Computer Technology Impacts Student Achievement, Thesis Paper Example
Words: 2583Thesis Paper
Statement of the Problem
In recent decades the use of the classroom computer has brought new dimensions to teaching and learning styles. Computer use has been measured in conjunction with the various state goals created by the No Child Left Behind Act (US. Department of Education, 2001). Early and continuing studies place favorable learning, especially in the area of writing, as a direct result of computer instruction. This is an interesting point because most state achievement tests do not let elementary school students actually do the test using the computer, but researchers have observed that those children who prepare for the tests using computers have significantly higher writing scores than students who use the older pencil-and-paper writing methods (Sattler, 2008).
To examine computer use in all levels and in all courses of elementary school learning, researchers and teachers need to study the impact of computers when students are being taught subjects other than writing. While some teachers are certainly supportive of in-class computer use, as an entire faculty we need to be concerned that some children will simply not benefit from computer instruction (Lamy & Hampel, 2007). We also have to be able to understand, that like for any course, teachers need to be present, checking students’ work, and making comments for improvement. The computer should never be used as a replacement for human instruction (Moravec, 1998).
Teachers are aware of the students enrolled in their grades. Teachers should have the knowledge to present material to their classes in an agreeable way. The presented work and assignments need to be geared to both the children’s ages and their level of proper development. The material needs to be presented in a contextual format that takes into consideration the children in the classroom (Lackney, 2008). Educational software is a stimulating method of learning, but it can never take human form. Software just does not contain the ability to know or to deduce what a child already knows and what he/she may have already experienced. What has the child already learned? Did they understand what they learned before? Are the students ready for larger amounts or more specific amounts of information, or are they still at the various basics? These questions can only be answered by a human being, a classroom teacher. There is no available computer program that can answer these questions, and so, adequate instruction cannot be forthcoming without the classroom teacher.
Not all computer learning is good! Research has suggested that traditional learning methods can be damaged by too much computer use (Guthrie & Carlin, 2004). Many educators feel that computer learning takes place because of all of the effects of video gaming—cosmetic effects. The cosmetic effects themselves are based on sights, sounds, characters moving across the computer monitor, and interactive characters that appear, much like in television cartoons, to be having interrelationships with each other. In the video game itself, there exists a perfect mathematical formula, because realistically, that is just what computer gaming is: a mathematical formula where numbers move through wire at speeds that the human conscience is unable to absorb. The gaming is such that the user feels he/she has complete domination over the computer. While these concepts are certainly fun for the computer user (student), in the real world things just don’t operate at quantum speeds and real-time learning is considerable slower than anything that can be done on a computer. In every learning environment there will also be times when students must develop an interest in reading and learning through the use of books (Lawler, 2008). Research suggests that teachers need to help students find that happy medium, that time when computers must be turned off in favor of quiet, independent reading and personal reflection.
A recent study by Tomlinson (2001) examined technology’s impact on student learning in mathematics for fourth and eighth graders. Student performance was measured using the 1996 National Assessment of Education Progress. Tomlinson concluded that technology does affect academic achievement and its impact depends on how the technology is used. The grade-appropriate use of computers was found to be more important in producing increased learning than the amount of time computers are used. According to the study, when computers were used to perform tasks applying higher order concepts and when teachers were proficient in directing students toward productive uses, computers were associated with significant learning gains.
The study also pointed to the need for high quality, intensive and continuing professional development focused on teaching models that integrate higher-order skills. Professional development, Tomlinson (2001) concluded, should focus on using computers for projects and problemsolving that support the topics being introduced in the classroom. Surveys and field research by Henry Jay Becker (2000), a professor of education at the University of California, Irvine, showed increases in learning when students used the computer to enhance sophisticated writing and complex reasoning activities. These skills are difficult to measure and are only recently the focus of research. Becker concluded that educators should move away from teaching isolated technology skills and instead include more constructivist learning opportunities in order to take full advantage of the technology.
