Teachers' responses and classroom learning environments associated with student access to portable computers.
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There are convincing arguments for the integration of computer applications into school programmes to support the learning of students. After more than 30 years of increasing investment in educational computing researchers are concerned that there has been very little impact on the experiences of students in schools. In the 1990s, a significant development in computer technology has been the emergence of low-cost, high-powered portable computers which some schools have introduced into classrooms. It is not clear what the impact of this development might be.This study addressed issues concerning the impact of student-owned, portable computers on students, teachers, the curriculum, and the classroom learning environment. It considered the classroom learning environment as the complex set of relationships between students, teachers, the curriculum, and the technology (principally computer hardware and software) within the physical confines of a classroom.The three year study was carried out at one girls' school, which progressively introduced portable computers into its secondary education program-me. The study used an interpretive methodology involving the collection of a range of qualitative and quantitative data. In each year of the study, data were collected about students, teachers and a selection of classrooms using observations of lessons, interviews, questionnaires, and a range of data obtained from the school's administration. As the study progressed, it focussed on those features of the psycho-social environment of the school which emerged as important from interpretation of data collected earlier.The study found that, apart from isolated teacher-class combinations, there was very little change at the classroom level which could be attributed to the presence of the computers. Very few teachers implemented substantial computer use and many of those who did, supported only a very limited role for the computers. While most students expressed a range of concerns, only a perceived lack of use of the computers appeared to have a consistent negative influence on their attitudes and behaviours.It is argued that the lack of use of the computers is largely related to teachers' preferred pedagogy, their lack of experience and knowledge in using computers in the classroom, and a lack of time to experiment with computer applications. Increasingly, the teachers who chose to facilitate the use of the computers did so to support predominantly student-centred learning environments. The study proposed a model to describe and explain teachers' responses to the portable computer program in terms of their facilitation of computer use by considering sets of forces and obstacles experienced by them.The findings of this study have important implications for educational policy makers, administrators and teachers, and enable a clearer understanding of the factors which determine the successful implementation of computers into school programmes to support student learning.NOTE: Referencing style used throughout this thesis report comes from the American Psychological Association's manual, fourth edition (1994).
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