Keeping Up with the Research

Article excerpt

Most educational resarchers seem to agree that technology can have a significant positive impact on kids--if it's used in the right way. Here are some tips from the experts, plus a directory of valuable keep up with tomorrow's research.

According to a Report from the Software Publishers Association:(1)

* Introducing technology (both standalone and networked) into the learning environment has been shown to make learning more student-centered, to encourage cooperative learning, to improve students' self-concept and attitudes toward learning, and to stimulate increased teacher/student interaction.

* Student cooperation and sharing increase when students compete against the computer rather than against each other.

* Factors that maximize the benefits of educational technology include:

1) extensive teacher training in the integration of technology into the curriculum;

2) active participation by teachers in learning activities that incorporate tool software;

3) opportunities for students to participate in self-directed learning activities and interact with classmates.

* Positive changes in the learning environment brought about by technology are more evolutionary than revolutionary. They occur over several years, as teachers become more experienced with technology.

According to Researchers at the Stanford Research Institute and Educational Development Corporation:(2)

* Technology can be a powerful tool for supporting educational reform.

* Implementing technology without thoughtful planning or sustained support is nearly always futile.

* Several meta-analyses have shown a significant advantage for computer-assisted instruction and videodisc-based instruction over traditional methods. However, some studies show that there is less of an impact over a longer period of time (as the novelty wears off), and that differences become smaller or disappear altogether if the experimental (computer-using) and control (non-computer-using) groups are both taught by the same teacher using the same basic instructional approach (i.e., if the only thing that changes is the delivery medium).

* Hypermedia systems and other well-designed applications tend to encourage active processing on the part of students and support higher-order thinking by engaging students in authentic, complex tasks within a collaborative learning context.

* Students who develop their own hypermedia reports often learn better and recall more than peers who learn about the same topics in a more traditional manner.

* There are a number of equity problems to be addressed. White students, males, and those with higher academic ability generally have more access to computers. Low-ability classes tend to do more drill, while those with higher-ability students use computers in ways more congruent with educational reform goals.

* It's overly optismistic to think that technology will relieve a teacher of work. Generally, teachers find that their jobs become harder--at least in the early stages of technology implementation. However, many techers are willing to take on this extra work because it gives them a new sense of professionalism, motivates their students, and appears to be effective at improving learning.

According to Independent Consultant and Researcher Saul Rockman:(3)

* Don't underestimate the power of the printer, especially for young or low-achieving students. Looking good is a strong boost to a person's self-esteem. Producing written materials for a "real" audience (whatever parents or peers) is also important.

* There is still a technological gender gap, and girls need to be further encouraged to master the skills and knowledge associated with computers. Since other research shows that girls do better in collaborative activities, it's helpful to stress computer activities that involved collaboration. …