Nebraska 4-H Household Technology and Interest Survey

Abstract: Nationally, 4-H has placed renewed emphasis in the areas of Science and Technology as a way to prepare youth for the 21st century workplace. Home access may become necessary to youth as they develop science and technology literacy via 4-H programs. A survey was sent to a random sample of 1,414 Nebraska families from a total population of 13,516.   The survey examined the percentage of families that have access to computers and the Internet at home, computer components, use characteristics and specific areas of interest in science and technology. Results indicate that 96 percent of Nebraska 4-H families have access to computers at home.   Nearly 92 percent of families had a connection to the Internet with a majority using dial-up connections.   Families are interested in technology programs focused on basic computer knowledge and office application.   In science, 4-H families indicated environment sciences and botany were areas of interest.

Introduction

Nationally, 4-H has placed renewed emphasis in the areas of Science and Technology as a way to prepare youth for the 21 st century workplace (The National 4-H Strategic Directions Team, 2001).   In addition, new program delivery methods utilizing computers and the Internet have obtained increased importance in 4-H curriculum development, programming, and communications.

Therefore, participation in 4-H program areas will most likely require access to computers and to some extent the Internet.   For example, the National 4-H Cooperative Curriculum Systems 2006 Geospatial curriculum will be delivered on four CD-ROMs with supplemental materials available via a website.  

While over 92% of children have access to computers at schools their time may be limited since resources are shared with other students (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003).   As a consequence, home access may become increasingly important to children as they develop science and technology literacy via 4-H programs.  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2003) more than 39 percent of households do not have a computer and 45 percent do not have Internet access at home.   The diversification of 4-H curriculum into science and technology program areas and the use of electronic delivery methods necessitate the examination of computer and Internet accessibility in 4-H households.

Purpose

The purpose of the study was to investigate what technologies Nebraska 4-H families have in their home.   In addition, the study was conducted to identify areas of science and technology 4-H families thought were important.   The objectives were to:

•  Determine the percentage of families that have access to computers at home and inventory the current state of their technology and describe computer use characteristics.

•  Determine the percentage of families that have access to the internet and determine potential barriers to access.

•  Determine specific areas of interest in science and technology as measured by a self-reported interests inventory

Procedure

PopulationA random sample of 1,414 families out of a total population of 13,516 Nebraska 4-H families, was selected from the 2004 4-H Plus database.   Randomly selected families were sent the paper-based survey via US mail with a pre-paid return envelope.   A postcard was mailed approximately two weeks before the survey was mailed to inform selected families of the upcoming study. Follow-up postcards were sent after two, four and six weeks to participants who had not returned the survey.  

InstrumentA 19-question survey was developed based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2003 survey instrument. The survey consisted of 19 questions with a variety of response scales including yes/no questions, 4-point Likert-type scales and one open-ended question.

To begin, respondents were asked if they had a computer, if not they skipped to question 12 of the survey.   Questions 2 through 11 of the survey explored topics pertaining to computers such as operating system, year purchased, components and Internet access.   Question 12 asked the main reason for not having a computer.   Questions 16 and 18 utilize a 4-point Likert-type scale for questions regarding the priority of different technology and science areas where 1 = not a priority and a 4 = high priority.   In questions 17 and 19 respondents were asked to rank the first, second and third most important technology and science areas.   

Content Validity and ReliabilityThe overall response rate to the survey was 33.6 percent.   The confidence interval at the 95% confidence level is 4.41 indicating that the responses are accurate 95% of the time plus or minus 4.41 points from the reported mean.  

Since the majority of the survey comes from the U.S. Census, the questions have been pre-tested and reviewed by experts and therefore are deemed to be valid.   The results of a Cronbach alpha test for homogeneity of the 19 item instrument revealed a very high standardized alpha coefficient (r=.96).   The high reliability coefficient indicates that the test halves are highly correlated and the questionnaire has high internal consistency.

To address the potential of non-response error, the initial respondents were differentiated into two groups.   The first group, early respondents, consisted of respondents that returned their surveys from April to the end of June, 2005.   The second group, late respondents, consisted of respondents that returned the survey on July 1, 2005 up to the indicated due date.   An independent samples t test was conducted to determine if there were any significant differences between the mean scores of early and late groups based on each question.   No significant differences were found between the groups on any question in the survey including the existence of a computer in the household t (20.66) = -.938, p = .359, equal variances not assumed.

