The Holy Grail in education today is to link an educational strategy, program, initiative or technology to student achievement. There are numerous organizations advocating for Technology Literacy, Information Literacy, 21st Century Learning Skills, and any number of other titles for literacy in a modern context. In all sectors of human society, the technology of the 21st Century has revolutionized and enhanced our way of life.
From medicine to the military and from business to the arts, the technologies of today have made our lives better. It is not surprising then, that the public expects technology to have a similar revolutionary effect on education. After all, the biggest advancements of the last 20 years have been in the realm of information and the tools of human knowledge; this is Education’s back-yard. Yet, when people look at our schools they see many classrooms that seem to have been immune to these advances.
There are obstacles that education faces in implementing a 21st Century approach to education not the least of which is finding a definition and a clear picture of what it really looks like and whether it will be more effective for students. Costs to implement technology-rich programs quickly seem prohibitive when scaling to an entire school system, particularly so in a state that lags the nation in educational funding.
Teachers are our biggest asset and are known to be the single largest influence on student achievement the district can provide, so professional development is crucial and fundamental. The measure of success, the CSAP, is a paper and pencil test which will be unable to measure all the positive effects technology can have for student learning. Indeed, a 20th Century test method will be unable to properly assess (and may even inhibit) the skills development of a 21st Century learner. And then, are we just about the content and helping students master it, or is education about something more as well?
Therefore, making the case that investment in technology will increase student achievement can be fraught with pitfalls and obstacles. To attempt to tackle this issue, the authors of this paper will review quality research and commentary in an array of areas where technology-related tools and strategies have been implemented with positive effects for students. A strict filter of studies that produce higher test results will not be used because of the limitations current paper and pencil tests have in assessment of 21st Century skills.
In addition to improved assessment performances, the reader is encouraged to consider the context of a global workplace and education’s duty to prepare students to thrive in a highly digital, interactive knowledge workforce. Research that shows increased student achievement on assessments, studies that point to ways education can successfully prepare students for a modern workforce and our own experiences in Littleton Public Schools shall all be considered positive correlations between technology and student achievement in this paper.
The Challenge Inherent in Determining the Effectiveness of Technologies via Research The following is an excerpt that addresses a gestalt view of technology and its correlation to student achievement: When we try to determine the effectiveness of educational technologies, we are confronted by a number of methodological and practical issues. First, we need to remember that technology is only one component of an instructional activity. Assessments of the impact of technology are really assessments of instruction enabled by technology, and the outcomes are highly dependent on the quality of the implementation of the instructional design.
According to Roy Pea, director of SRI Center for Technology in Learning in Menlo Park, California, the “social contexts” of how technology is used are crucial to understanding how technology might influence teaching and learning. Educational technologies cannot be effective by themselves. The social contexts are all-important. This means more attention should be paid to the teaching strategies used both “in” the software and “around it” in the classroom, and to the classroom environment itself.
It is a recurrent finding that the effects of the best software can be neutralized through improper use, and that even poorly designed software can be creatively extended to serve important learning goals. There are also a host of methodological issues to confront. First, standardized achievement tests might not measure the types of changes in students that educational technology reformers are looking for. New measures, some of which are currently under development, would assess areas, such as higher order thinking skills, that many believe can be particularly affected by using new technologies.
There is also a need to include outcome measures that go beyond student achievement, because student achievement might be affected by students’ attitudes about themselves, their schools, the types of interactions that go on in schools, and the very idea of learning. Another consideration is pointed out by the U. S. Office of Technology Assessment’s Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection: Technological changes are likely to be nonlinear, and might show effects not only on student learning, but also on the curriculum, the nature of instruction, the school culture, and the fundamental ways that teachers do their jobs. Coley, 1997). Instant Response Systems Data-driven decision making is an educational approach that requires educators to decide on instructional strategies and activities based on what they know about how well students have grasped a concept. Whereas before, this might be done with mini quizzes, homework or performances at the chalk board, today’s technologies provide another avenue. Using handheld devices in Modesto City Schools classrooms, teachers can pose questions to students who use wireless remotes for real-time responses.
Such engagement enables the teachers to immediately determine if students are grasping concepts and decide whether more time is needed on a topic or whether the group can move on. Item banks of standards-aligned questions make teacher’s jobs easier in developing such review materials (Hines, 2005). Another similar technology is the graphing calculator which can be used in math and science classrooms to enable every student to participate and have the power of a modern computing tool.
