ERIC Identifier: ED242801
Publication Date: 1984-01-00
Author: Ascher, Carol
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education New York NY.
Microcomputers: Equity and Quality in Education for Urban Disadvantaged Students. ERIC/CUE Digest Number 19.
Research on the use of microcomputers in schools suggests that the new technology may be widening the gap between rich and poor schools.
A survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University (Center for Social Organization of Schools 1983) reports that public schools in poorer districts and small parochial schools are least likely to own microcomputers. Only 41 percent of the schools in the least wealthy districts have microcomputers compared to 66 percent of those in more affluent districts.
Moreover, a National Institute of Education report (Goor and others 1982) indicates that, although large (generally urban) school districts purchase more computers, the estimated student-computer ratio is better in smaller districts: 320-1 in small districts and 980-1 in the large districts.
Schools presently owning microcomputers are more likely to purchase additional machines than schools without microcomputers are to begin purchasing them (CSOS 1983). As a consequence, wealthier schools may continue to increase their advantage over the poorer ones.
EQUITY IN STUDENT USE OF COMPUTERS
Poor or underachieving students do not have the same access to computers as wealthy or talented students, even in schools owning microcomputers.
Sixty-four percent of the districts surveyed by Goor and others assigned computers to classrooms of high-achieving students; only 45 percent used them for compensatory education students.
Another study found varying but always ability-stratified use patterns in a large urban, a small urban, and a suburban school district (Scheingold and others 1981). A dominant pattern was to provide programming courses for students "good in math" and computer-assisted instruction for "disabled learners," while the middle range of students did not have any contact with computers.
Wealthier and poorer schools also differ in the type of computer instruction provided. Whereas students in suburban schools are often introduced to computing in computer awareness courses, those in less-affluent, rural, or inner-city schools are more likely to receive computer-assisted instruction, such as drill and practice. Thus, affluent students learn "to tell the computer what to do" and less-affluent students learn "to do what the computer tells them" (Watt 1982).
Moreover, survey results show that the gap between computer programming enrollment in wealthier and poorer schools is widening.
PROBLEMS IN EVALUATING CAI FOR URBAN DISADVANTAGED LEARNERS
Generalizing from the relatively scarce research on the success of CAI for disadvantaged students is problematic because of methodological difficulties.
First, nearly all CAI studies evaluate the instructional use of either mainframe or minicomputers which accommodate faster reaction times and more sophisticated programs than do microcomputers, the most rapidly growing type of hardware in the schools.
Existing research tends not to consider the following questions concerning the classroom context:
--Was time on the computer coordinated with other teaching?
--What were the student-computer and student-teacher ratios?
--What percentage of time was spent in "traditional" as opposed to computer-assisted learning?
A number of studies compare the achievement of students who learned for an hour in a traditional curriculum with those who supplemented this hour with ten minutes of daily CAI. Would ten more minutes a day of any kind of instruction be of equal use?
Most research involves well-monitored CAI with a sufficient number of computers for participating students. Fewer researchers have tried to determine whether the more typical drill-and-practice materials used when a school has one or two computers for an entire student population allow for any appreciable gain.
CAI EFFECTIVENESS AT THE ELEMENTARY LEVEL
Studies of instruction with mainframe computers, conducted in the early 1970s usually under highly experimental conditions, show positive results for elementary school students.
More recently, a research project studying the effectiveness of using minicomputers to teach elementary reading, language arts, and mathematics showed positive, though varying, and "ungeneralizable" results. The findings show large gains in computational skills the first year and increased gains in the second and third years, if students had 10-20 minutes of daily CAI in math; the authors reported smaller gains in the first and no gains in the second and third years in language arts and reading. They also noted that the benefits from CAI in mathematics were equivalent to those from mathematics tutoring.
In another study using minicomputers, Levin and Woo (1980) supplemented the regular curriculum at different elementary levels with 10 minutes of daily CAI instruction and found little proof of educational improvement.
