Blending play, practice and performance: children’s use of the computer at home

Toni Downes


In this paper I report selected results of a multi-method, multi-staged
study of children’s use of computers in their homes and examine the
implications of such use for educators. The study took place between
1995 and 1998, drawing evidence from 500 children with diverse
socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds from urban Sydney who
regularly used a computer at home.

My aim with this study is to develop knowledge and understanding
about the reciprocal relationship that develops between the child and the
computer within the sociocultural context of the home. I explore social
discourses surrounding children’s use of home computers in ways that
elucidate the relationship between discourse and affordances, and
highlight the children’s conception of the computer as a playable tool. In
my discussion I consider the co-agency of the relationship between the
child and the computer that leads to learning through a blending of play,
practice and performance. This approach to learning is contrasted to the
approaches imposed within schools when children are engaged in
learning, either with or without the use of computer-related technology.
The significance of these findings goes beyond challenging the way we
integrate computers into schooling; it challenges the assumptions that
underpin current teaching and learning practices in our schools.

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