Home Access scheme may do more harm than good

The Home Access scheme is a well meaning Government-funded project to give computers to children from poorer families and so bridge the “digital divide”.

But, as The Register is reporting, new research from the US suggests such schemes may do more harm than good.

People often worry that such gaps will be enhanced as richer families acquire computers and internet connections and poorer households don’t, which has led to many initiatives by governments, charities etc designed to get digital technologies into the hands of even the poorest.

…a kid in a disadvantaged home given a computer and internet access will tend to be poorly supervised and use it mainly for gaming, social networking or other timewasting online/computer activities rather than buckling down and doing homework. Thus computered-up poor children actually become dumber than they would have been without the tech.

Perhaps the coalition government would do well to make sure there’s some decent evidence for our own Home Access scheme doing what it aims to.

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  • Anthony Aloysius St 21st Jun '10 - 6:30pm

    Rather like people in council houses using the bath to keep coal in?

  • Andrew Suffield 21st Jun '10 - 6:52pm

    I have obtained a copy of the actual research paper and the El Reg article has been sensationalised. The researcher’s conclusions are more modest and have a long list of caveats attached. This is an interesting research result, but is not by itself useful for formulating government policy.

    The only part of the study that is directly interesting for political purposes (rather than academic ones) is this conclusion: the value of computer and internet access is directly related to the quality of parenting. Throwing cash or computers at the children of disinterested parents is unproductive; providing assistance to parents who are actively involved in their child’s education is effective. While marginally interesting, this conclusion will surprise nobody.

  • If I put that report on my potatoes, I’d have a bumper crop this year.

  • Paul McKeown 21st Jun '10 - 7:15pm

    Is someone really trying to spin this load of cobblers?


  • Isn’t there a more fundamental question though. is there in fact any evidence that have a PC makes any difference at all to children education?

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Jun '10 - 10:19pm

    Computers are an excellent example of how money is wasted in schools. I lecture in Computer Science at university, and from this background I say – throw them out of schools, they are damaging our kids.

  • Jason Shouler 22nd Jun '10 - 9:40am

    Even if no responsible supervision is available then content management is an absolute pre-requisite.

    Unless in a (well managed) school environment then that’s going to be very difficult to enforce.

  • Foregone Conclusion 22nd Jun '10 - 10:28am

    As someone who’s had a recent experience of secondary education, I have to agree with Benjamin and Matthew. Computers are really of very limited use outside ICT. “We’re going to the computer suite” = this is going to be a doss lesson. The only big improvement that technology has brought to the classroom in the last ten years IMHO are projectors and interactive whiteboards, which took a good idea (OHPs and blackboards) and improved upon them. Sure, it’s good to look up the odd fact on the Internet, but it’s even better to actually pick up a book and look in the index.

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