Classrooms that make use of the graphing calculator exhibit better questioning and feedback behaviors; goal-oriented instruction becomes more attainable and more common; activities result in better student engagement and students tend to demonstrate more collaborative learning behaviors (Whitehurst, 2003). In Littleton Public Schools, a definitive interest is rising for these technologies as several classroom sets are deployed in schools across the district. Results are largely anecdotal and preliminary, but math coordinators are seeing the Texas Instruments graphing calculator as a valuable tool that will reach beyond just math class.
Technology Education Littleton Public Schools has a strong tradition in the realm of technology education. Our Middle and High Schools are all equipped with curricula that introduce a wide array of technologies to students. LPS technology education students and teachers have won national recognition for their work. A relatively small amount of research has been done on students’ understandings of design and technology concepts, or technical knowledge. This limited research sometimes makes it difficult to capitalize on such an ever evolving subject as Technology Education.
The findings from the Australian study state that an increasing awareness of students’ understandings of design and technology concepts can have an impact on the teaching and learning of design and technology in elementary schools similar to that experienced in elementary science education (Davis, Ginns, & McRobbie, 2002). Called Career and Technical Education in Virginia, CTE correlations to curricular areas have been documented on a state web site (http://www. valinkages. net/) and are considered a key component to preparing students for End-Of-Course tests.
A study was conducted in 2002–2003 on Illustration and Design Technology coursework, an example of CTE student performance on Standards of Learning (SOL), the Virginia equivalent of CSAP tests. The results showed that 78 percent of CTE students passed the mathematics SOL test while only 72 percent of non-CTE enrolled students pass the test (Dyer, Reed, & Berry, 2006). Authors on the subject advocate for providing students with opportunities to synthesize their learning in other subjects in technology-related programs.
The opportunity to apply and reinforce learning from content areas in technology programs is essential if learning is to be meaningful to students (Lewis, 1999). In our own experiences in LPS, we find that the Technology Education courses generate excitement and interest for learning among both male and female students which must have an impact on their learning. Recent research has shown that Technology Education courses appeal to both genders equally (McCarthy & Moss, 1994). Although girls appeared to enjoy required technology education courses, they were less likely to continue taking such courses as electives(Silverman & Pritchard, 1996).
Certainly motivation and application of knowledge help to improve student achievement. And while recent results do not conclusively prove that these courses impact student achievement at a higher level than other programs we implement in schools, it would be imprudent to think that these programs do not have a very positive effect. This is one of the limitations of research on students: it is almost impossible to create a true control group. When asked, students currently enrolled in LPS Technology Education courses reported their thoughts of technology to include: computers, iPods, video games, music media, email, and tools in general.
Recent legislation supports the concept that education’s technology initiatives need to go beyond thinking about computers. Rather, Technology Education is about teaching innovation; providing opportunity for practical application of knowledge gained in school; mastery of abstraction and problem solving. Technology Education programs at LPS include a broad scope of tools that human beings use to master their environment including manufacturing, construction, power and energy, communication, transportation, and biotechnology.
While research that clearly correlates higher student achievement on standardized tests is lacking, the skills that students learn in such courses clearly match what employers, from engineering firms to manufacturing companies, indicate they seek in their applicant pools. Simulations and Video Games “Dad, did you know that a Prefect in ancient Rome was both a firefighter AND a policeman? ” was a question that arose from the back of my (Dan Maas) car during a long road trip with my son, Calvin.
He described, in quite accurate detail, the pantheon of Roman gods, the basic elements of Roman society and then abruptly ended the question and answer period that arose from his initial question so he could fend off the Carthaginians. How did he know they were Carthaginians? “Hannibal always attacks with elephants” was his reply. The boy had learned all this about Rome playing a video game at age five. Video games have long been the bane of the parent and teacher’s existence, but there’s something here that may be of some use to us. Some have picked up on the possibilities.
A multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) is a kind of video game. Schools like Harvard University are creating MUVEs that are patterned after video games with a few critical differences. Video games typically have goals like collecting points, defeating enemies or gathering gold. On the other hand, MUVEs have the goal of learning. By creating virtual environments, problems can be posed, research can be collected, theories tested and outcomes achieved. One MUVE example begins with an outbreak of a disease in a small town that players must investigate, determine the pathogens involved, develop theories on how o treat the illness and test methods to resolve the crisis.
