High-End High School Communication:
Tool Use Practices of Students in a Networked Environment

Barry J. Fishman

This is a study of computer-mediated communication (CMC) tool use by students in high school science classrooms. A mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods were employed to study the CMC tool use behaviors of 280 students in six teachers' classrooms during the 1994-95 school year. All students and teachers were participants in the Learning Through Collaborative Visualization (CoVis) Project. The CMC tools included were electronic mail, Usenet news, the Collaboratory Notebook, and Cruiser videoconferencing.

Variation in the use of CMC tools among individual students was found to be related to a number of factors, including experience with computers, social influence, communication apprehension, parental education, and gender. Issues of critical mass and ease of use both contributed to differences in the extent that particular tools were used. In addition, teacher-designed classroom activity and the academic calendar significantly influenced general patterns of CMC tool use.
As the Internet and related CMC tools become prominent in classrooms over the next decade, both the classroom and the technology must evolve in order to better serve the needs of students. The primary contribution of this research is to provide information that will inform the design of improved CMC-enhanced learning environments.

Defended: April 15, 1996