CAI EFFECTIVENESS AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL
All studies of CAI at the secondary level involve mainframe computers. In a multi-year project that provided CAI in remedial reading to seventh and eighth grade students, the CAI group showed two months of growth for every month in the program, compared with only 1.4 months of growth for student controls (Hirschbuhl and others 1980).
Another study, a three-year project using CAI drills ten minutes daily to teach basic skills, showed mixed results (Meser and others 1977). The findings indicate that students in the lower percentile make the greatest gains, while high achievers show less impressive gains.
CAI EFFECTIVENESS IN OUT-OF-SCHOOL SITUATIONS
The results of using CAI with poor and minority low-achieving students in college remedial programs, adult learning centers, and Job Corps programs are the most problematic. For example, Geller and Shugoll (1983) evaluated mainframe and minicomputer CAI in various Job Corps Centers and found mixed but promising results; computerized instruction resulted in significantly greater reading, but not math, gains over those achieved by the controls.
In all of these college and out-of-school programs, however, results are confounded by high but uneven attrition, possibly exacerbated by the isolating aspect of computerized instruction.
EQUITY IN CAI USAGE
The questions public schools and other institutions serving disadvantaged populations must ask are clear:
--Are these students receiving the same opportunities for computer and computerized instruction as their more affluent counterparts?
--And, when they are either learning to use computers or receiving CAI, is the curriculum best suited to their needs?
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS). SCHOOL USES OF MICROCOMPUTERS; REPORTS FROM A NATIONAL SURVEY. Issue No. 1. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University, CSOS, 1983.
Geller, Daniel M., and Mark Shugoll. THE IMPACT OF COMPUTER-ASSISTED INSTRUCTION ON DISADVANTAGED YOUNG ADULTS IN A NON-TRADITIONAL EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT. Prepared for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada, April 11, 1983. ED 229 501.
Goor, Jeanette, Arthur Melmed, and Elizabeth Farris. STUDENT USE OF COMPUTERS IN SCHOOLS, FALL 1980; A SURVEY OF PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS. Fast Response Survey System, Report No. 12. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 1982.
Hirschbuhl, J. J., C. Myers, and E. K. Hirschbuhl. THE UNIVERSITY OF AKRON'S COMPUTER-BASED EDUCATION NETWORK: A REPORT ON ACTIVITIES AND RESULTS OF A FIVE YEAR STUDY. Paper presented at the Association for the Development of Computer-Based Instructional Systems, 1980.
Levin, Henry, and Louis Woo. AN EVALUATION OF THE COSTS OF COMPUTER-ASSISTED INSTRUCTION. PROGRAM REPORT NO. 80-B7. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University, Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Governance, 1980. ED 198 794.
Maser, Arthur L., Vern Johnson, and Joy Davis. HIGHLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS COMPUTER-ASSISTED INSTRUCTION PROJECT: A PROGRAM TO MEET DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS' INDIVIDUAL NEEDS FOR BASIC SKILL DEVELOPMENT. FINAL REPORT. Seattle, WA: Highline Public Schools, 1977. ED 167 114.
Ragosta, Marjorie, Paul W. Holland, and Dean T. Jamison. COMPUTER-ASSISTED INSTRUCTION AND COMPENSATORY EDUCATION: THE ETS/LAUSD STUDY. The Executive Summary and Policy Implications. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, June 1982. ED 222 169.
Scheingold, Karen, Janet Kane, Marie Endreweit, and Karen Billings. STUDY OF ISSUES RELATED TO IMPLEMENTATION OF COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY IN SCHOOLS. Memo #2, Final Report to the NIE. New York: Bank Street College of Education, Children's Electronic Laboratory, 1981. ED 210 634.
Watt, D. "Education for Citizenship in a Computer-Based Society." In COMPUTER
LITERACY, edited by Robert J. Seidel. New York: Academic Press, 1982.
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