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Digital Skills and the Influence of Students’ Socio-Economic Background. An Exploratory Study in German Elementary Schools

TitleDigital Skills and the Influence of Students’ Socio-Economic Background. An Exploratory Study in German Elementary Schools
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsHeinz J
Secondary TitleItalian Journal of Sociology of Education
Date Published06/2016
PublisherPadova University Press
Place PublishedPadova, IT
ISSN Number2035-4983
Keywordsdigital competence, German elementary schools, ICT, instructional designs

This article examines the implementation of ICT in German elementary schools, as Germany appears to be behind from an international perspective. The main foci are how teachers align their instruction with students’ prior digital knowledge, and how students’ socio-economic backgrounds influence their motivation to work with ICT and their level of digital competence. This qualitative study is based on semi-standardized expert-interviews with 15 teachers, principals, experts and representatives of educational policy and administration in Germany. The interviews were analyzed using qualitative content analysis supported by MAXQDA. The results indicate that teachers design ICT-based instruction that is aligned with students’ informal knowledge of digital media, interests, class and ethnic background as well as with school-specific curricula. Students’ socio- economic backgrounds influence their access to ICT devices and social media at home as well as their motivation to engage in ICT-based learning opportunities in schools. Gaining digital competencies, however, is greatly influenced by other competencies and learning strategies, in particular literacy. The results indicate that while low achieving students seem to benefit from digital learning programmes that can be adapted to their individual prior knowledge, in many ICT-based learning environments they need extra support and guidance. Furthermore, teachers need support for employing ICT in their classrooms and to meet the needs of their students’ heterogeneous prior digital knowledge.