Study into how Technology improves student learning outcomes

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In order for Americans to thrive in this new global economy, it is essential that we use every available resource available to us and our children. We must be capable of not only competing in this global job market, but we must have the critical thinking skills and technical knowledge to lay the new framework on what this global market should look like. Therefore, using technology in the classroom environment is essential in order to improve students learning outcomes.

Schools and universities were the holders of all human knowledge. Great minds congregated and grew within universities in order to change the world. If institutional education does not adapt to the information age of computers, smartphones, iPads and the internet, it will die off. There is an ongoing debate as to the effectiveness of technology use for the outcomes of student learning. There are several benefits to using technology in the classroom, and it needs to be a necessity that instructors begin to incorporate the use of these technologies into their curriculum.

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At the Presidential Announcement Speech in Springfield, Illinois on February 02, 2007, President Barack Obama said, "Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America

Released in February 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau took a survey on the number of households in the United States that use the internet. The statistic was from the previous year (2009) and the percentage of households with internet use at home was 68.7%. Americans love the technology that exists today and obviously they have embraced it with open arms. Virtually all Americans under age 60 say they have used a computer (92%) and most of them have used the Internet (75%) or have sent an e-mail message (67%) at some point in their lives according to a survey performed by the National Public Radio ("Survey Shows Widespread Enthusiasm for High Technology", http://www.npr.org)

With this in mind, technology has to become a major part of everyday school because it is already a part of everyday life. According to the CDW-G 2010 21st-Century Classroom Report, students and teachers have certain expectations when it comes to the use of technology.

"It would help me to have a better access to video/audio recording capabilities, to enhance and bring depth to lessons for students with differing learning styles." (Braselman 15)

"Students could create public products of their knowledge and learning and find resources from other students." (Braselman 15)

"It would teach me how to search for information more efficiently. It would enable better visuals and graphics to understand the material." (Braselman 15)

"It would provide us with a greater ability to access and circulate all class-related information and would clear up a lot of assignment confusion. Not to mention that I simply find using technology easier than handwritten spreadsheets or notebooks." (Braselman 15)

Students and teachers expect more out of technology and are able to use and implement technology because the use of computers, smartphones and the internet are a part of their everyday life.

There have been many studies performed that try to address the issue of using technology in the classroom compared to the traditional classroom, focusing on student learning outcomes. Many have focused on the grades that students received at the end of the course (Schulman & Sims, 1999, Smeaton & Keogh, 1999, Sener & Stover, 2000, Wade, 1999, Lin & Davidson, 1994, Navarro & Shoemaker, 1999), stating no increase to a 5% increase with using technology during the course as opposed to the traditional method. One study performed a blind test finding, "…average score for the online class was 5 points (5%) higher than for the on campus (traditional) class." (Fallah & Ubell, 2000).

According to the U.S. Department of Defense nearly 10 years ago, individuals have a short-term retention level of about 20% of what they hear, 40% of what they see and hear, and 75% of what they see, hear, and do. The study also states that individuals complete courses with multimedia in one-third of the time as those receiving traditional instruction, and reach competency levels of up to 50% higher. (as cited by Oblinger, 1991, p. 4).

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In another detailed study of IT learning behaviors in 1991, Jensen and Sandlin's study (as cited by Oblinger), there are several other benefits of learning through the use of multimedia:

"It mirrors the way in which the human mind thinks, learns, and remembers by moving easily from words to images to sound, stopping along the way for interpretation, analysis, and in-depth exploration."

"The combination of media elements enables trainees to learn more spontaneously and naturally, using whatever sensory modes they prefer."

"Combining media elements with well-designed, interactive exercises enables learners to extend their experience to discover on their own."

"Many multimedia programs are designed to allow learners to pause, branch, or stop for further exploration (interactive qualities that encourage non-linear thinking)."

"By combining words with pictures and audio, multimedia programs enable people with varying levels of literacy and math skills to learn by using sight, hearing, and touch. Evidence suggests that using multimedia segments as context for trainees significantly aids in reading comprehension."

"Instructional technologies help people learn to problem-solve and work in teams, which support the development of interpersonal skills."

"With a multimedia program as assistant, trainers can provide more individualized attention to trainees as they need it most."

"Instructors have time to focus on activities that demand participation while students are able to learn on their own. "(Oblinger, 1991)

Even though the study targets trainers and trainees, suggesting that these studies were done in a business or industry setting, the same principles would still apply in an academic setting between teachers and students.

