Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Schools have a role to play in preparing students for their digital futures, but need to do more to cater for all students. Despite significant government investment and increased prominence in educational curriculums worldwide, there is a lack of conclusive evidence to demonstrate that technology has had a significant impact on student learning. Despite its use in schools, research suggests that disparities in the technology practices, skills and knowledge of school students still exists. In fact, there is much that is not fully understood about students’ experiences with technologies, specifically how and why they use technologies in particular contexts. In order to effectively integrate technologies in secondary schools to benefit all students’ learning and future opportunities, there is a pressing need for evidence-based practice.

This study extends educational technology research into secondary school students’ technology practices by investigating how and why students use technology at school and in their everyday lives. Guided by the sociological framework of Bourdieu’s theory of practice, the study design considers not only technology use but also context to provide an understanding of the interrelations between technology practices, the students and their surroundings. The multiple embedded case study reported in this thesis comprised four class cases and 12 student cases from two Australian public secondary schools. Student questionnaires and teacher interviews were conducted with 64 Year 9 and Year 10 students and four teachers from the class cases. From these class cases, 12 student cases provided in-depth accounts of students’ technology practices through interviews and diary records. In reviewing the study findings and literature, this thesis presents a theoretical framework that conceptualises student technology practices. Data analysis was guided, first, by the emergent themes and patterns from the data and, second, by the theoretical framework.

The study found that students tended to use technologies in similar ways each day and often used only basic functions of the technologies both in their everyday lives and at school. Still, their technology practices were personalised, thus displaying varied technological dispositions, skills and knowledge. Students’ varied experiences and dispositions towards technology practices were shaped by a multitude of factors, including context, past experiences, skills and knowledge and others’ technology practices and perspectives. Students were most likely to engage in technology practices based on their personal interests, which they deemed to be familiar, likely to achieve success or symbolically profitable in some way. These influences suggest that technology practices are innately a social practice that is most effectively studied with consideration of context.

The results suggest that students’ technology practices are social and complex, in that they are shaped by and connected to the contexts in which they are used. This has practical implications for the use of technologies in formal education as students’ traverse across contexts, negotiating each context’s varying systems, structures and technology practices. Thus, an understanding of students’ technology practices in their everyday life contexts inform understanding of how students perceive, approach and engage with technology practices at school. The outcomes of this study suggest that schools have the potential to shape students’ skills and knowledge, and to expose them to a technological culture that may benefit student learning and future opportunities. This may be achieved through an understanding of students’ practices and their contexts of technology use, thus informing the integration of technology applications that may be different from their everyday practices. This calls for a research agenda that examines not only students’ practices with technology but also students’ everyday life and school contexts of technology use, providing insight into the physical, social and cultural systems and structures that shape students’ technology practices.

The outcomes of this research address a significant gap in contemporary understanding of the social and complex nature of students’ technology practices. This is achieved through theorising technology practices using Bourdieu’s theoretical constructs, thus contributing to the theory and empirical understanding of student technology practices, and so providing a conceptual framework of technology practice that may inform future research. The findings from this research provide a more holistic understanding of students’ technology practices in their everyday lives and at school, and sheds light on the reasons that underlie their practices.

FoR codes (2008)

130306 Educational Technology and Computing, 130106 Secondary Education, 160809 Sociology of Education, 160807 Sociological Methodology and Research Methods



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.