Statement of the Problem
From the earliest days of American schooling, there have been different methods of children’s instruction. Historically, the first American schooling was Puritan in nature and consisted of teaching children to read from the Bible (Coffy & Lim, 2008). Thomas Jefferson was influential in opening up the first public school for children, understanding that if America was to grow it needed to be able to teach its masses that they needed to read, write, and do basic mathematical computations (Tozer, S., Violas, P., & Senese, G., 1995). Following Jefferson, schooling in America settled down to rote learning. Children came to school each day prepared to read, write, and study arithmetic through repetitive drills. Since the last two decades of the 20th Century, and continuing into the 21st Century, schools have been using introducing the computer into their learning methodologies.
Not all instructors and school administrators are totally in-favor of this new learning approach (Woolfolk Hoy, 2000). There have been many studies produced over the last few decades. Some of these students absolutely support computer instruction as the wave of the future, the way in which our students will better prepare themselves to participate in the global economy when they finally attain adulthood. Still other school personnel believe that computers should be used to enhance instruction but should never totally replace the human interests a teacher has for her students. After all, the computer is built upon a series of sounds and actions that can entice children to learn. But the computer can never possess the knowledge that each child learns somewhat different from his/her peers and that learning must be more custom tailored by the teacher presenting the learning materials to his/her class.
The purpose of this study will be to seek the opinions of classroom teachers and other school personnel to determine if they feel that children learn better with computer instruction or from their regular classroom teacher. However, this will not be simply an opinion-seeking study. Along with the opinions of school personnel, the researcher will examine students’ scores on state achievement tests in situations where: (1) the computer is used almost exclusively for all instruction, (2) the teacher uses his/her professional skills to teach his/her classes while providing only minimal classroom time for computer learning, or (3) the classroom teacher uses a combination of books and other printed media associated with learning through quiet, independent study, while at the same time using the computer to help children gain global knowledge by allowing them Internet access and providing them with computer simulations to help them reinforce their newly attained learning skills.
- Do teachers think that children are learning their curricula better with or without the use of computers?
- Are there specific subject areas which can be identified as having better learning taking place as the result of computer enhancements?
- For those students who seem to conceptualize their learning material better as a result of computer instruction, in those areas being taught without computer instruction, are teachers able to note any major learning differences?
- Do teachers feel that they need more professional development activities in order to optimize student instruction with computers?
The following words, terms, and their respective definitions are part of Chapter One of this study. As new words, terms, and phrases appear in subsequent chapters of the study, they will be added to this list.
- Computer-enhanced instruction: The kinds of instruction that will take place when students are using computers instead of guided, textbook instruction.
- Computer simulations: Using the computer to teach the entire class by projecting certain instructional models (mathematics, science, social studies) to individual computer terminals or to a computer projector which produces an image on a large screen.
- Direct Instruction: Scripted instruction, usually accomplished by a teacher standing in front of his/her class and using textbook-style learning.
- State Achievement Tests: The normed tests used to measure student achievement across a large student population, usually thought to measure how all the students in a single state are achieving when measuring similar student performance against other states.
- State Standards: The standards of instruction which are now in-use among all states and which started as a result of NCLB.
Assumptions and Limitations of the Study
An examination of the available literature and studies regarding student computer use suggests that massive amounts of data are available. Because of the greatly reduced timeframe available for the completion of this study, combined with a lack of fiscal resources, plus time needed away from the researcher’s work site, the study to be undertaken here will be considerably smaller than most other studies.
The study to be undertaken will be conducted at a single public elementary school, kindergarten through fifth grades. The participants in the study will consist of five teachers and two administrators. Because the school district contains several schools, based upon state test scores suggesting student achievement throughout the specific school district, the findings of this study can be extrapolated to include suggestions for computer instruction throughout the school district.
The study will be conducted through a series of one-on-one interviews with the participants. The participants will be spoken with anonymously; that is, although certain participants may recognize what they said during their interviews, who said what will not be made public. These interviews will be recorded with all questions coming from a questionnaire predesigned by the researcher. All questions will be open-ended and will require conversations. Questions cannot simply be answered in a yes or no format. After the first set of interviews are recorded they will transcribed and codified. A second set of interviews will then be conducted to answer any questions and sew up any loose ends.
