Barbour, Andrew Robert (2014) An ethnography of students' extensive use of computers and digital technologies within further education classrooms. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis analyses how the extensive use of networked computers, which were the primary
classroom learning resource for three Level 3 cohorts of Further Education students, impacted on
how the students approached the academic elements of their coursework. Using an ethnographic
methodology the students were followed as they progressed over one academic year, to identify
how they engaged with their learning and used the technologies over this period. The study of
students’ classroom academic and literacy practices when using the new digital technologies of computers and the Internet as resources in post-compulsory education is a relatively neglected area. At a time when there is the continued call for the increased use of these technologies across the curricula, this ethnography offers an insight into students’ responses to the technologies and how these significant educational resources can also divide the classroom into both educational and social-leisure spaces. What became apparent over the year was students’ superficial level of engagement with online research resources and how that information was then processed. Students’ use of software to manipulate digital text bypassed any evidencing of intermediary cognitive processes, therefore at times idea generation, critical development and level of ownership became challenging to identify. Notably, students’ extensive use of computers resulted in their gaze being primarily directed to their
computer monitors and despite the sociality amongst students for non-educational activities, both in and out of the classrooms, the benefits of peer discussion and interaction for learning was absent due to this level of academic isolation. Students’ use of the technologies for either educational or social-leisure use was reflective of the learning conditions and what affected their levels of motivation and attention. For a number of students, their excessive use of the classroom computers to access online social-leisure resources
came at a cost to their grades and their ambitions for progression had to be reduced. There is no doubting the value of computers and the Internet as classroom learning resources, however, this research identifies that they are certainly not a quick panacea for education. The evidence illustrates that to attain the potential they offer, there needs to be relative adjustments to pedagogy and learning cultures and how students conceptualise the space of computer-resourced classrooms.


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