Informed Insight: Parental Attitudes toward Technology

In 1994, the federal government began an initiative to link all American schools to the Internet (Risinger, 2000). Between 1994 and 1998, classroom connections to the Internet jumped from 35% to 89% in the United States ( Resinger, 2000; McNabb, 2000). This technology makes learning more accessible by providing
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In 1994, the federal government began an initiative to link all American schools to the Internet (Risinger, 2000). Between 1994 and 1998, classroom connections to the Internet jumped from 35% to 89% in the United States ( Resinger, 2000; McNabb, 2000). This technology makes learning more accessible by providing students efficient access to appropriate learning resources, while it encourages improved learning among students (Roschelle & Pea, 1999; Owsten, 1997).

Students are becoming more and more dependent on the Internet for their intellectual development (Browne,2000). In 1996, for example, USA Today reported that seven million plus college students were Internet users. In addition, federal technology grants have wired many elementary and high schools directly to the Internet. This has made the use technology of for educational purposes more popular.

Increased connectivity has made computer literacy a major part of the school curriculum. Today more and more teachers are encouraging students to use technology during their learning. This new emphasis on technology in student learning demands answers to a number of questions relating to parent attributions associated with the computer literacy of their child(ren). For example, “Is the technology at my child’s school adequate� “Is the use of technology in my child’s school correlated with my child’s use of technology at home� I will examine the opinions of parents toward technology in their child’s school.

Connectivity and the use of computers in education in American schools and colleges has rapidly improved (Rowand, 1999). Schools are connected to the Internet by dial-up telephone lines or dedicated lines. Since 1994 Internet connections via dedicated lines grew 26% while dial-up connections dropped 52% (Risinger, 2000). This is good news because dedicated lines are faster than dial up connections.

Technology has changed the way instructors teach and students do research. There are a number of reasons behind student gravitation to the Internet for academic research on-line. These reasons include (1) the ability to conduct on-line research anytime, anywhere, (2) the Internet provides up-to-date information not found in print, and (3) the interactivity of some web sites make e-learning efficient and convenient (Browne, 2000).

Teachers and Technology

Many teachers are interested in e-pedagogy for a number of reasons. Firstly, teachers have recognized that the Internet provides information both with visual and auditory cues. This makes possible greater convenience for student scholars in the acquisition of knowledge while it matches individual learning styles. (Owsten, 1997).

Secondly, learning via the Internet encourages students to use higher order thinking skills while they engage in interactive, collaborative learning. The interactive nature of Internet learning is good for all parties involved. This is supported by the research finding that working in collaborative groups is beneficial to all members (Del Monte, 2000). Bradley (1982) calls it "…a collaborative endeavor [which] involves a group of researchers who come together, and pool their ideas, skills, energy, and time to pursue a mutual professional interest joint research on a topic of common concern" (p.87).

Research regarding the Internet and learning indicates that the Web can be a valuable tool in challenging the cultural role of the student as a passive recipient of knowledge or indoctrination from the teacher. Roschelle and Pea (1999) and Hoffman (2000) make it clear that technology can be a supporting player in the empowerment of students. The ability of technology to empower students is reason enough for teachers to use E-pedagogy when instructing students.

Parents and Technology

Parents can affect student learning and motivation in several ways, including 1) provide advice, 2) direct their children towards positive academic and recreational activities, and 3) direct their children towards people who will motivate them toward success and greater academic achievement. As a result, learning is a cooperative effort, which involves the school, teachers and parents. This makes the home environment a major factor in school learning (Meece, 1997).

This means that parents can and do play an important role in the learning of their children. Given the important role parents can play in the learning of their children teachers understand that they can maximize the learning of their students through communication with parents. Research indicates that communication with parents can encourage parents to become more involved in the learning of their children (Wang et al, 1993).

Parental involvement in the education process can be beneficial to teachers. These benefits include higher expectations for the academic achievement of their children, positive student attitudes toward school and learning, and better behavior (Weinstein & Mignano, 1993). The home environment created by the parent can play an important role in the academic motivation of children. Research makes it clear that the quality of early learning can positively affect children’s intellectual development during elementary school (Meece, 1997).

Meece (1997) maintains that parents who promote a supportive and intellectually rich environment accelerate the intellectual development of their children. Gottfried, Flemming and Gottfried (1998) found that cognitively stimulating home environments led to high academic motivation among children ages 9-13. Moreover, Epstein (1986,1987) makes a strong case that parents can help as moderators of school culture and facilitate support of the school curriculum.

