Investigating home and school computer-mediated communication practices in low socio-economic communities

Year: 2000


Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper presents a report of a study in progress. There has been extensive media reporting of the alliance between Virtual Communities, the ACTU and Primus to provide computers and Internet access to workers at affordable prices. The alliance has provided us with an opportunity to investigate how people from lower socioeconomic groups, who would in the past be typically described as 'information poor', learn through engagement with the new technologies in both formal and informal educational settings. Such a study would have been impossible in the past as potential participants would be unlikely to have had access to technology in their homes. The aim of the study is to assist teachers in schools to understand the multiple ways in which such young people use the technologies in their homes and communities. Teachers may then use this knowledge to inform their own approaches to teaching and learning. Hopefully this will assist them in valuing and building upon the technological literacy practices that students bring with them to the classroom. In this way the study builds upon the work of Heath (1983) and Freebody et al (1995).

A pilot study has commenced which focuses on four families, three of which purchased computers through the Virtual Communities project. The fourth family, which can be characterised as high socioeconomic status has been included for comparison purposes. The research approach is broadly ethnographic. The main research techniques are observation, interview, audiotaped events, artefact collection and discourse analysis. Freebody, P. et al (1995) Everyday literacy practices in and out of schools in low socioeconomic urban communities. Canberra: DEET Heath, S. B. (1983) Ways with words. NY: Cambridge University Press.