Collaborative learning beyond the classroom: A case study of the use of networked computers for learning in a boarding school

Alexander DeGraw Schuh, University of Pennsylvania


The proliferation of computers and computer networks into a wide variety of social settings is promising new opportunities for collaborative types of learning both inside and outside of schools. However, each social setting, such as homes, libraries, and classrooms, holds different possibilities for interactions between people and learning tools. An ethnographic study was developed to investigate issues surrounding the uses made of computers for learning in settings located in a boarding school (classrooms, living quarters, and library), and the interactions that occurred between those settings that shaped collaborative computer experiences among students. Evidence was collected regarding how the values, beliefs, and practices of those people most responsible for student learning (teachers, houseparents, students, administrators) affected the methods and mechanisms by which students were expected to learn, particularly with computers, inside and outside of their classrooms. Data took the form of (1) interviews, (2) observations of students in classroom and non-classroom learning situations involving technology, and (3) documents dealing with student "homework" and policies regarding student learning in and beyond the classroom. The study revealed a complex relationship between students' involvement with computers and administrators' and teachers' provision of access to those computers, particularly in the school building and classrooms. As students became more proficient with hardware and software, issues of data and hardware security led to reductions in student access to hardware and software. Paradoxically, the increase in computer-related regulations and restrictions both inside and outside of classrooms inspired several creative uses of the computers on the part of the students. The study also revealed a greater willingness to allow students to use computers creatively and collaboratively in settings outside of classrooms, related to perceived missions of the settings. Implications for using students as technology "experts" for schools are discussed, and constraints on using technology to create meaningful connections between home and school environments are addressed.

Subject Area

Educational software|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Schuh, Alexander DeGraw, "Collaborative learning beyond the classroom: A case study of the use of networked computers for learning in a boarding school" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9840236.