Technology to Improve Behavior and Performance in an Elementary Classroom
The role of teachers in a child's education has fundamentally changed. Instruction isn't primarily lecturing to students who sit in rows at desks dutifully listening and recording what they hear but offer each and every child a rich, rewarding and unique learning experience." (Lanier, 1997). Because of revolutions in knowledge and information technology and the demand for learning to be more meaningful and lifelong, schools are changing their structures and teachers are changing with them. Teachers' roles now embrace relating to their students more personally and individually; to integrate social, emotional and intellectual growth. Teachers are now tuning more into how students learn, prompted recently by Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences, and so have had to improve on and add to their instruction methods.
In order to make students more interested in learning, teachers are adding project-based and/or participatory activities to their teaching. Material must be relevant to true life and engaging to the students in order for them to focus their attention on learning in the classroom.
One of the most useful tools in education now is technology and the use of computers. The computer and internet can be used for children to develop their ability to think more creatively. It also has opened a whole new world of communication around the globe. However the questions of whether or not computers have fully taken their place in the classroom and to what extent they have really improved teaching and learning still remain somewhat unanswered. Davis and Shade (1994) state "computers have not revolutionized education overnight." However they propose one reason for is that schools have not fully integrated computers into the classroom. Instead they are placed in separate rooms and children have limited access to them.
As a new teacher of young children (grades 1-3) with a special interest in Information Technology I am keen to investigate the use of computers and the internet in my classroom as a way of increasing motivation and attention to task in my students.
Young children are known for their curiosity to learn new things, heir high levels of energy and their inability to sit and concentrate for long periods of time. Requiring 6- to 8-year-olds to sit and read printed word or listen to the teacher talk for extended periods Is not effectively working to help children to learn. Restlessness and inattentiveness have been observed as a common problem in the classroom. This restlessness is frequently leading to behavior problems in the classroom, as students are prone to walking around and disturbing other children, or talking loudly at inappropriate times during class. It is also likely that the lack of concentration and interest in the 'reading and writing' is contributing to the poor academic performance of many of the students in the class. Improving interest and motivation will therefore allow for more emphasis on the curriculum. Providing activities in the classroom that are stimulating and relevant to the students will ease the burden on the teacher and create a more enjoyable atmosphere in the classroom. This will lead to increased engagement of the students in their learning.
The questions to be answered by this study are:
What effect does the use of technology in the classroom have on the students' interest in the curriculum?
Does the engagement in computer activities improve the concentration span of the students?
Is there a relationship between use of technology and improved academic performance in elementary school students?
The example of an elementary school spending nearly $1.8 million on equipping the school with computers and related material, yet showing no significant improvement in engaging the students and successful learning prompted Kozlowski (2000) to examine the challenges associated with introducing technology in the classroom. He describes four challenges. These are indeed useful issues to address in order to successfully implement a program using technology in the classroom. According to Kozlowski therefore, it is important for the teacher to decide where to set up the computers for maximum access by the students. Before involving the students in the computer activities the teacher should take some time to familiarize himself with the technology and develop levels of comfort and competence not only with the hardware, but also with the different software programs available. Following this the teacher should learn how to use these programs creatively so that he can select the best programs rather than only use assigned programs. And finally the teacher must know when the students are ready to constructively use the technology for improving their performance and developing interest and skills.
These all seem useful and worthwhile suggestions for the new teacher wanting to introduce technology into the classroom.
The literature reveals that the feelings of incompetence and anxiety are common in teachers when they begin the use of computers and the internet in their curriculum. Renwick (2001) offers some help for teachers who feel a little daunted. She first suggests knowing exactly what equipment is available to the school and then developing own computer skills. Taking a professional development course and practicing by playing around with several programs is recommended. Renwick also reports how one teacher made first and second grade students comfortable with computers by drawing pictures and manipulating things. She then progressed to having them add words to their pictures and then they created small books about insects.
One of the other important ways for teachers to improve their competence with using technology in the classroom was brainstorming with other teachers. Koszalka (2001) agrees with Renwick on this in her study that examined the hypothesis that teachers involved in a listserv discussion about integrating web resources would have a more positive attitude towards using the web resources. The study was conducted with K-12 public school teachers from six states assigned to a treatment group where they participated either in a small or large discussion group on a listserv and a control group. All the participants filled an attitudinal survey. The results showed that the teachers in the treatment groups had more positive attitudes regardless of the group size.
These studies indicate that successful integrating of technology in the classroom should involve more than simply putting the students in front of a computer and allowing them to have fun.
Farnsworth (2002) looked at the effectiveness of teaching method in the learning and attitude of elementary school students. This study was done to determine which of three instructional methods- use of multimedia, internet, or regular paper and pencil - provided the greatest learning and attitudinal gains for elementary school students. In the first part of the research 1,352 third to sixth grade students in thirty one classroom groups from nine suburban elementary schools in Utah were instructed by one of thirty one pairs of pre-service teacher candidates. A pretest and posttest for knowledge and attitude design was used. The teacher candidates instructed the students in three treatment groups, Hyperstudio (multi-media), Internet (technology-based search) or control (no integrated technology. Students were all taught the same hands-on science lesson on levers. A similar experiment was set up with 1, 428 third to sixth grade students using a lesson on simple machines. The results showed that all the groups improved significantly regarding knowledge, but the Hyperstudio and Internet groups performed significantly better than the control counterparts on the posttests. In attitude the Internet and control groups increased significantly while Hyperstudio remained the same. It was noted that though the Internet group had performed significantly lower on the pretests, the gap had closed by the posttests.
Hutinger (2000) reports on the implementation of technology in the classroom and its advantages for children with disabilities. The issues described in this study however can be seen to be relevant to all children, not just those with disabilities. In addition this study provided useful suggestions of ways to use the technology in elementary classrooms. According to Hutinger, "evidence clearly points to the effectiveness of computers or access to technology for young children with disabilities, helping them to interact socially, work cooperatively, control their environment, gain confidence, develop language and communication, and move from concrete to representational thought."
Part of this study involved integrating technology into the classroom curriculum in emergent literacy, art, music, science, social studies and maths. Pre and post tests were administered to the children including the Brigance Diagnostic Inventory of Early Development and Behavior Interaction Tool (which looks at children's behavior at the computer). The results showed positive outcomes for young children with a wide range of disabilities when teachers integrated appropriate computer software and adaptations to the early childhood curriculum and set up accessible computer centers in the classroom. Children made progress in all the developmental areas, including social-emotional, fine motor, communication, cognition, gross motor and self- help. These advantages are supported by Haugland (2000) who outlines the following as ways in which technology in the classroom helps kindergarten and primary school students- " improved motor skills, enhanced mathematical thinking, increased creativity,…