Listening to student voices: A phenomenological investigation of the student experience of using technology for learning
This study explored the perceptions of 8 secondary school students who self identified as heavy users of digital technology to gain insight into how the young people perceived that their school was preparing them for a future in the digital world. Much of the previous research had focused on the effects of technology on learning outcomes and the integration of technology in the classroom as identified by teachers and management. What appeared to be lacking from this previous research was the attention being paid to the student voice. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to investigate the student perceptions of using digital technologies for learning by listening to the students talking about their experiences from both at school and at home. An interpretive phenomenological approach, was selected for this study as a systematic attempt by the researcher to come into direct contact with the world of the participants, to uncover and describe the meaning and structures of their lived experiences. The information gathered for the study was based on interviews, observation, and talking in depth with the 8 participants (four males and four females) aged between 15 and 17 years and attending a secondary school in Wellington, New Zealand. Using an interpretive phenomenological method of analysis, four key patterns were revealed that provided detail on the barriers or enablers that the participants had reported that influenced their technology use. These patterns include; • access, not only to hardware and software but also to digital knowledge • teacher knowledge and how they integrate this into the learning environment • students’ personal learning preferences • developments for the future as identified by the students themselves. A significant finding was that while schools were attempting to engage these young people with technology, little regard was taken of the students’ prior knowledge and skills in this area. In the use of search engines, social networking and using mobile devices the students self reported skills superior to most of their teachers, but were lacking in the way in which they applied these skills to their learning. What also became apparent was the resentment some students felt at the control exercised by teachers over technology use. The students were frustrated that the teachers were preventing them from using the tools with which they were familiar and resisting the offers of support and assistance from the young people. Underpinning modern life is the idea that advances in technology are creating societal changes that require new approaches and practices, not only in our educational establishments, but also in our work and social lives. Radical change in education is needed because our traditional school system does not meet the needs of a new generation of “tech–savvy” learners. Young people are different to all generations that have gone before because they think, behave, and learn differently as a result of continuous, pervasive exposure to modern technology. It has been claimed that education is a key arena for supporting these changes but the student participants recommended that schools and policy makers listen to the student voice, accept the need to respond to different learning preferences and allow them to use their knowledge and enthusiasm for digital technology as a tool to support teacher development.