In addition, a random sample of 100 additional surveys was sent to the initial group’s non respondents to determine if scores were significantly different than the initial respondents.   Fifteen surveys were returned by the second-round respondents for a response rate of 15 percent.   Due to low statistical power, the second round respondents were combined with the late respondents to create a new group with a sample size of 34 (Linder, Murphy & Briers, 2001).

Additional independent samples t test were conducted to determine if there were any significant differences between the mean scores of early respondents and the combined group of late respondents and second round respondents on the existence of a computer in the household and high-speed internet. No significant differences were found between the groups on the existence of a computer in the household t (486) = .703, p = .482 or the use of high-speed Internet access t (468) = -1.39, p = .166.

Results

Computer CharacteristicsOverall, 96.4% of respondents said they had a computer at home.   A majority of respondents use Windows XP (57.5%), followed by Windows 98 (21.9%) and Windows 2000 (10.5%) see Table 1. Close to 32% of 4-H families had two or more computers in the home with the newest computer being purchased in 2004 (26.3%) see Table 2. Most (93.8%) of computers systems had a CD-ROM, however, less than half (49%) had a DVD drive see Table 3.

Table 1
Current Operating System

Operating System
 WinXPWin98Win2000WinMEMac OSXOtherMac OS9No Computer
Count2579847338211
Percent57.5%21.9%10.5%7.4%1.8%.4%.2%.2%

Table 2
Year newest computer obtained

Year the newest computer was obtained
 None200520042003200220012000Before 2000
Count1541198961364648
Percent.2%11.9%26.3%19.6%13.5%7.9%10.2%10.6%

Table 3
Computer Components

Does your primary computer have the following
CD-ROMDVDCD-ROM BurnerDVD BurnerUSBFirewireAGPWireless
NoYesNoYesNoYesNoYesNoYesNoYesNoYesNoYes
Count28427232223154301351104151304360943579739559
Percent6.293.8514933.866.277.122.933.266.879.320.778.621.48713

Internet AccessOverall, 8.4% of respondents did not have access to the Internet.   Most (53.1%) used a dial-up account; 20.9% had a DSL connection while 8.4% and 5.7% had cable and satellite connections respectively as shown in Table .   A majority of respondents (51%) do not have high speed access.   The most likely barriers to high speed access included costs (31.3%) and availability (16.4%) see Table 6.   When connecting to the Internet, most respondents use Internet Explorer (85.9%) followed by Netscape Navigator (16.2%) and Mozilla Firefox (6.3%).

Table 4
Internet Access

Do you currently access the Internet using
Dial-upDSLNo AccessCableSatelliteOther
Count2419542382612
Percent53.1%20.9%9.3%8.4%5.7%2.6%

Table 5
High Speed Internet Access

Do you have high-speed Internet access
 No internet accessYesNo
  Count38185232
Percent8.4%40.7%51.0%

Table 6
Reasons for not having high-speed access

Reason for not having high-speed Internet
 CostsHave high-speedNot availableDon’t needUse elsewhereOtherPrivacy and Security
Count14913778261565
Percent35.8%32.9%18.8%6.3%3.6%1.4%1.2%

Computer UseThe primary reported uses of the computer in the home were school related (82.2%), Email use (79.8%), work related (57.1%) and games (50.1%) (Table 7).   Other or secondary uses of the computer reported were: word processing (88.3%), Email (87.7%), and spreadsheet /database use (57.5%) (Table 8). Finally, 65.5% of the respondents indicated they had a digital camera and 24.2% indicated they had a digital video camera in the household.

Table 7
Primary computer use

Primary use of the computer at home
 School – homeworkEmailWorkGamesOtherNo Computer
 NoYesNoYesNoYesNoYesNoYesNoYes
Count8137492363195260227228407484541
Percent17.882.220.279.842.957.149.950.189.510.599.80.2

Table 8
Other uses of computer at Home

Other uses of the computer at home
Word processingEmailSpreadsheets and databaseManipulate graphics and videoWeb PagesProgrammingOther
 NoYesNoYesNoYesNoYesNoYesNoYesNoYes
Count53401563981932613261283361184183641143
Percent11.788.312.387.742.557.571.828.274.026.092.17.9%90.59.5

Note:   0ne respondent indicated they did not have a computer for 0.2%.

