Access issues : the computer as a communication tool for primary school children
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This thesis investigates access issues associated with the use of the Internet to provide human-to-human interactions in the upper primary school classroom. In examining issues of access, a metaphor of a door is used. I suggest that doors are in place in schools but the doors are currently locked. The purpose of this study is to investigate what happens when these doors are unlocked. In focusing on access issues the following two questions are considered. What factors are required to provide access to the Internet for primary school students? What are some of the effects of providing such access? The study, which was conducted during the first half of 2001 and the whole of 2002 is informed by data collected with participants in two upper primary classrooms (grades five and six). Qualitative methodology is used, drawing on aspects of ethnography and case study methods. Data are collected through a variety of methods including observations, field notes, interviews, discussion with teachers, and by recording online interactions. A theory of learning and a theory of language are used to analyse the data. A number of outcomes arise out of this study. It is found that there needs to be greater consideration in providing access to computers in the classroom, for without reliable technical and physical access, online interactions cannot proceed. Another finding of this study is that there are few online spaces that are reflective of the needs of primary school participants. In this study, several online spaces were developed including a class web site and a chat room. In providing access for students to the spaces developed for this study and through contact in student initiated sites, a window is opened to the students’ online world where issues of identity, gender, safety, and language surface.
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