Across the digital divide: Children, families, and schools in the information society
Nancy Ann Jennings, The University of Texas at Austin, United States
Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Texas at Austin . Awarded
This study provides a detailed description of the media context of families living in the digital divide. Through the implementation of surveys and school computer lab observations, data were collected from 250 4th and 6th grade students, 125 of their parents and 27 of their teachers from a low-income, primarily Hispanic school district in central Texas regarding their use of computers and the Internet both inside and outside of the school setting and their attitudes about the role of computers and the Internet in contemporary society.
Major findings indicate that computer ownership plays a key role in computer usage outside of school for all respondents. Parents, teachers and children all reported higher usage of computers outside the school or work environment if there was a computer in their household. Over half (62.4%) of the children reported having a computer in their home and 44.7% reported home access to the Internet. However, computer penetration was highest in anglo households with 70.2% of children reporting home computer ownership whereas only 56% of Hispanic children reported owning a home computer. Moreover, over half of the parents with a high school education or less (56.9%) do not own a computer, and more higher income parents (75.5%) report home computer ownership than lower income parents.
Just as ownership plays a large role in use among all respondents, use, in turn, can be associated with more positive attitudes about technology. Results from all respondents indicate that those who own a computer are more likely to use one, and that those who use a computer are more likely to have a favorable opinion of technology than those who do not use a computer. Outside of school, children report gaming as their primary computing activity. Although both boys and girls reported gaming just as frequently, girls were more likely to indicate using the computer outside of school for tinkering activities. All schools in this study provided access to computers with high-speed Internet connections. However, computer lab observations of schools indicate a strong preference for drill-and-practice software over higher-order skilled activities.
Jennings, N.A. Across the digital divide: Children, families, and schools in the information society. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, The University of Texas at Austin.
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