Publication Date: 2003-09-00
Author: Barnett, Harvey
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology
Investing in Technology: The Payoff in Student Learning. ERIC Digest.
Imagine this moment in your life as a school administrator. A skeptical
This ERIC Digest reviews some significant research on technology use in the classroom that attempts to answer this question and indicates the conditions under which technology is most likely to have a positive impact on student learning.
RESEARCH ON THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN
Educational researchers have studied two major ways in which students use computers in schools. The first is learning from computers. Here the computer acts as tutor. The computer presents information to the student and the student responds. Simple drill and practice programs and more comprehensive Integrated Learning Systems, such as Jostens and Computer Curriculum Corporation, are examples of this category.
Researchers have also focused on how students learn with computers. Here, students use computers and other technologies to write, analyze data, develop presentations, and do research.
LEARNING FROM COMPUTERS: COMPUTERS AS TUTORS
Let us look at two longitudinal studies on how students learn from computers. The first is the West Virginia Basic Skills study (Mann, Shakeshaft, Becker & Kottkamp, 1999; West Virginia Study Results, 1999).
West Virginia began implementing computer technology one grade at a
(1) On statewide tests, students who learned from computers showed consistently
(2) Students did better when the computers were in the classroom rather than a lab.
(3) The advantages of computer use extended through high school, where
Another important study is Project CHILD from Florida (Butzin, 2000).
(1) Computers contributed to higher scores for students in both low- and high-achieving schools
(2) Students had better discipline
(3) The boost that technology gave students was sustained over time, which was also the case in the study of computer use in West Virginia.
The studies in West Virginia and Florida show that students can gain
LEARNING WITH COMPUTERS: COMPUTERS AS TOOLS
What does the research say about the effects of technology when it is
used as a tool
In a study sponsored by Apple Computer that spanned ten years, researchers,
(1) Students routinely used higher-order thinking skills far beyond what was expected for their grade level.
(2) Students demonstrated enhanced ability to collaborate with peers to develop projects and reports.
(3) Students demonstrated increased initiative. They maintained time on task for longer periods and often continued their work during recess, before school, and after school.
(4) The use of technology coupled with teachers having time for reflection led, over a period of three to five years, to substantial changes in teacher beliefs about teaching and learning.
The ACOT findings are reinforced by a recent study of the Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project conducted by SRI International (Penuel, Golan, Means & Korbak, 2000). In the Multimedia Project, teams of K-12 teachers were trained to develop curriculum-based multimedia projects with students. The teachers received intensive on-site support.
In the final evaluation of the 5-year long project, the researchers
asked students in
What did SRI's researchers find? Students in Multimedia Project classrooms
Together, these studies point out how powerful technology can be when it is employed as a tool for research, data analysis, and communication. Does that mean we abandon the use of computers for simply acquiring specific facts and rudimentary skills? Of course not. We have to remember that it is never a question of either learning with computers or learning from them, but rather a balance between instruction and construction based on the objectives of the lesson.
IMPACT ON LEARNING
Whether students learn from computers or with computers, the research
Access: Computers will enhance learning only when students have easy access to them in their classroom. Using computers once or twice a week will have negligible impact on student learning.
Integration: Computers make their greatest impact on student learning when their use is tightly linked to content standards and integrated into ongoing classroom work, rather than taught as a separate or stand-alone subject.
Broad-based reform: The computer is just one tool in a broad-based reform effort to improve student learning. Just as computer use needs to be integrated within the on-going instructional program, so technology planning needs to occur within the context of the entire school or district strategic planning process.
The long term: Like any other reform effort, computer use is not a one-time event. It is not simply a matter of "buy them, install them and sit back to enjoy the difference they make." It will require a long-term effort on the district's part to fund, support and assess their use.
Professional development: Having a swimming pool does little good if no one can swim, and learning to swim well is not done in a couple of after-school workshops. To empower teachers and students to learn with computers, districts will need to plan for ongoing staff development that takes place in large groups, one-on-one, and online.
Teaching style: For technology to have the impact research says it can, many teachers will have to learn more than new technology skills; they will need learn new instructional strategies and new roles. Districts will need to ensure that teachers have the opportunity and support to transform their approach to teaching.
Balance: Like any reform effort, one does not throw out the baby with the bath water. There is always a balance. Yes, teachers need to teach facts; but they also must help students acquire and use the intellectual and workplace skills demanded by the 21st Century.
Vision: As the research on effective principals demonstrates again and
The research reviewed in this ERIC Digest demonstrates that technology can make a difference in how and what students learn. Technology is one piece of the puzzle that can support educational change, but technology will have little impact without accompanying reform at the classroom, school, and district level.
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