The simulation is highly visual, interactive, and highly engaging to the students. See Studies show that children whose teachers use technology for simulations and application of knowledge tend to develop higher order thinking skills and tend to score higher on tests like the National Assessment for Educational Progress. Conversely, technology use that focuses on drill-and-practice tends to correlate to lower performance (Archer, 1998).
In another pilot, students who participated in computer-assisted literacy instruction earned higher scores on a Stanford Culture-Free Self-Esteem Inventory and on a Test of Written Spelling (Bottege, Daley, Goin, Hasselbring, & Taylor, 1997). In a 2005 study on a gaming system called an Intelligent Tutoring System, results showed increased educational interest and motivation among students. Students showed statistically significant gains educationally, but of particular note was the very significant effect on students who had performed poorly previous to the pilot (Virvou, Katsionis, & Manos, 2005).
When one thinks about games, it seems as if there is a clear opportunity for using this tool for advancing educational skills. Students solve problems, learn languages and master virtual world rules while playing video games for entertainment. This pattern was examined in a Newark, New Jersey study using Lightspan educational video games where 47 pre-school age children played 40 minutes per day for 11 weeks and demonstrated significant gains over the control group on the Wide Range Achievement Test R-3.
The scores for spelling and decoding were significantly improved for the experimental group over the control while no significant difference was detected in math (Calao & Din, 2001). The Pokemon video game is also interesting to consider. By the time the first draft of this document is completed for the Board of Education, the country will celebrate Dr. Suess’ birthday. His children’s books help young people to learn to read by creating simple, repetitive language constructs that reveal patterns to students and help them improve their decoding and phonic awareness.
He even made up nonsense words to press the student’s phonetic ability. Pokemon has many similar traits. Text on the handheld game appears in small, five word chunks that only proceed when the reader is done. The reading is meaningful in that comprehension is required to solve the puzzles of the game. And the story line is filled with imaginary creatures with made-up names… each phonetically accurate. Did the makers of Pokemon intend to create a game that might help children learn to read or did the creators use phonics to create the English language equivalents of their native Japanese?
Who knows, but perhaps this game, or something like it, could be helpful. In speaking informally at several buildings in LPS, students at the middle level indicated that they would check out educational video games to play on their home gaming systems. Could video games, tuned to education by eliminating violence and other objectionable themes, become a new tool educators can use to engage students both during and after school? More research is certainly warranted but the existing results and intuitive logic leads one to think that there is promise here. At-Risk/Intervention
An ever present emphasis in education is how to intervene for students with at-risk characteristics. We see educational and economic gaps forming for students at-risk and our public system is always focused on closing gaps and providing bridges for students. Can technology-integrated interventions be part of the answer? In a recent study published by North Carolina State University’s Meridian, journal on middle school technology, students repeating eighth grade were isolated into a focused 27-week program that used hypermedia, online resources and Power Point as integrated technologies.
Students demonstrated statistically significant gains (29 percentile points) in reading and language arts. Additionally students demonstrated marked improvements (23 percentile points) in writing performances (Little, 2006). Within LPS, the Center for Online Studies is a partnership with Arapahoe Community College (ACC). Students come to ACC to take online coursework supplied by Class. com and supervised by a certified teacher. The students enrolled have had difficulty succeeding in their traditional high schools and reported to the Board of Education in January, 2007 that the program has made a difference in their academic pursuits.
The principles in use here that are making this first year program a success are having a quality content source, a certified teacher and a supportive learning environment. 1:1 Initiatives One-to-one computing is an industry term of one computing device allocated to one person. This essentially is an initiative to end shared computing resources based on the idea that such learning tools are so essential that every student needs one all the time. This view is something akin to the status that textbooks have enjoyed for some time.
When the public hears about classroom textbooks, meaning students can’t take their own book home, there is usually concern or even outcry to increase the resource. Proponents of 1:1 computing believe that the 21st Century represents a time when that status held by textbooks transfers to the computer. Indeed, if we are to shift from paper-based learning materials to electronic sources, a 1:1 initiative of some sort of computing device will be a pre-requisite. Some school districts and even states have begun to explore this concept.
In Maine, a state-wide initiative began nine years ago to provide every seventh grade student with a laptop. The program is called the Main Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) and it is having an impact on teaching and learning in their public schools. After five years, researchers reported that teachers were more effective at helping students meet state standards. Also students were more motivated, learned more, and mastered concepts to deeper levels. Finally, students appeared to be learning new skills for the 21st Century (Lane, 2003).
