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Help! It's a mouse

Some pound;250 million has gone into the computers in schools programme over the past seven years but many teachers are still "Google-eyed" over ICT in the classroom. They admit their pupils often know more than they do, although they dismiss the endless hours young people spend on home computers as of little educational importance.

A study carried out in 2001 by Fran Payne of Aberdeen University and Mary Simpson of Edinburgh University into pupil views shows that many, especially in upper primary and early secondary, are bored and unchallenged by computer-based school work.

More than half believe they do not use a computer in school often enough.

They say terminals are out of date and slow and access is too controlled by teachers. Schools are "lagging anachronistically behind" young people in the information age, the researchers conclude.

Mrs Payne, a senior researcher, admitted that detailed evidence from two primaries and two secondaries, which supports a far larger questionnaire study of 2,600 pupils, was drawn from schools before the internet became more widely available.

The in-depth investigation showed that secondary teachers stick to whole-class teaching and fail to use the limited number of computers that are available.

Mrs Payne said: "The problem in secondaries is time on the computers which is limited by subjects and timetables. They will use them in business studies and in programs like Successmaker but a lot of the time children are not using computers at all."

In her report, published this month in Education in the North magazine, she states that in S1-S2 in particular "ICT is regarded as a curricular area to be covered by computing staff" and no members of other departments had read the 5-14 ICT guidelines.

In the primaries that she investigated, teachers controlled the use of computers for interactive maths and language games, as a search encyclopaedia and for word-processing.

Pupils in secondary recognised that computers helped with speed, accuracy and neatness of work while pupils in primary said they introduced more fun.

Around 80 per cent of young people have access to computers out of school but Mrs Payne discovered that only half the pupils in one of the disadvantaged schools had a computer at home. Playing games, drawing, using the net, searching for information, e-mailing and word-processing are common activities outside school.

The researchers say that young Scots share views about ICT with their peers in other western countries and are aware of their own power when in personal possession of new technology.

But they denigrate many of the uses in classrooms.

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