Friday, 11 January 2013

5 questions you should ask your students

Leading a Student Home Access audit

Do you know what your students’ know about technology? Really know? Of course you might know about what you have taught them in ICT lessons – that they are capable of creating a spreadsheet that draws a complex (and colourful) pivot-graph about how your class travels to school or that they can animate plasticine with ease. But what do they do when they are not at school?

A student access survey should ideally be conducted annually and can focus on a stratified sample of students. The results will help you plan your ICT curriculum (especially important in the current environment); plan your whole-school online learning strategy and also ensure your eSafety education focuses on the issues that are relevant for your students.

Consider including the following:

1. Do you have an internet enabled computer (or something similar) at home you can use to do work for school?

Last time I ran a survey 85% of the students had computers with internet access. This question allows you to understand how successful your school’s online learning strategy will be, and what planning you need to do to enable access for those who currently do not have a computer at home. There is no point having an all-singing and dancing learning platform if your students cannot access it.

2. How many people in your family home do you share that computer with?

Whilst the 2011 LSE EU-kids online study involving over 23,000 children across Europe suggests that young people have access on average to 2.5 internet enabled devices, there are always some students that don’t. There may well be a computer in the house but it is shared with an older brother who is gaming mad you may not actually have that much opportunity to log in and respond to the online maths worksheet your teacher has set you.

3. What are your 3 favourite online systems?

Be careful not to give a list of options otherwise this unfairly leads the students’ responses - a completely open answer gives a far more honest response. The last survey I did had Facebook, MSN and youtube coming out as the favourites for students. What will the winners be in your school? The results from this question will help you pitch your eSafety education work. Some systems have age-based regulations and are clearly unsuitable but many are actually very good at encouraging safe moderated social networking. I am always impressed to see that school learning platforms and BBC based websites are often included in students’ favourite online systems.

4. List the devices you regularly have access to

Most schools are still dominated by PCs. There is no problem with this per se but given that recent analysis from Flurry indicated that 17.4 million devices where activated this Christmas, with the dominant tablet being without a doubt the iPad, we have to question whether this should become part of our technology strategy within schools. In the last survey I was involved in 79% had mobile phones, 77% had access to laptops and 62% had handheld gaming systems.

5. Have you received a text or email message this year that has upset you?

According to the Virtual Violence II report "28% of 11-to-16-year-olds have been deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group through the use of mobile phones or the internet."  Pretending that it is not an issue in your school will not help you solve the problem.  This question might not be your most positive but the results will help your pastoral staff focus attention on the year groups that are necessary. 

What next?

If you are suitably enthused and want to start designing your survey straight away then seize the moment and get going. Hosting your survey online (with Google Drive, J2E or similar) will ensure that the data will be collated into Excel format or similar. LGfL host an eSafety survey and if you are an LGfL school you can use their survey for free by going to Get your data in by 16th January and you have a good chance of having your data back in time for the 5th February Safer Internet Day.

If you have other questions that you have found highly useful when running student ICT access surveys in the past please add them to the comments. Should you like support in designing, running and analysing your student access survey please feel free to contact me directly.
Alex Rees, @alxr1

This post is part of the ICT-Redbridge Management Calendar (ICT-RMC).

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