Further research into the MLTI project showed that students who had used laptops in 7th and 8th grade, but no longer had school supplied laptops in 9th grade reported that the quantity and quality of their school work had dropped since losing access to school-provided laptops (Pitler, Flynn, & Gaddy, 2004). A 1:1 project is the initiative in Henrico County, Virginia which began in 2001. Prior to the project, 78 percent of the district schools were accredited based on the student achievement on the Virginia Standards of Learning test.
By the end of the school year in 2003, all schools had earned accreditation meaning that a satisfactory percentage of students passed the state test (Pitler, Flynn, & Gaddy, 2004). In Canada, a 1:1 effort entitled the Wireless Writing Project begun in 2002 started in Peace River North with 6th and 7th grade students. In pre and post-test results on writing assessments, researchers found that the percentage of students who met or exceeded the performance standards of the test increased from 70 percent to 92 percent (Pitler, Flynn, & Gaddy, 2004).
Another 1:1 initiative is underway in New Hampshire where initial results reflect other studies of similar efforts. Students and teachers are demonstrating increased technology use across the curricular areas. Student engagement and motivation is improving and student-teacher interactions are on the rise. Initial reports of teacher judgment of student achievement (that is, basing achievement on grades rather than standardized tests) indicate that students are doing better than before (Bebell, 2004).
In our own experiences in LPS, we see classrooms with laptop access achieving a 1:1 ratio for the class period exhibiting much improved academic behaviors. Working in this manner, students demonstrate a tendency to return to previous homework and revise, edit and reuse to far greater degrees than the classroom teacher was accustomed to seeing. Students more often compare their writing samples with peers and seem more likely to collaborate. Using blogs, wikis and other online tools, students expand on the usefulness of word processors by working collaboratively and ubiquitously.
Collaboration through Technology A strong theme through the research and observations in this paper is how technologies are used to improve student achievement and general practices. This section is dedicated to the art of collaboration and how various tools allow people to reach across distances and through time like never before. iPods and other MP3 playing devices have opened up a very convenient and powerful pathway for information to be produced, accessed and archived. San Diego State University is leveraging this technology in science teacher preparation.
Podcasting is a method of recording digital audio and video files and posting them online for others to access. This method can be used to bring distant experts to students, provide opportunities to review material at leisure, grant unprecedented access to students to research material and extend the learning opportunities for students well beyond the classroom. Surveys of pre-service science teachers who used iPods and podcasting in their preparation reported time savings, increased interest in subject matter, and declared that they would use podcasting in their own teaching methods in the future (Yerrick, 2006).
The presence of global networks, the affordability of a wide array of information technology and the reality that connected people create an integrated whole have drastically impacted how we work, and learn today. Learning theories of the previous century including behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism were developed, prior to the current way our lives are organized, as a result of technology. Siemens proposes a new theory of learning based on the new human condition: Connectivism. In this view, knowledge resides in people and on devices.
Learning and knowing rest on diverse opinions from a wide array of sources. Learning becomes a process of connecting nodes of information. Continual learning is maintained by nurturing connections. Learners find connections between different ideas, fields of study, and basic concepts. Being current is of paramount importance. And decision-making is actually a learning process, meaning choosing what to learn and being able to deal with the shifting nature of information. Learners must become comfortable with the reality that what is considered correct today might be proven wrong tomorrow.
This theory of learning represents a massive shift in thinking: that learning is not an individual pursuit, but is a collaborative, dynamic and never-ending activity (Siemens, 2005). In LPS, the blog and the wiki has become a fascinating collaborative learning tool. In a Language Arts classroom, students no longer just check out a book, write some sticky-note annotations, and have one-at-a-time discussions prompted by the teacher. Rather, students copy Macbeth from a web resource into a word processor and annotate electronically, keeping their work on personally owned USB memory keys.
While some students discuss a scene with the teacher, others are free to blog commentary on the topic of verbal discussion or other interests in the subject-matter at hand. Suddenly, a dozen conversation threads are happening all at once and the teacher only has control of one. The participation rate of students has risen and students return to the blog after school to continue their dialog. Students report that the conversation via blog makes them more reflective and yet more confident because of the lack of a public speaking component to the classroom discussion.