In review of research conducted between 1993 and 2000 on the effectiveness of educational software, Murphy (2001) found that there was a positive result between the use of educational software products and student achievement in mathematics and reading. Other reviews (Kulik &Kulik, 1991; Kulik, 1994; Fletcher-Flinn & Gravatt, 1995; Ryan, 1991) also show a positive achievement and effectiveness when using computer-based instruction, especially students with special reading needs.

In June 1996, a report was published by the U.S. Department of Education that describes many ways in which computer technology has enhanced performance in areas of reading, writing, and arithmetic. "In a decade-long series of studies, students in classes that use CAI

(computer-aided instruction) outperformed their peers on standardized tests of basic skills achievement by 30 percent on average." This report also states, "Video and audio technologies (enhance) students' ability to remember and understand what they see and hear . . . multimedia significantly enhances students' recall of basic facts, as well as their understanding of complex systems . . . [and] technology has helped students master the traditional basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic . . "

Published in 1989, a report found that "[Chapter 1 students] who worked with the ESC

[Education Systems Corporation] software (experimental groups) demonstrated significantly greater increases in achievement both in reading and in mathematics than those Chapter 1 students who did not have access to computer laboratories (control groups)." These gains were recorded at 2nd and 3rd grade levels. The researchers stated that the "results coincide with numerous other research studies on the effectiveness of computer assisted instruction and achievement . . . ."

The U.S. Department of Education, in its Getting America's Students Ready for the 21st

Century, stated that "Numerous studies have demonstrated that technology is particularly valuable in improving student writing," and cited sources for that finding, including work of the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow project.

Useful in the study of history, the ever growing Internet archives of historical documents, images, maps, and other resources enable teachers to supplement textbooks and print resources

and allow students to pursue expanded paths in exploring the subject.

I have found few documents addressing links between technology and overall

performance measures such as grade point average (GPA), Scholastic Assessment Test

(SAT) scores, and subsequent college performance. However, Charles Grimm, in his

doctoral dissertation entitled "The Effect of Technology-Rich School Environments on

Academic Achievement and Attitudes of Urban School Students," did report higher

academic achievement and "higher attitude-toward-school scores" among the students in

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the technology-rich schools.

The Software Publishers Association issued a report summarizing evidence on the

impacts of educational technology. The research was conducted by an independent

consultant, Interactive Educational Systems Design, Inc. (IESD).

The SPA/IESD report found:

Technology is making a significant positive impact in education. Important findings in these studies include:

· Educational technology has demonstrated a significant positive effect on achievement. Positive effects have been found for all major subject areas, in preschool through higher education, and for both regular education and special needs students. Evidence suggests that interactive video is especially effective when the skills and concepts to be learned have a visual component and when the software incorporates a research-based instructional design.

· Educational technology has been found to have positive effects on student attitudes toward learning and on student self-concept. Students felt more successful in school, were motivated to learn and had increased self confidence and self-esteem when using computer-based instruction. This was particularly true when the technology allowed learners to control their own learning.

· The level of effectiveness of educational technology is influenced by the specific student population, the software design, the teacher's role, how the students are grouped, and the level of student access to the technology.

Research does suggest that educational impacts are real where technology is used well. Offering at least some support for this observation is a 1997 survey of U.S. teachers conducted by Wirthlin International for Tenth Planet, an educational software company.

The survey found that 76 percent of respondents answered "yes" to the question "Has your use of computer technology improved student achievement?" Seventeen percent answered "no" and 7 percent "don't know - refused to answer." A related question asking the respondents to "grade Computer Technology on how well it has improved teaching and learning of core curriculum in your classroom" found only 16 percent giving a grade of "A," 42 percent "B," 30 percent "C," 6 percent "D," and 4 percent "F" (with 3 percent "don't know - refused to answer"). The responses on this question were lower for the Los Angeles sample (although the margin of error was larger than for the entire national sample). Only 5 percent of the Los Angeles teachers gave a grade of "A," 41 percent "B," 36 percent "C," 9 percent "D," and 5 percent "F" (with 5 percent in the "don't know - refused to answer" category). The favored option for improving the grade, selected by 49 percent of the national sample, was "accessibility/more computers in the classroom," with "more quality software" coming in second at 25 percent. A clear majority of the national sample (75 percent) answered "yes" to the question "Would you like to be able to increase the amount of time you spend using the computer to help you introduce and teach new concepts in core curriculum like math and literacy?" There was strong support (82 percent) for "more educationally sound software in order to effectively integrate computers into core curriculum."

