Computers and the Internet in School: Closing the Knowledge Gap
Introduction Between 1995 and 2000 Daniel Suess, senior lecturer and researcher at the University of Applied Sciences in Zurich, investigated the state of new media literacy in schools throughout Europe. He uncovered wide variants in frequency and nature of use. In this feature he argu0es that with the exception of extremely wired societies such as Finland, only a small part of all the possible uses of computers are being exploited. This does have serious implications: children who have little access to computers at home or in school are likely to believe that computers and new media are not of any importance. Suess argues that such beliefs are only more likely to widen the knowledge gap, both within countries and between countries in Europe.
of new electronic media in schools has the potential to compensate for
uneven access in the home. It is known that children from families with
low socio-economic status, and girls in general, access computers and
the Internet less than children from middle class families, and boys.
Being familiar and competent in the use of new media is extremely important
in an information society. To what extent do schools around Europe already
fulfill their task of providing media literacy? We asked around 11,000
children and young people in 11 European countries and Israel about
their computer and Internet use in school. In addition, we conducted
in-depth interviews with pupils and teachers.
On average, about 60 percent of young people report using computers in school. The range stretches from less than 40 percent in countries like Germany and Spain to more than 80 percent in countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The overall use of computers in Europe is not frequent, averaging at only "once a week." This is true for every age group. Furthermore, the use of the Internet is low in all of the countries (13 percent of pupils used the Internet), with the exception of the Nordic countries, such as Finland, where 42 percent of pupils use the Internet. In those countries with a high percentage of Internet use, it is striking that computers with Internet connections are not only accessible in classrooms but also frequently available in public places, such as libraries, that are open to pupils outside of school hours.
What kind of computer lessons?
How do the pupils respond?
are very critical of computer courses in school. They complain that
teachers are not sufficiently skilled and are thus unable to teach them
new things, or that the technological equipment in schools is out-of-date.
This is most often true for middle-class children who tend to own the
latest technology at home. Working-class children are more likely to
be satisfied with the standard of technology and teaching.