In one discussion, the number of postings became so frequent over a short period of time that the free blogging service shut down the account because the activity resembled a malicious electronic attack on the blog server. A wiki supporting another Language Arts class is being used to connect students to young people in other countries like South Korea. Students reading Arabian Nights have opportunities to share their insights with others from around the United States and even in foreign countries.
Other opportunities include the use of SKYPE for toll-free calls around the globe to other connected classrooms and instant messages allowing free-form, high speed conversation on topics of study. And in a Foreign Language classroom, chat and Voice Over IP systems allow students to practice their second language acquisition with their teacher, with each other, and even with students outside the classroom. The lesson is that the art of collaboration has no boundaries today. Time and space are no longer the limiters they once were and the list of technologies in this section only scratches the surface of what is available.
And like the learning theory of Connectivism points out, this too will change. Education must take note and prepare students to succeed in an environment that thrives on collaboration while constantly changing and improving the tools that support it. Word Processing and Writing For decades now, research has been conducted on the effect word processing has on writing skills for students. In a 1997 study, Owston and Wideman cite a considerable body of work on this topic as part of their research project that studied 3rd grade students using word processors for writing.
They concluded in their own study that use of word processors that were readily available to students and were an integrated part of their daily activities resulted in considerably higher quality and quantity of writing as compared to a similar student group without access and support for such tools (1997). In a more recent qualitative study, the use of word processors with seven 3rd grade students over a six week period led to significantly more creative, more comprehensive and improved style.
This study of five girls and two boys also reported higher motivation to work with the writing process as compared to paper and pencil methods (Beck & Fetherston, 2003). In LPS, Anne Smith reports that students are more engaged when using classroom laptops. The students take advantage of the ease of use to manipulate text to show various sentence structures. While these studies definitely point to improved writing volume and quality from young students, research also suggests that young students need to be exposed to handwritten learning as well, which has been a point of discussion for some time.
An article by Balajthy et al points out that students need a diverse writing experience and that word processors should be part of the experience rather than replacing handwritten work (Balajthy, McKeveny, & Lacitignola, 1986). At this developmental level, the various tools for writing are most effective for learners when they are used in an integrated approach with the overall instructional program rather than taught separately (MacArthur, 1988).
There are studies that show little or no impact of word processors on the quality of student writing, however, a meta-analysis in 1993 showed that these studies tend to have a number of limitations not the least of which is the use of text-based word processors rather than the Graphical User Interface (GUI) systems in use today. Additionally, the analysis revealed that such studies often involve students who have sporadic access to the technology and were not accomplished with the tool (Bangert-Drowns, 1993).
The process of mastering writing is very important and there is research that shows how emphasis on writing skills positively improves student achievement across the curriculum. Writing Across the Curriculum initiatives have over twenty years of professional practice and anecdotal evidence to support this claim. Strong research has been hard to come by, however, to truly evidence the effects. One of the biggest obstacles is the ability to truly have a strong control group for any study as such would require a population of students who did not use writing as part of their learning process (Railsback, 2004).
Some studies have been able to document positive effects. In a 1992 study, Van Allen was able to conclude that school-wide efforts in Writing Across the Curriculum in five middle schools over a five year period resulted in better writing and better overall student achievement on assessments (1991). What we have found essential in LPS is to have students write frequently and in a variety of forms including wikis and blogs as well as word processors. We wish to note here that we must be careful about using research that is old, even though some of it is unavoidable.
The technology tools of today are very different than when computers first entered schools. As an example, the word processing research from the 1980s may not be completely irrelevant, but the software of today bears so little resemblance to the software of the late 1980s. In addition, increased student (and teacher) familiarity with these tools will also have an effect on the impact these tools have on achievement. A key question is “How do we measure the impact of tools that change so quickly that by the time you measure their impact, the tools have changed?
In other words, by the time most research is done (and published in “reputable” sources), the technology has changed so much that the research loses at least some of its relevance. This will be a significant hurdle to overcome. In a comprehensive peer-reviewed report, Bangert-Drowns conducted another meta-analysis with Hurley and Wilkinson on the impact of writing across the curriculum in 2004. This analysis, which reviewed 48 studies, produced three major findings. First, writing for learning produced positive effects on school achievement in the studies reviewed.
