online learning module with the goal of developing a stand-alone learning module designed to teach Kindergarten-level students the basic colors. This paper will also address some learning gaps that are associated with this learning module in general, and what some of the performance and knowledge gaps of a color-teaching program in particular. A description of a desirable learning environment is followed by a discussion of some of the implications of technology involved, including bandwidth availability, as well as hardware and software availability. An assessment of potential problems with the availability of student access to technology is followed by a discussion of the merits of providing such a stand-alone program as an online application or presented as a computer-based training module. Finally, a summary of the research will be provided in the conclusion.
Review and Analysis
Background and Overview. Learning colors and shapes are important steps for young learners in general; further, the specific ability of a kindergarten student to identify primary colors shown in random order has been shown to be an important variable that may help in predicting individual differences in sustaining attention and future academic success (Carter & Swanson, 1995). Furthermore, the combination of the interactive characteristics of a computer-based learning module make it especially useful for the delivery of educational materials designed to teach young learners their primary colors of yellow, blue and red (Frechette, 2002).
General and Specific Performance and Knowledge Gaps Associated with Primary Color-Teaching Programs. There are some important general considerations involved here concerning very young learners who may not be able to completely grasp the concept of "primary" and "secondary" colors, and who may likewise be uncertain if their personal conceptions of one color compared to another are accurate. In fact, in many cases, erroneous previous learning may have to be corrected before correct learning can take place (Frechette, 1999). Specifically, if a child has come to understand the color "blue" as any permutation of a color that contains blue (e.g., purple), he or she may be unable to make the solid connection between what is presented on a sterile computer screen and what is intended to be imparted; because each child is unique in this regard, any computer-based learning module for kindergarten students must incorporate a teacher-assisted element to ensure that the material is being understood and students are learning what is being delivered (Albers, Austin, Begoray, Carr, Goldberg, Kinzer, Labbo, Leu, Mckenna, Miller, Pailliotet & Richards, 2003). In this regard, these authors emphasize that it is vitally important to never assume that students have knowledge of these specific systems: "Just as you might learn about color through direct experiences (observing, reflecting, mixing colors), so do your students need direct experiences in specific semiotic systems before they can skillfully begin to represent meaning through the visual arts, dance, music, or drama" (Albers et al., 2003, p. 157).
Types of Learning Environments Conducive to Computer-Based Learning Modules. Noting the value of computers for providing young learners with different learning experiences, one kindergarten teacher helped develop a learning environment that was conducive to computer-based learning by keeping the topics being investigated prominently displayed throughout the classroom. For example, to ensure that her students were able to review computer-based lessons during other times, one kindergarten teacher, "Ms. Collins," posted the days of the week and months of the year; the primary colors; numbers; animals; family members; and environmental print such as a stop sign, fast-food restaurant logos, and exit and enter signs on bulletin boards around the classroom (Heller, 1999). Another kindergarten teacher incorporates a general study of color by examining some artists' prints that are readily available online such as van Gogh's "Sunflowers"; as part of the lesson plan, the teacher asks the students to determine how various artists use color to represent meaning. Students are then led to reflect on how various colors represent meaning to them and are guided to think about their favorite colors and what makes these colors so attractive to them. After the computer-based exercise, students are allowed to work with tempera paint, and learn how all colors are created from primary colors; also included in the lesson plan is the vocabulary of color (e.g., hue, bright, somber).
When students have become fairly knowledgeable about color, they are guided to think about how they might represent story characters or events through color in a process Albers et al. term "thinking meaningfully through the arts": "This activity in color pushes you and your students to think about what color represents and, with the introduction of the elements of narrative, students more easily see how to include visual imagery in their narratives to shape characterization" (p. 157). The analysis of how primary colors can be mixed to create all others can be accomplished in both the interactive portion of the computer-based learning module and supplemented by a hands-on activity using makeshift palettes made inexpensive plastic plates. Kindergartners can then explore color by mixing the various colors of tempera paints on the palette. After they achieve a sense of how primary colors operate in this fashion, they can make attractive symmetrical prints by taking a piece of white paper, and folding the paper in half. The students would then open the paper and pour and/or drip paint on one side of the paper only; students then carefully fold the paper and press down to mix and spread the colors. After the students open their papers up, they can study the imagery they created. The teacher can then ask what they see in the images, and what types of emotions these images evoke. As a culmination to this activity, the teacher can create a story using the symmetrical image as a focal point (Albers et al., 2003).
Assessment of Potential Problems: The "Digital Divide." Although the so-called digital divide continues to shrink (Finn & Inman, 2004), significant problems remain for many of the country's public schools in search of useable computer equipment and online access (Cooper & Weaver, 2003). According to these authors, kindergarten teachers can play an essential role in any program designed to gap the digital divide. "Teachers can help to rectify mistaken ideas that children bring with them to school that may have been communicated by parents and peers," they say, and "Teachers can carefully structure their classrooms in ways that minimize the negative effects of peers on girls' identification with computers" (Cooper & Weaver, 2003, p. 117). Further, kindergarten teachers can also taken into account their own behavior so that they neither cause nor exacerbate the reluctance that young girls may have about technology. In this regard, Cooper and Weaver suggest that by "becoming aware of how they may be contributing to the digital divide and steps they may take to alleviate the problem will help teachers contribute to the solution" (2003, p. 117). This is particularly important because there is also a gender gap involved even when kindergartners do have computers at home; for example, Frechette (2002) reports that sons are more likely to have computers purchased for them by their parents than daughters.
Online or Computer-Based? Which is Superior? Because resources in any academic setting are by definition scarce, it is important for the educator to realize as much "bang for the educational buck" as possible; therefore, a learning module for instructing kindergarten students about the primary colors should be equally adaptable to either an online or stand-alone computer application, with an emphasis on the stand-alone version since many public schools may not have online access in the kindergarten classroom, but virtually every kindergarten can secure the use of a personal computer or computers that can readily accommodate the size of the program required (even otherwise-obsolete 386-processors would work for this purpose). As noted above, though, augmenting an interactive learning module with resources that are…