Technology and equity: Explaining differences between elementary teachers' use of computers in low-income Latino and middle-class schools
Ramon C. Cusi, University of California, Irvine and University of California, Los Angeles, United States
University of California, Irvine and University of California, Los Angeles . Awarded
This study examines the different ways that computers are used in two groups of elementary schools in one socially and ethnically heterogeneous suburban school district in California. Specifically, the study contrasted patterns of computer use in three schools that serve primarily low-income, Latino populations and four schools that serve a more middle-income, ethnically heterogeneous student body. This study addressed a central question in public education: What produces the advantages that economically advantaged school settings have for providing elementary-aged children with a strong educational experience with computers? The study helps us understand, first, the extent to which this disadvantage exists, and second, to what extent it is caused by alterable factors within the purview of educational leadership to influence—that is, teachers' educational beliefs and professional practices, their technical expertise, and the culture of the school, including its support for teachers' use of computers.
This study employed a cross-sectional self-report questionnaire completed by the teaching staffs at the two groups of schools. The survey itself is an abbreviated and slightly modified version of the teacher surveys developed for the 1998 national survey, Teaching, Learning, and Computing. The data was analyzed to determine how strongly each of several school and teacher characteristics can account for three major differences in how teachers in low-SES and middle-income elementary schools use computers: the cognitive complexity of their objectives for student computer use; the cognitive complexity of the software they have students use; and the amount of autonomy they provide students working at computers.
The study found that four characteristics totally account for socio-economic differences in teachers' computer use patterns controlling on background differences between the teachers themselves: (1) how much teachers use computers for their own professional tasks; (2) their own technical expertise; (3) how convenient and accessible computers were for their students; and (4) the extent that their teaching philosophy reflected instructional practices consistent with a constructivist view of learning.
Cusi, R.C. Technology and equity: Explaining differences between elementary teachers' use of computers in low-income Latino and middle-class schools. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Irvine and University of California, Los Angeles.
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