Our research approach concentrates on personal experiences with computers: Browsing web-pages, using computers for gaming or for doing homework, tinkering around with hard- and software as well as programming courses in high school are all biographical experiences which are likely to affect attitudes towards CS. Our data collecting method provides narrations about computing experiences in written form. We call our obtained material (and the research method) in short computer-biographies. In computer-biographies participants/students tell about their computing experiences in the form of a biography. Thereby, they not only describe objective events and experiences but relate them to their personality and add personal attitudes and opinions. Furthermore, no interaction with an interviewer disturbs this process of story telling.
Participants are asked to write down their biography of computing. In order to support the writing process and focus participants’ thoughts, small examples from biographical texts gathered beforehand are given to the participants. These text samples – lure texts
– are compiled according to special interests of the study. By using lure texts, participants are directed to possible interesting topics to write about without a direct request to do so, like perhaps a questionnaire would force to do. Moreover, it leaves room to write about the described aspects according to the participant’s own perspective and context – not in the context given from the researchers.
The next paragraph shows the opening text for data collecting.
Please, use these texts as inspiration to describe your first contact and your own first experiences with the computer. You might want to write about a certain application, a computer game or more in general about your thoughts about computer usage and computer science. For example:
Please write your "autobiography of computer use".
- Do you remember who first introduced you to computing?
- Did you have a favourite computing lesson? Or teacher?
- What was the first thing that got you interested in computing?
The next two subsections show two examples of lure texts.
female, born in 1987
Until I was 11 I had no real idea of what a computer was. I knew the word of course, and had seen machines at friends houses; but that was about it. Then, in the end, my mother bought one, and I managed to get to grips with it unexpectedly fast. First I explored all the easier functions (Word etc. …) then I moved onto making websites and learned HTML. Then in my school I took a Computing course, which sounded interesting. But it was a big disappointment, because I already knew how to switch on a computer. Doh. So I had to explore further myself. Using the Internet was the easiest way. I learned Visual BASIC, and C ++ and so right now I am very interested in different computer languages.
male, born in 1983
In 1990 I was playing Tetris, and games like that, with our computer. At that time I’d already started to catalogue my comic collection on the computer. I started learning from my father and later by working things out for myself. From the very beginning I was mesmerised by the infinite possible applications of PCs. At school I had computing lessons with a teacher who we could have taught more than he could teach us. My biggest motivations were always playing games and finding out new possibilities with the computer.