The second finding was that grade levels, minutes per task, and writing prompts had significant impact on results. The study found that programs implemented in Grades 6–8 actually had reduced performances, possibly due to the loss of time on the more differentiated content covered at the secondary level. Longer tasks also depressed results perhaps for similar time constraint issues and motivational issues among students. The use of writing prompts concerning students’ current understandings and confusion were very effective while prompts for personal writing showed no effect. The third finding concerned the length of treatment.
The analysis revealed the intuitive conclusion that students who have longer exposure to writing for learning strategies experience a cumulative effect that is very positive (2004). The research continues today and can be seen in an article published in Education Week on February 14, 2007, where the National Assessment of Educational Progress has been piloting a computerized test for assessing writing. This move recognizes the research that is showing how students write more often, of better quality, and with more consistency (between both genders) when using these writing tools.
And preliminary results are showing that students tend to write better on the tests when using the word processor (Cavanagh, 2007). What can be drawn from these studies is that writing, being an active learning process, has been shown to positively impact student achievement in all subject areas. It can also be stated that students who have ample access to word processing in conjunction with skillful instruction in a school that is emphasizing Writing Across the Curriculum can be reasonably expected to produce higher achievement results. Streaming Video
In four Los Angeles public schools, a study was conducted on the effectiveness of United Streaming video in supporting 6th through 8th grade mathematics achievement. Students were pre and post-tested to provide the source data for the study which revealed that the experimental group using streaming video outperformed the control group by 4. 7 percent among sixth grade students. This differential was shown to be statistically significant. Eighth grade students showed a more modest 2. 2 percent advantage which still registered as significant (Boster et al. , 2004).
In LPS, the same United Streaming resources were secured for all schools at the beginning of the 2006–2007 school year. Additional digital projection and speaker equipment was provided to schools along with a concerted orientation effort to help teachers access and use the material. Prior to the introduction of United Streaming video, the Internet connection for the district was peaking at 26 megabits of demand. Within two months of the introduction of United Streaming, the peak demand had reached 100 megabits which represented the maximum throughput the connection was able to sustain.
This 400 percent increase in Internet demand was traced directly to streaming video services requested by the schools demonstrating the value teachers immediately saw in this technology. Today, LPS is deploying a locally hosted server to present the streaming video to meet the growing demand for both quantity and quality of the content. Laptops for Teachers The following is an observation of technology use at Lenski Elementary School by Assistant Director of Instructional Technology, Boni Hamilton.
As part of the Technology Grants from Plan for Social Excellence (www. pfse. org). schools provided laptops for teachers in the first year of the three year grants. PFSE didn’t collect hard data about the impact, but at Lenski Elementary School, I saw firsthand the effects on teachers and instruction. Some observations: 1. Teachers who had been least confident about their technology skills increased their confidence and competence with technology skills to equal that of the more tech-savvy staff members within four months.
While the classroom teachers had regular access to technology skills when they co-taught in the lab and so were fairly confident with technology skills, the non-classroom staff such as specialists received training only when it was scheduled for the staff. This was too infrequent to give them the level of competence they needed. The portability of the laptops allowed the specialists to get help from peers, family members, and friends. A couple of teachers even signed up for computer classes outside the school because they finally had computers they could take home and practice on.
One teacher who had been only moderately comfortable with technology learned how to make tables in MSWord and began showing everyone on staff — she became the staff expert. 2. Teachers improved in their trouble-shooting skills. Trouble-shooting is difficult to teach because problems happen at inconvenient times and are hard to reproduce during a training session. However, when teachers were carting their laptops home and had problems, they had to solve the problems themselves. They either used family members to help or they ‘fooled around’ until it did what they wanted.
Because they knew the computers could be restored, they no longer worried about what would happen if they took a risk and pushed a button. 3. Teachers grew more relaxed about problems. Before laptops, teachers often got stressed when some technology failed. As they learned to problem-solve laptop problems, they had less tendency to get up-tight when something went wrong. They were then able to think about problem-solving strategies, consult a peer, or cart the laptop to a computer coach for help. 4. Teachers increased the level of student use of technology.
As teachers gained confidence, they became more willing to risk using computers in the classroom. It wasn’t as scary to let kids try projects on classroom computers because they trusted that either they or their students could solve problems. 5. The demand for student computers in classrooms has increased dramatically annually. Even though teachers felt their classrooms were too small to handle clusters of computers, six months after they received laptops, they made room for computer clusters because they began to depend on computers to enable students to continue projects, collaborate on learning, and practice skills.