Presently we know almost nothing about parent attitudes toward their children’s use of technology in their school. This gap in knowledge about parent attitudes needs to be closed. In this study we answer the question “What are the attitudes of parents toward technology and the role schools can play in furthering the computer literacy of their children.â€

Method

Subjects

The participants in this study were parents of children attending school in a large Midwestern urban center. The survey was sent to 347 parents. There were 170 survey forms returned to the school. Twenty of the forms were returned spoiled or incomplete so only 150 survey forms were analyzed in this study.

The school is predominately African-American. Around seventy percent of the students attending the school received free or reduced lunch.

Measuring Instrument

The survey used in this study was based on the Illinois State Board of Education Survey for Parent Opinions Toward Education. This survey includes 14 self-report items (see Table 1). These items concern parent opinions about the student home environment, computer accessibility, the technology curriculum, and general items relating to parental views toward the use of technology.

The results were quite interesting. Survey Items 1-3 and 12-14 related to the student’s home environment. In relation to Item 1, the respondents reported that over 60% of the parents in the survey had a computer (x2 (2, N=150)=84.57, p=.000). In relation to Survey Items 2 and 3 respectively, 42 percent of the respondents to the survey said they had a CD-ROM (x2 ( 2, N=150)= 67.83, p= .000); and 47% had a modem in their computer (x2 (3, N=150) 114,65, p= .000). In regards to Survey Item 13, only 38% of the people answering the survey said they had Internet connectivity (x2 ( 5, N=150)=259.64, p=.000).

The survey asked parents a number of questions about the use of computers in their homes and at school. We found in relation to Survey Item 4, that over 65% of the respondents to the survey claimed that technology in the school was currently adequate (x2 (4, N=150)=128.21, p= .000).

Survey Item 5 stated “My child is encouraged to use technology at schoolâ€. Over 73% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that their children are encouraged to use technology in their learning (x2(4, N=150)=112.20, p= .000)

Responses to Survey Item 6, indicate parents see considerable use of technology by students to complete their school projects. The results of the survey indicated that 73% of the students use computers to complete school projects (x2( 6, N=150)=158.67, p=.000). This was very surprising because only 55% of the respondents to Survey Item 7, said that they assist their children in using the computer at home (x2 ( 4, N=150) 29.33, p=.000).

A number of parents said they use computers on their jobs. A total of 66% of the parents responding to Survey Item 9, agree on strongly agree that computers are used in their profession ( x2( 4,N=150)68.01, p=.000).

Parent responses to Survey Items 10 and 11 respectively, vary. In response to Survey Item 10, a little over 58% of the parents plan to buy a new computer in the next few years (x2 ( 4, N=150)=30.10, p=.000). Sixty percent of the parents responding to Survey Item 11, said that they would be interested in being trained in technology at our school (x2 ( 4, N=150)=29.90, p=.000).

Discussion

The results of the survey indicate that African American parents view the technology curriculum at school as extremely positive. It is obvious from the responses of the parents that even though only 56% of the students have a computer in their homes, 72% of the parents responding to the survey, indicated that their children regularly use computers for school projects. This suggests that most of the students are capable users of technology.

We were surprised to discover that even though 66 percent of the respondents use computers in their profession, only 58 percent of the parents admit that they assist their children in using the home computer to produce their own knowledge. The finding of this study shows a direct relationship between the use of home computers by children, when parents work with computers to perform their jobs (t(2.09)=147, p=.038); and when parents assist their children in using computers for school projects (t(2.47)=148, p=.015). The former finding was surprising , because we would assume that computer literate parents would want to transfer some of their skills to their children when their children produce knowledge at home via technology.

The findings from this survey of African American parents indicate a high correlation between the adequacy of technology at the school of their child, and the desire of students to use technology at school (t(-2.62)=144, p=.010), and within the home (t(-2.25)=143,p = .026). These findings are interesting because 72.5 percent of the parents report that their children use the home computer for school projects. The evidence that only 58 percent of the parents assist their children in completing computer projects at home suggests that students may have obtained much of their computer literacy at school. The finding that 74.3 of the parents feel their children are encouraged to use technology at school supports this view.

The study finds a strong correlation between the school’s technology program and parent assistance of their children in the creation of technology inspired learning products. The promotion of technology use in the school is correlated with parent assistance of their children when they use the home computer to complete school projects ( t(2.32)=147, p= .022). This supports the finding of Epstein (1986,1987) that when lines of communication between parents and teachers are clearly established, it can facilitate parental support of the curriculum.

It is interesting to note that 60 percent of the respondents plan to purchase a computer in the next few years. This result from the research, correlates well with the finding that 61 percent (x (4,N=150)=34.73, p=.000)of the African American parents in the study would be interested in technology training in the future by school personnel. This suggests that parents may see a positive relationship between their own computer literacy and self-sufficiency.

