Pupil with Nintendo DSIComputer games: on way into primariesPrimary schools are starting to recognise the importance of games technology and smartphones, according to research by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA). But there is plenty of residual anxiety, particularly over the phones.

BESA director Ray Barker, explains: “Our research has found that teachers have very different opinions when it comes to the use of mobile phones by primary school aged children. On the one hand, 39 per cent stated that children should not have access out of school to mobile phones, while another 29 per cent of teachers said the ideal situation would be if all pupils had access to a mobile.”

Besa conducted its survey – "ICT Use by Primary Pupils at School and at Home" (February 2010) – with 406 primary schools. A majority of schools considered internet accees at home as school as the most helpful technology for learning, and 75 per cent thought that games consoles are helful to children's development.

The organisation, which represents suppliers to the schools market, wanted feedback on which technologies are felt to be beneficial by schools and which are popular among learners. “According to schools, laptops are currently the most popular computer type amongst children, followed by desktop PCs," adds Ray Barker. "However, by 2015, educators feel that this will be replaced by a move towards netbooks and smartphones.”

Researchers could not ask children their opinions so feedback on their preferences came from 'education leader' teachers, who observed a developing preference for personal access to tecnologies. Right now that is netbooks, but teachers felt that by 2015 learners would probably prefer to use smartphones for home learning.

So which technologies do primary teachers see as holding 'great benefits' for pupils? Internet both at school and at home came out strongest, followed by interactive whiteboards and PCs at school and home. Visualisers, devices that can share anything anything put in fornt of them via a digital projector, and which tend to spark immediate popularity among teachers once they are shown them, had a curiously low profile – just over 20 per cent of teachers in the poll thought them beneficial. Next came games consoles (13 per cent) with voting systems trailing in last place (11 per cent). And a significant proportion of teachers (23 per cent) felt that games consoles and voting systems offered "little benefit" for learners.

ICT suites still entrenched in primary schools?

ICT suites, increasingly considered to be a relatively wasteful use of computers, appear to be entrenched. They were present in 93 per cent of the polled schools. The report points out: "The reason for not having an ICT suite usually relates to space restraints, rather than not wishing to have such a facility." And all-in-one PCs are apparently on the way to becoming a computer of choice here, with little interest in netbooks. Whiteboards were present in 63 per cent of these suites and data-logging equipment in 41 per cent.

Teachers have very different opinions when it comes to mobile phone access – in fact, nearly 40 per cent think that children shouldn’t have access to mobile phones while 29 per cent think all pupils should have access out of school.

Most of the surveyed schools said that home computers are used for personal revision work involving free online and parent-purchased resources, with 64 per cent of schools providing teacher-directed homework that requires computer access at home. Another third agree that PCs are used at home for teacher-directed homework linked to the school's learning platform. Interestingly, only a quarter of schools believe that the majority of pupils use computers for entertainment and social networking exclusively, and not for educational activities. And apparently most of the children who use PCs for their homework then print it out to bring in to schools for their teachers.

However, many schools believe that children’s preference for technology both at home and at school is evolving quickly, just as technology is continuing to change at a rapid pace.

BESA publishes regular annual research papers, like "Resources in English Schools" and "ICT in UK State Schools". "ICT Use by Primary Pupils at School and at Home" is free to BESA members and the media, or can be purchased directly from BESA by non-members.