The number of desktop computers in classrooms went from an average of three per room to an average of five to six per room. Lenski also bought two 15-computer laptop carts, but demand was so heavy that the school added two more carts in the following year. Then the library’s demand for computers increased so dramatically that the school had to buy a fifth cart. In the third year of having laptop carts, teachers are now complaining that there are too few carts available for the library and 16 classrooms (Grades 2-5). 6.
After three years of having laptops, most teachers opted to return to desktop computers. There seemed to be several causes for this: 1) They purchased home computers and found they could use USB drives to cart files; 2) The school had enough wireless laptops for student use that teachers could get on a laptop; or even borrow one overnight, if they needed; 3) They preferred larger screens, faster processors, and standard mice. Based on these observations, I advocate strongly for giving teachers experience with laptops before buying laptops for students. Concluding Remarks
The following is a summative commentary from Karl Fisch, Edublog Nominee and Finalist for the Best Blog of 2006: We’re not going to find a whole lot of really good research to support this at this time. I can summarize what the research generally says. The use of technology in appropriate ways has a small, positive effect on student achievement. It also has a larger, but still small, positive effect on student and teacher motivation, engagement and satisfaction. That’s about it. But I would strongly argue that – to a certain extent – this is missing the point. I would also suggest that many of our current practices are in direct contradiction to what the research says we should do, but we do them anyway because it’s convenient for the adults.
How come nobody is demanding to see the research to support those practices? But I digress. ) I do not think that if we infuse technology into our schools, even putting in a 1:1 program at the high schools, that we will see student achievement – as we currently measure it – skyrocket. I think we may see a small positive effect, with possibly a slightly larger effect among those students who typically have not done very well in our schools.
But the basic problem with looking for research that supports growth in student achievement is that – by necessity – research has to look at fixed, testable content to try to determine growth. Now I’m not saying that content knowledge isn’t valuable, it is. But I think the skills and abilities and habits of mind that ubiquitous access to technology would help us develop in our students are ones that are really hard to measure. How do you measure creativity? Or the ability to collaborate with others, both in the same room or across the planet (or beyond)?
Or the ability to take in information from an almost inexhaustible supply, synthesizes it, remix it, and then produce something that is of value to others? How do you measure imagination? How do you measure the ability to function in a flat, globally interconnected, technology-enabled, rapidly changing world? How do we measure the ability to learn how to learn? To know how to adapt, to reinvent yourself over and over again to meet the needs of a world that is changing at an exponential pace. How do you measure the ability to function in a world where all of human factual knowledge will be available practically instantaneously?
Knowledge is good. Having content knowledge is necessary, but not sufficient, to be successful in the 21st century. The research – at best – is only going to tell us about content knowledge. The power of the technology is to transform teaching and learning as we know it. To make it more student-centered, more individualized (yet also more community-based), more relevant, more meaningful. It allows each student to connect to each other, to the world, to knowledge, to learning, in the way(s) that works best for that student. I guess I fear we are asking the wrong questions . . .
Where does all this leave us? And what use does this document provide? Clearly, more research is needed, but our efforts can no longer await the coming of comprehensive research studies. Not having solid research behind us will not be an adequate excuse for failing to prepare our students for the 21st Century. Therefore, we must be on the constant look-out for research that will help us light the way while we move ahead in the modernization of our public schools and our methods. We must become students of our own society and allow our own observations and action-research to influence our decisions.
We must model for our students the creativity and risk-taking that will be defining characteristics of the next age. In short, educators must come out of the comfort zone, release some control and join the wave of seemingly chaotic global empowerment. Daniel Pink describes the next age of society which might give us some clues. He defines an age by the type of worker that is most commonly found among the population. During the Agricultural Age, the common person was some sort of farmer. During the Industrial Age, it was the factory worker.
And during the Information Age, which he describes as beginning in the 1960’s, it was the Knowledge Worker. But the end of each age is preceded by an out-sourcing and off-shoring of the common worker prompting the rise of the next age. So what does Daniel Pink suggest is next? The Conceptual Age. This economy maintains the necessity of strong left-brain skills (reading, writing, math and science) while adding the right brain skills (aesthetics, intuition, value and play). Daniel Pink would advise us to continue our left-brain pursuits, but introduce the richness of meaning and value. It is no longer sufficient to create a well engineered product; now the product must be appealing as well (2005).