Children’s Views of Technology: The Role of Age, Gender, and School Setting

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Barbara B. Levin, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: This study discusses the influence of age, gender, and the school/community context on elementary-age children's thinking about computer technology. Acting as teacher-researchers 23 undergraduate elementary education majors in the Professional Development School program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro asked selected children in their Kindergarten-Grade 5 classes to "draw a technologist" and interviewed them about their understanding of computer hardware and software and related gender issues. Qualitative analyses of the children's drawings and interviews indicated gender differences and developmental trends in children's thinking about technology. For example, younger children drew computers much larger than themselves and set the computers in home or school settings compared to older children who drew the computers in proportion to themselves and placed the computers in school or work-related settings. Also, while both boys and girls could name software with male characters only 6% could think of any software with female characters. Differences with respect to access to computers at home associated with socio-economic status in the two school settings did not materialize in this study. The value of engaging prospective teachers in inquiry, action-oriented research about children's thinking as a form of teacher development is also discussed.

Many variables affect children's experiences with and thinking about computer technology including input variables, process variables, and output variables (Janssen Reinen & Plomp, 1994; Sutton, 1991). For example, access to computers at home and school, and socialization factors, such as differential expectations for males and females, are input variables because they impact how boys and girls differentially experience computer technology. Process variables include equity issues at home or at schools where children often have unequal access to or experiences with computers depending on their gender, age, race, economic status, and the type of school they attend. Finally, children's attitudes about computers and skill with computer-based technology are important output variables to consider in understanding children's thinking about computer technology.

This paper describes a study that looked at several input and process variables with regard to elementary-age children's views of computer technology including the role of age, gender, socio-economic status (SES), and school/community context. This study was also designed to help prospective teachers learn how to inquire about some of these issues and to understand how children view technology and the role of the technologist in their schools. Our analyses of interviews with elementary-age children and of children's drawings of a technologist are reported in this paper. Implications for teacher education are also discussed and suggestions for further inquiry into children's thinking with regard to computer technology are presented.

Additional Information

Journal of Computing in Childhood Education, 8(4), 267-290.
Language: English
Date: 1997
Computer use, Classrooms, Instruction, Educational technology

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