For those respondents that reported that they did not have a computer, 2.4% indicated the reason was that costs were too high while 0.9% indicated they could use a computer at another location (Table 9).

Table 9
Main reasons for not having a computer at home

Main reason for not having a computer
 Have a computerCosts are too highCan use elsewhereOther
Count4421143
Row N %96.1%2.4%.9%.7%

Technology and Science Interest AreasParticipants were asked to indicate their interests’ in areas of technology.   The interest areas were scored on a 4-point Likert-type system where NOT = 1, LOW = 2, MEDIUM = 3, and HIGH = 4 .   Overall, the technology areas with the highest mean scores were basic computer knowledge and office applications where the mean scores were 3.47 and 3.42 respectively (Table 10).   The results are also broken down by districts.   In Nebraska there are four districts: the Northeast (NE), Southeast (SE), Panhandle (PH) and West Central (WC).   Not surprisingly, when asked to rank the most important development areas, overall, 58% selected the basic computer knowledge area, followed by office applications (44%) and graphic arts (17%) (Tables 11-13).

Table 10
Technology Interest areas by district and total

District Basic Computer KnowledgeWeb SitesOffice ApplicationGraphic ArtsDigital Movie CreationComputer programmingNetworkGIS/GPSRobots
NEM3.432.793.372.932.632.762.692.502.19
 n135134133134134133132124127
 SD.833.716.764.717.753.780.783.781.774
PHM3.622.793.503.002.603.002.912.692.40
 n585758575757575553
 SD.721.901.731.802.863.866.851.879.840
SEM3.462.753.422.992.632.672.682.512.38
 n197201200199200198197170185
 SD.817.805.697.703.829.878.873.885.820
WCM3.432.863.453.112.742.732.882.732.66
 n707171707071696264
 SD.827.867.789.772.912.878.883.908.859
TotalM3.472.783.422.992.642.742.732.562.36
 n465468467465466464460416434
 SD.809.800.732.731.824.856.855.865.829

Table 11
Percentage break down of those areas ranked MOST important technology area.

Most important area
 Basic Computer KnowledgeOffice ApplicationMissingWeb SitesGraphic ArtsProgramDigital Movie CreationRobotsGIS/GPSNetwork
Count278623831281010775
Percent58.4%13.0%8.0%6.5%5.9%2.1%2.1%1.5%1.5%1.1%

Table 12
Percentage break down of those areas ranked SECOND MOST important technology area.

Second important area
 Office ApplicationWeb SitesMissingGraphic ArtsBasic Computer KnowledgeProgramDigital Movie CreationNetworkGIS/GPSRobots
Count21063404034302315145
Percent44.3%13.3%8.4%8.4%7.2%6.3%4.9%3.2%3.0%1.1%

Table 13
Percentage break down of those areas ranked THIRD MOST important technology area.

Third important area
 Graphic ArtsWeb SitesProgramMissingOffice ApplicationNetworkDigital Movie CreationGIS/GPSBasic Computer KnowledgeRobots
Count21063404034302315145
Percent44.3%13.3%8.4%8.4%7.2%6.3%4.9%3.2%3.0%1.1%

The science interest areas with the highest mean scores were Environment Sciences, Botany, and Zoology, where the mean scores were 3.44, 3.42 and 3.33 respectively (Table 14).   Overall, Environmental Sciences were ranked the most important development area by 25% of the respondents followed by Botany (21%) and Botany/Zoology (15%) (Tables 15-17). Again, the ranking for priority science development areas follows the ranking of science interest areas with Environmental Sciences ranked number one, followed by Botany and Zoology.

Table 14
Science Interest areas by district and total

District Biochemistry (Molecular biology, photosynthesis, food chemistry)Botany (Agronomy, horticulture, forestry, plant taxonomy, plant physiology)Chemistry (Physical chemistry, organic chemistry pesticides, soil chemistryEarth and Space Sciences (Geology, meteorology, geography, topography, mineralogy, archaeology)Engineering (Civil, mechanical, aeronautical, electrical, bioengineering, lasers)Environmental SciencesPhysics (Solid state, optics, acoustics, fluid and gas dynamics,)Zoology (Animal genetics, entomology, animal ecology, anatomy, paleontology)
NEM2.913.313.123.022.993.462.803.24
 n125128127127128129127128
 SD.730.612.662.672.748.612.749.661
PHM2.963.473.093.223.253.402.803.47
 n5355555555555555
 SD.831.716.800.809.865.784.826.742
SEM2.893.453.173.173.073.432.743.30
 n192193193193194192193193
 SD.743.585.651.656.749.660.767.693
WCM3.093.543.163.363.013.492.853.48
 n6768686768676766
 SD.883.656.803.667.782.786.744.685
TotalM2.933.423.143.163.063.442.773.33
 n442449448447450448447447
 SD.775.629.697.690.769.683.764.696

Table 15
Percentage break down of those areas ranked MOST important science area.