After the completion of the interviews, students’ tests scores will be graphed and charted. These test scores will be statistically compared to teachers’ interviews and the final results will be extrapolated to all students being educated in the school district.
Significance of the Study
In the United States, public education has always been at the forefront of society’s concerns (Zahran, Peek, & Brody, 2008). Parents often ask: How can we make sure our children are receiving a quality education? How can we close the education gap between the scores attained by different groups of children? What can we do to optimize our curriculum regardless of whether we live in the city or in a rural location? What new, exciting, and different instructional methodologies can we bring to our schools that will help our children to learn more than they have ever learned in the past? In recent decades the answers to these questions can be summed up in a single word: Computers.
A review of the literature may suggest that classroom computers will energize learning. Unlike their parents, children now live in a digital world. Learning will come more so from electronic media such as school computers than simply from a teacher standing in front of a chalkboard, pointer in hand. However, there are many well-known researchers who claim that while computers may enhance learning, teachers become too dependent upon them, thus losing the human element, the longstanding relationship of teacher to pupil. These researchers suggest that better, more long-lasting learning, will take place with limited or no in-class computer time.
Although the study being embarked upon is relatively small by comparison to several other studies already examined by the researcher, it will add to the total body of literature already available about computer use in public education. The study will help other researchers to create their own hypothesis that computers aid in student learning, or the study will reinforce the null hypothesis: There is no difference in student achievement with computer-aided instruction.
Organization of the Thesis
Chapter Two of the thesis will contain an in-depth literature review of computer enhanced instruction. The information presented in the literature review will examine the opinions of both the proponents of classroom computers and the opinions of opponents to this kind of instruction.
Chapter Three of the study will examine the research methodology. In this chapter, the researcher will discuss the targeted population chosen for the study. This population will include school-based professionals. In addition, students’ grades will help to form dependent and independent variables. However, students will never be referred to by name or by any other identifier other than class grade and ranked state achievement test scores. The interview questionnaires to be discussed with school building professionals will also be presented in Chapter Three. Lastly, an analysis of all of the accumulated data will be presented.
Chapter Four will contain the final analysis of the accumulated materials from the previous chapter. The material presented in Chapter Four will include all of the charts, tables, and graphs calculated from the data gathered during the preparation of the previous chapter. In addition, there will be a written summary of all the findings presented in the chapter.
Chapter Five is the final summary of the entire study. It will bring the entire study together, including the previous four chapters. It will also suggest one of two hypotheses to other interested individuals: (1) Computer use in public schools classrooms enhances learning and improves students’ grades, or (2) There is no difference in students’ scores when computers are not used and when instruction is placed into the hands of a very capable teacher.
Becker, H. (2000). Findings from the teaching, learning, and computing surveys: Is Larry Cuban right? Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 8(51), November 15, 2000.
Coffy, J. & Lim, P. (2008). The Cambridge companion to Puritanism. NY: Cambridge University Press.
Guthrie, W. & Carlin, A. (2004). Waking the dead: Using interactive technology to engage passive listeners in the classroom. Proceedings of the Tenth Americas Conference on Information Systems, NY: August 2004.
Lackney, J. (2008). Teacher environmental competence in elementary school environments. Children, Youth, & Environments 18(2): 131-159.
Lamy, M., & Hampel, R. (2007). Online communication in language learning. Houndmills, Eng: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lawler, R. (2008). Cognition & computers: Studies in learning. NY: Harwood Press.
Moravec, H. (1998). Will the computer match the human brain? Journal of Evolution & Technology, Vol. 1: 299-312.
Sattler, J. (2008). Assessment of children: Cognitive foundations. NY: Author.
Tomlinson, C. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Tozer, S., Violas, P., & Senese, G. (1995). School & society: Historical & contemporary perspectives. NY: McGraw Hill.
United States Department of Education. (2001, January 23). Presentation of the No Child Left Behind Act. Washington, DC: U.S. Government.
Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2000). Educational psychology and teacher education. Educational Psychologist 35: 257-270.
Zahran, S., Peek, L., & Brody, D. (2008). Youth morality by the forces of nature. Children, Youth, & Environment, 18(1): 377-388.
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