In a recent study carried out by Dr. Eemer Eivers, on behalf of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), it has been revealed that primary school students’ use of computers in school has dropped considerably within five years, from 46% saying they used computers in school regularly in 2011 to only 23% in 2016.
This brings Ireland well below the international average, according to Eemer Eivers, who published her report in November 2019. She also revealed that there is a sharp contrast between pupils’ digital access at home and in school. In the same period studied, she notes that Irish home access to ICT gradually increased, and currently exceeds international averages. In 2016 she notes that 10% of Irish pupils had 11 or more digital devices in their homes. However, almost half of Irish pupils said that they rarely or never used computers at home for schoolwork, which compares to an international average of 23%.
To put it in context, the only country with a larger percentage of children not using computers for homework was Morocco, and the only other county that came close to Ireland’s low levels of use was Iran. The report also indicated that new teachers, those teaching less than two years, were more likely to have pupils regularly use ICT in lessons.
Her report suggests that some of the reasons for the decline in computer use in schools may be linked to reduced access to computers, poor internet connectivity and inadequate tech support in schools. The report also examined specific teaching practices related to ICT. Relative to international averages, teachers asked Irish pupils to engage reasonably frequently in information retrieval, such as looking up information on the internet. However, higher-order activities such as learning to critically appraise internet content was less common. This trend has caused some concern among school leaders who feel that more attention needs to be directed towards teacher in-service in order to address this issue.