In order for teachers to get positive results with using any form of new technology, the form of technology has to be used as a "tool" to assist the teacher in creating the learning environment. The technology cannot properly teach the student all by itself and without any specific direction for its proper usage. The teacher no longer has to stand up in front of the class and gives students just facts, but instead the teacher is now a facilitator or coach. This opens the opportunity for more student oriented project-based collaboration activities where the students can define their own goals, make their own decisions and evaluate their progress on the project. Technology use allows for students to use certain skills that are not typical in lessons led by teachers.

Other advantages from students collaborating on projects include not only having students work together to resolve a common conflict but there was evidence that students were helping each other in the use of the technology that was being used within the collaborative group. Technology based projects involve the requirement to be able to use the many different aspects of the software and/or technology being used. In many cases, there will not be just one student that will know how to use every feature of the technology being used and teachers have reported that this is leading to many situations where students are helping each other because it provides them with pride and enjoyment and students are more willing to offer assistance and participate (Government, 2003).

An increase in motivation and self-confidence in students are the most common effects reported by teachers when referring to the use of new technologies within their classroom's (Government, 2003).

"The computer has been an empowering tool to the students. They have a voice and it's not in any way secondary to anybody else's voice. It's an equal voice. So that's incredibly positive. Motivation to use technology is very high."-- Elementary school teacher (Government, 2003).

New technologies have not only transformed the way that teachers are able to teach but they have provided many opportunities for students with disabilities as well. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Assistive Technologies (AT) have taken the opportunities that were brought by rapidly evolving communication technologies to create many flexible teaching methods and curriculum materials that can reach diverse learners and improve student access to the general education curriculum (Rose & Meyer, 2002).

Although both Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technologies rely on the use of modern technology to provide and improve education for disabled students, the actual technology tools that are used have sites and mechanisms of use. With Assistive Technology, modern technology is employed at the level of the individual student to help them overcome barriers in the curriculum and living situations. With Universal Design for Learning, modern technology targets the curriculum itself and is used to create curriculum and environments that lack traditional barriers to learn.

A use of Assistive Technology is currently being used by the Clark Memorial Library at Shawnee State University. The library has introduced the Victor Reader Stream for students with limited vision, blindness, dyslexia or that are physically handicapped. Students with disabilities are able to download and read textbooks, read and navigate through complex recorded books, reference manuals and journal articles. The device has built-in speech-to-text, voice recording capabilities for notes and it can play music files and podcasts.

The Concerns (take this out)

Research shows that the challenge of helping teachers and students achieve Information and Communication Technology (ICT) literacy, and the challenge of establishing frameworks for assessing their skills, is a lot less in schools serving low economic, minority students (Becker, 2000b; Becker & Ravitz, 1997). More than half (53%) of teachers in public schools who have computers use them or the internet for instruction during class. But, in schools where students are from higher income families, 61% of teachers with computers use them in class compared to 50% of those teaching in schools with low income students (Lenhart, Rainie & Lewis, 2001). The same study showed that 87% of children use the internet and also found that 3 million still remain without any kind of internet access.

Demonstration efforts and evidence show that teaching ICT literacy skills (specifically those related to multimedia literacy in web, publishing and video production) can improve the economic status of at-risk youth by giving them much needed marketable skills (Lau & Lazarus, 2002).

Even with all of the positive attitudes, some people still seem to have problems with computers and the use of new technology. Some of the worries are with potential dangers of students using the internet improperly. "(31%) of kids age 10-17 from households with computers (24% of all kids 10-17) say they have seen a pornographic web site." ("Survey Shows Widespread Enthusiasm for High Technology", http://www.npr.org).

A potential downside with collaboration was noticed by some teachers because some of the students seemed to get distracted with some of the little issues such as the type of font, graphics and audio and they are paying little attention to the content of the projects (Government, 2003).

As schools increase the use of technologies, the infrastructure to implement, support and properly use these technologies becomes more relied upon by faculty and students. If teachers are working with an infrastructure that cannot support the work or teachings that they are trying to provide, they will become frustrated and use those frustrations to not implement or try to use any forms of technologies within their roles as teachers. School districts and/or Universities will have to provide physical support and maintain their computer networks so that students and teachers are being offered quality network connectivity which accesses pertinent network resources.