Most important area
 EnvironmentBotanyMissingZoologyEarth/SpaceBiochemistryEngineeringChemistryPhysics
Count118907366333330247
Percent24.9%19.0%15.4%13.9%7.0%7.0%6.3%5.1%1.5%

Table 16
Percentage break down of those areas ranked SECOND MOST important technology area.

Second most important area
 BotanyEnvironmentMissingZoologyEarth/SpaceChemistryEngineeringBiochemistryPhysics
Count101777469484229259
Percent21.3%16.2%15.6%14.6%10.1%8.9%6.1%5.3%1.9%

Table 17
Percentage break down of those areas ranked THIRD MOST important technology area.

Third most important area
 MissingBotanyZoologyEnvironmentEarth/SpaceChemistryEngineeringBiochemistryPhysics
Count837471595245422423
Percent17.5%15.6%15.0%12.5%11.0%9.5%8.9%5.1%4.9%

Limitations and Implementation for Practice and Research

Initially, it would appear that a limitation of this study was the low response rate. However, every effort was made to increase the response rate by sending out a pre survey notice and three follow-up reminders to non-respondents (Mangione, 1995; Salant & Dillman, 1994).   Furthermore, participants were selected from a true random sampling of the population being studied, thereby increasing the statistical likelihood that the sample represents the population (Mangione, 1995).

Moreover, two techniques, comparing early to late responders and comparing initial-round responses to second-round responses, were employed to control for the non-response error and no significant differences were found (Linder, Murphy & Briers, 2001; Linder & Wingenbach, 2002).   In addition, the findings of this survey are in-line with the U.S Census (2003) findings that 83.4 percent of families with children enrolled in grades K-12 have a computer at home.

This study asked three main questions:

  • the percentage of Nebraska 4-H families with a computer at home,
  • if 4-H families have access to the Internet, and
  • to examine areas of interest in technology and science.  

First, over 96 percent of Nebraska 4-H families have access to computers at home.   In addition, a majority of these systems were less than three years old.   Secondly, nearly 92 percent of families had a connection to the Internet from their home with a majority of families using dial-up connections.   Finally, families are interested in technology programs focused on basic computer knowledge and office application.   In science, 4-H families indicated environment sciences and botany were areas of interest.

The results of this study suggest that 4-H families in Nebraska have adequate computer technologies in their homes to take advantage of computer-based, on-line 4-H programs. The results also indicate that 4-H programs can be delivered over the Internet but that download speeds may be an issue with a majority of households using a low bandwidth dial-up connection.   Therefore, hybrid delivery systems that utilize multiple technologies to deliver mediated content may be considered as an alternative delivery solution.   A hybrid system would allow large media files to be delivered via a CD-ROM while linked to smaller media files that can be easily delivered on-line.    Additionally, the use of DVD’s may not be an appropriate delivery solution due to the slow adoption of DVD drives in home computer systems.  

Conclusion

Due to the difference in demographics between states, the findings of this study cannot be generalized to the entire population of 4-H families in the country.   However, the findings suggest trends in the adaptation of technology by Nebraska 4-H families thereby providing directions for the Nebraska 4-H science and technology programs and the consideration of electronic delivery methods.

Additional studies are needed to clarify the results of this survey; especially in regards to comparing technologies at home in the rural areas of Nebraska with those in more densely populated areas of Nebraska. For the present, these findings suggest that no significant technological barriers exist in the homes of Nebraska 4-H families regarding 4-H science and technology programs and mediated delivery methods and that less than 9% of families would be currently excluded from participating in programs that required computers and Internet access at home.

These findings can also offer other youth agencies, serving rural populations, a method for obtaining household technology information and the demographics of the populations they serve.   This type of information can provide means for new development in programming, curriculum, and communications.