Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Use of Hypermedia in One Middle School: A Qualitative Field Study

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Use of Hypermedia in One Middle School: A Qualitative Field Study

Article excerpt

The contribution of qualitative research consists in "description, verification (of existing theories, hypotheses, generalizations, or practices), evaluation or prescription, as well as understanding" (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992, p. 16). This qualitative study examined the dynamics and complexities, which occur in the natural setting of a seventh grade classroom as students learn to use a hypermedia program (HyperStudio). Data collection techniques included field observations, student and teacher interviews, surveys, and student work.

The author viewed the data through the lens of Dewey's methodological barriers to education, and found three major results. Marginal students were motivated to construct creative and innovation projects in a different way than their honor-roll peers. The tools available in software programs can interact with a student's original purpose to produce a more innovative project than initially conceived. Most importantly, this study found that the absence of substantive school-wide conversations involving the computer teacher appear to limit the educational benefits afforded by using hypermedia tools.

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TODAY'S CLUBHOUSE? PROBLEM STATEMENT

Some educational theorists believe that tools, properly supported by instruction, can foster educational growth above and beyond the specific learning of the original activity (Dewey, 1902; Papert, 1993). John Dewey outlined three general methodological barriers to the education of children: (a) the dearth of active and engaged learning in the curriculum, (b) the expectation of mental accretion of abstract ideas (barren symbols with which children are unable to identify), and, (c) in the quest to spoon-feed education to children, the over-simplification of subjects, which sucks dry interesting and pithy material. These barriers result in a lack of student motivation and a withering in the development of self-discipline. Yet learning cannot be divorced from the context in which it occurs; the cognitive content of the activity and the social environment both influence the learner (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989). In the search for environments that might overcome these problems, Dewey envisioned carpentry sets, gardens, and clubhouses. However, there is only so much one can do with gardening in the winter and only so many clubhouses one can build in the classroom. Materials are consumable and products collect. Project artifacts are not easily revised (Lehrer, 1993; Perkins, 1986).

Hypermedia may be especially well suited as a construction tool for knowledge formation and creative expression, as some researchers have suggested (Beichner, 1994; Harel, 1991; Kafei, 1995; Liu & Rutledge, 1996; McKillop, 1996; Riddle, 1995; Turner & Dipinto, 1992). David Jonassen (1996) proposed the term "mindtool" to illuminate the distinction:

   Mindtools are not intended necessarily to make learning easier.
   Rather, Mindtools often require learners to think harder about the
   subject matter domain being studied while generating thoughts that
   would be impossible without the tool. While they are thinking harder,
   learners are also thinking more meaningfully as they construct their
   own realities by designing their own knowledge bases. (p. 30).

Weller (1996) concluded his meta-analysis of research in hypermedia with some comments on the new research: "The future may bring much more use of qualitative methodology to inform studies of the highly complex computer-based science learning experience" (p. 481). Patton (1990) and Glesne and Peshkin (1992) expected the rigor of qualitative research to evolve from solid descriptive data ("thick description"), which is presented in such a manner that readers are able to form similar interpretations (Patton, p. 375). Ayersman (1996) noted in his overview of the research in hypermedia-based teaching that "authentic classroom-based research" is more directly applicable to teachers in the field (p. …

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