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Paper 40 - Understanding students'

Neil Selwyn

Six years after the Dearing Report’s call for IT to established as a ‘key skill’ throughout university curricula, overall use by university students remain inconsistent and often ‘low level’. This paper therefore presents an overview of why students do - and perhaps more importantly why students do not - make use of information and communications technology (ICT) in university settings. After briefly considering established social science explanations concerned with material or cognitive deficits on the part of the individual, the paper offers an alternative, sociologically-focused explanation rooted in the theoretical premise that technologies are socially shaped. From this basis the paper presents a synthesis of empirical evidence suggesting that students’ (non)use of ICTs is complex, fluid and ambiguous - guided by pragmatic and strategic concerns over the ‘goodness-of-fit’ with their academic and non-academic lives. The fact that sustained use of ICT remains neither advantageous or is required in many academic situations leaves students in little doubt over its place; at best a short-term criterion to fulfil and ‘box to tick’ before commencing with the ‘real’ part of their studies. The paper then considers how ICT may be more meaningfully integrated into university curricula — offering three different scenarios for future practice.

Paper 40 - Understanding students', Series Working Paper Series, (2003), ISBN 1 - 904815 00 6