Porous Learning: Using netbooks at home to enhance literacy learning

Funding year: 
2 years
Auckland UniServices
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2013
Project end date: 
March 2015
Principal investigator(s): 
Dr. Rebecca Jesson
Research team members: 
Professor Stuart McNaughton, Maria Meredith, Naomi Rosedale
Research partners: 
Manaiakalani cluster of schools in Auckland http://www.manaiakalani.org/home.

Project Description

In schools that have adopted digital learning environments, it is possible for students to access the class site from home, which opens up possibilities for learning to occur anytime, anywhere and any place. However, there are differences in what learners do for learning out-of-school, both during the school year and in the summer holidays. This study aimed to understand the different ways that students in a low decile community accessed learning at home, and how these practices might be associated with literacy achievement in a digital learning environment.


We analysed what students of varying achievement levels did at home that they considered to be 'learning'. We used interviews to investigate how students were supported by families and how these practices varied by students’ achievement level. We interviewed students from a range of achievement levels. Students and their families were interviewed in their homes both during the school year, and again over the summer break. With their permission, we gathered information about how much time they engaged in learning activities out-of-school. Teachers participated in focus group meetings to describe the sorts of guidance that the schools offered to students and families about how to access and engage in learning out-of-school.


Initially, student achievement data were analysed to identify potential participants. Interviews were qualitatively coded to identify themes that emerged from what students and their families reported. The teacher focus groups were also qualitatively thematically coded. As a final step, statistical analyses were used to investigate the association between students’ out-of-school literacy practices, the amount of time spent and their literacy achievement.


We identified variation in how the students and their families accessed learning out-of-school and how this related to literacy learning. We identified the barriers that students and families faced, and the existing strategies families had devised to overcome these. The study identified the patterns of home learning by students whose school learning was situated within a digital learning environment and how families provided support and guidance for students’ home learning. We also identified the guidance and support that was accessible to parents to help them support students’ home learning, and how families interpreted and used these messages for their children accessing learning digitally. Linking these patterns to literacy learning, we explored how the patterns of student use and parental support were associated with student achievement and engagement. From these findings we developed a framework designed to underpin effective patterns of guidance and support to students and parents that schools and communities might provide.

Why is this research important?

The study findings can be used to help promote enhanced outcomes for students in decile one primary and secondary schools. The research identified what schools might do to maximise students’ literacy learning by supporting families’ optimal involvement with their children’s school learning.

Project Contacts

Dr Rebecca Jesson
Woolf Fisher Research Centre
University of Auckland