Education and Information Technologies

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 3–15 | Cite as

An investigation of children’s conceptualisation of computers and how they work

  • Michael Hammond
  • Philip Rogers


This paper reports on a study in which observation, stimulated recall and semi structured interviews were used to report on children’s knowledge and understanding of computer processes. It suggests a model for identifying stages in pupils’ understanding of these processes with implications for how best to support and develop that understanding. This was a small scale, exploratory case study involving data collection in two schools. The study differentiated between: simple awareness of computer processes; immediate knowledge of how to use an item or carry out a process; ability to offer a simple explanation for a process; and ability to offer a more sophisticated explanation and to use knowledge to solve problems. It was found that all pupils had an awareness of basic input, output and storage devices and a reasonable level of confidence and competence in using the computer. However, children’s knowledge tended to be confined to what they had acquired through experience. Interviews with the same pupils over a period of time showed little development in their conceptualisation of computer processes. Some examples of children’s common misconceptions as well as partial and appropriate conceptions are given. An implication for the classroom is that more dialogue between teacher and pupil, or more realistically between teacher and groups of pupils, is needed so that the teacher can ascertain prior knowledge and understanding and present accessible explanations for pupils.


Children Computers ICT 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of WarwickCoventryUK
  2. 2.Simon de Montford Middle SchoolWorcestershireUK

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