority in the context of IT systems especially thought provoking.

The story of the impact of educational context on patterns of computer use tends towards a catalogue of impediments to successful practice. Teachers' worries include concerns about support infrastructure, about the availability of machines and software to justify changing familiar practices and a lack of confidence in their own expertise with the technology. The computer room set aside for gifted students "functioned virtually as a club for white boys", in a school with a diverse intake. Girls who are otherwise well disposed towards the technology, it is suggested, lacked positive incentives and encountered negative attitudes from boys.

These complex issues, and many others, are presented in a lucidly and relevant research literature buoys the discussion. This book offers authoritative empirical data and commentary which will serve as a rigorous contribution to an important and continuing debate.

Terry Russell is director, Centre for Research in Primary Science and Technology, University of Liverpool.

Computers and Classroom Culture

Author - Janet Ward Schofield
ISBN - 0 521 47368 3 and 47924 X
Publisher - Cambridge University Press
Price - £35.00 and £14.95
Pages - 1

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