The purpose of this study was to determine how computer-assisted-instruction improves student performance among various types of students. 161 middle school students of various program types: special education, non-English proficient, limited English proficient, and regular education, completed instructional units using a computer program, CornerStone. Regular education students were found to have made greater pretest-posttest gains than special education students using an ANCOVA test, F1, 156, 0.95, = 15.59, p < 0.0001. Collectively, the students showed significant pretest-posttest gains, t160, 0.95 = 6.02, p < 0.0001 using a dependent t-test. The direction of future research was suggested based on the results.
There is no doubt that technology has become incorporated into our school systems. Computers are used not only as a means of helping schools analyze data, computers have become a pervasive tool toward optimizing student learning. For example, students are regularly using the Internet to gather and assimilate information for use in research assignments. They are preparing "electronic" presentations using computer presentation programs and LCD projectors. They are using word processing programs to create various other reports. Students are even using spreadsheets to increase their experiences with mathematical concepts. In addition, many schools have incorporated interactive computer-assisted-instruction into their program to provide students opportunities to master specific educational objectives or standards.
Review of Pertinent Studies
Computer programmers have been able to create computer-assisted-instruction programs that have served to increase student learning by affecting cognitive processes and increasing motivation. Current research shows the mechanisms by which computer programs facilitate this learning: (1) personalizing information, (2) animating objects on the screen, (3) providing practice activities that incorporate challenges and curiosity, (4) providing a fantasy context and (5) providing a learner with choice over his/her own learning.
Personalizing information allows computer-assisted-instruction to increase learner interest in the given tasks (Padma and Ross, 1987) and increase the internal logic and organization of the material (Anderson, 1984; Ausubel, 1968; Mayer, 1975; Rumelhart and Ortoney, 1977). New information can be more easily integrated into existing schema if a student's name or other familiar contexts appear in a problem.
The animation of objects involved in the explanation of a particular concept, for example, Newton's First Law of Motion, increases learning by decreasing the cognitive load on the learner's memory thereby allowing the learner to perform search and recognition processes and to make more informational relationships (Reiber, 1991).
Computer-assisted-instruction increases motivation by providing a context for the learner that is challenging and stimulates curiosity (Malone, 1982). Activities that are intrinsically motivating also carry other significant advantages such as personal satisfaction, challenge, relevance, and promotion of a positive perspective on lifelong leaning (Keller and Suzuki, 1988; Kinzie, 1990).
A fantasy context increases learning by facilitating engagement (Parker and Lepper, 1992; Malone, 1982). Fein (1981) and Signer (1987) have also found, apart from using computer programs, that involvement in fantasy is often highly intrinsically motivating.
Providing students with choice over their own learning provides leaner-controlled instruction, which contributes to motivation. Increased motivation in turn increases student learning (Kinzie, Sullivan and Berdel, 1988). Also, program-controlled instruction, as opposed to learner-controlled, may get in the way of the learner by requiring the learner to study all of the given subject matter rather than only the elements the learner needs (Mayer, 1964). …