Some teachers feel as though they will have to compete with the technologies that the students use at home. They feel like they have to compete with iPods, Playstations and personal computers. This can put a lot of pressure on the teacher because they feel as though they have to restructure their whole curriculum and master a whole new way of teaching and they will also need to learn how to use and implement new software (Goff, 2007).

But many school teachers say that technology brings extra burdens with it. One extra burden is how, at times, the technology being used is unreliable. Elizabeth Baker, school teacher, states that, "There's always this awful thing when you have planned that lesson on the IWB (white board) and something goes wrong because there is something wrong with the system. You either have to be extremely organized and plan two lessons - one on paper and one on the white board - or you have to depend on all your resourcefulness as a teacher to pull something out of your hat."

In a study performed by Gilbert Valdez ("Critical Issue: A Catalyst for Teaching and Learning in the Classroom.", 2005), student perception was that teachers had insufficient knowledge of the use of technology and the schools excessive filtering systems prevented them from accessing significant sites, mainly those containing medical topics. Students also stated that the quality of their assignments were poor and uninspiring.

There are many different points of views when it comes to the argument that schools use too much technology. Some people attack technology use in schools for psychological, moral and physical reasons. However, most critics attack technology use because they believe that it provides minimal educational qualities and benefits. Three references that have received a lot of attention as being critical toward technology use in schools are, The Flickering Mind (Oppenheimer, 2003), Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom (Cuban, 2001) and Fool's gold: A critical look at computers in childhood (Cordes & Miller, 2000) .

The main criticism in all of these books, and other critical articles as well, is that computers are not as cost effective as other forms of educational interventions. They mention that the computers and software become obsolete very quickly as well as the ongoing costs of upgrading both hardware and software. Some critics indicate that they believe that many hardware and software companies purposely design products to become obsolete more quickly which would require updates that educators must buy. It is their belief that educational technology is too much in its infancy and not yet reliable enough for use by most students (Valdez, 2005).

There are many factors that affect technology implementation, especially in urban schools (Means, Penuel, & Padilla, 2001, p.197), including the following:

Lack of technology infrastructure.

Lack of technical support.

Teacher discomfort with technology.

Lack of high-quality digital content.

The constraints of academic schedules and departmental structures.

Lack of student technology skills.

Low expectations of students.

Accountability pressures.

Some critics such as Kirkpatrick and Cuban (1998) indicate that technology equipment requires extensive support structures that require districts to take money away from basic expenditures for other and better uses in the classroom. They believe this money should be invested in the arts, science laboratories, shops, and anything else that involves more hands-on ways of learning. Technology literacy, some believe, is highly overblown in its importance and that people who need to use technology will learn by using task applications that involve "real" work.

The criticism is especially strong for computer use by younger students. Some critics believe that with the exceptions of assistive technologies for students with special needs, students below the third grade should not use much, if any, technology. Other critics are concerned that technology reduces socialization opportunities. Some parents are concerned about the effect that children are gaining so much of their world knowledge from a virtual, rather than the real, world. Other critics are concerned that the sexual and violent content accessible on the Internet challenges or prevents character education necessary for development of moral citizens (Rifkin, 2000).

Conclusion

Technology has changed the way we communicate with each as well as the way we function as a society. The internet has replaced many of the things that people used to do on a regular basis such as using email and social media websites like Facebook and Twitter to keep in contact with family and friends instead of writing letters to each other. Reading newspapers online and online viewing of television shows and movies have gained popularity over the years. Photo albums have been replaced by hard drives that are full of photos that hardly ever get looked at. Parents used to complain that you never called them but now they want you to be their Facebook friend. Computers used to cost thousands of dollars and they took up an entire room and now they are more affordable and are no bigger than a box of cereal. Internet, media and advances in technology have transformed every aspect of our lives except for education.

In order for positive student learning outcomes, from the data and cited works taken from this paper, it is imperative that teachers implement new technologies into their curriculum while constantly providing feedback to the students and by being involved and engaging with the students. There are two factors that are a must in order to provide the most effective use of technology to students in the classroom. You must have teachers willing and wanting to participate in the use of new technologies, and teachers need to be excellent at teacher preparation and they must possess the skills and knowledge necessary to implement the technology correctly.