In summary, government support of technology and increased connectivity of schools in the United States has made technology education a major part of the contemporary elementary and high school curriculum. Consequently, computer literacy will be required of all citizens in the 21st Century. The demands for computer literacy and life long learning for workers in this new age demand that parents and schools work cooperatively to motivate children to aspire high academic achievement in all schools within the nation.

The findings of the study provide keen insight into the attitudes of African American parents towards the use of technology , and the role of the technology curriculum in the computer literacy of their children. It supports educational research that finds a correlation between student academic achievement and the home environment parents create and maintain for their child’s learning (Gottfried,Fleming & Gottfried,1998; Meece, 1997; Weinstein & Mignano,1993). They support the view of Meece (1997) that parents who promote a supportive and intellectually rich environment will stimulate high student participation in the school culture and motivate students to be successful in school.

The results of this survey indicate that parents see a close relationship between the adequacy of the school’s technology (to their child’s use of technology at home), and parent assistance of their child in the completion of school projects. This finding makes it clear that parents can play a significant role in the education of their children when parents actively support the curriculum and share common interest and goals for the students, because a cooperative relationship exist between the school, and the parents of its students. It promotes the idea that when students actively work with computers in school they will also use computers for academic work at home.

The finding that 61 percent of the parents in the study would be interested in technology training is also very significant. It indicates that schools should provide more technology training for parents. This would be an asset in helping parents to become full partners with teachers, in preparing students for the world of work in the 21st Century.

After training parents will allow technology to assist them in helping their children to learn and to aid them in designing technology enriched home environment. As parents use technology to remain informed about the content of their child’s learning, they become co-learners and co-investigators.

References/ Bibliography

Bradley, R. T. (1982). Ethical problems in team research: A structural analysis and an agenda for resolution, The American Sociologist, 17, 87-94.

Browne, M. N. (2000, September). The importance of critical thinking for student use of the Internet. College Student Journal.

DelMonte,K. (2000, Fall-Winter). Partners in inquiry: Ethical changes in team research. International Social Science Review

Epstein,J. (1986). Parents’ reactions to teacher practices of parent involvement. Elementary School Journal, 86, 277-294.

Epstein, J. (1987). Toward a theory of family-school connections: Teacher practices and parent involvement. In K. Hurrelmann, F. Kaufmann,& F. Losel (Eds.), Social Intervention: Potential and Constraints (pp.121-136). Hawthorn, NY:

Aldine de Gruyer. Gottfried, A.E., Flemming, J.S., & Gottfried,A.W. (1998). Role of cognitively stimulating home environment in children’s academic intrinsic motivation: A longitudinal study. Child Development, 69, 1448-1460. Hoffman, K. (2000, October).

Technology built for teachers. T.H.E. Journal, 28 (3), 56-59.

McNabb, M.L. (2000, March). Learning and literacy skills and the Internet. Learning and Leading with Technology, 28 (6), 46-49.

Meece, J.L.(1997). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Owsten, R. D. (1997, March). The world wide web: A technology to enhance teaching and learning? Educational Researcher, 26 (2), 27-33.

Risinger,C.F.(1997, April-May).Citizenship education and the World Wide Web. Social Education,61, 223-224. EJ 549 851.

Rowand,C.(1999). Internet access in public schools and classrooms:1994-96. Issue Brief. Jessup, MD: ED Pubs.ED 428 755.

Roschelle, J. and Pea, R. (1999, June-July). Trajectories from today's www to a powerful infrastructure, Educational Researcher, 28 (5), 22-26.

Wang, M., Haertel,G., & Walberg,H. (1993). Toward a knowledge base for school learning. Review of Educational Research, 63 (3), 249-294.

Weinstein,C. & Miganano,A. (1993). Elementary classroom management. New York: McGraw-Hill

Clyde Winters

Table 1. Means and Standard Deviations for Parent Technology Survey Items
Survey Item Mean Standard
Deviation

  1. Do you have a computer? 1.40 .53
  2. Does your home computer have a CD Rom? 1.48 .58
  3. Does your home computer have a modem? 1.56 .58
  4. Technology in my child’s school if currently adequate. 1.60 .74
  5. My child is encouraged to use technology at school. 1.88 3.47
  6. My child uses the home computer for school projects. 2.69 1.55
  7. I assist my child in using the computer for school projects. 3.34 1.43
  8. My child plays games on the home computer.3.37 1.51
  9. I use a computer in my profession. 3.42 1.18
  10. I play to purchase a computer in the next few years. 3.45 1.51
  11. I would be interested in technology training classes for parents. 3.51 1.34
  12. I have the ability to electronically communicate with my child’s school. 3.65 1.21
  13. Do you have Internet access? 3.71 4.38
  14. Do you subscribe to On Line Services such as America On Line, CompuServe? 4.54 6.0

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