What Is Technology-Integrated Teaching and Learning?
An understanding of just what technology integration looks like is vital to planning for technology-integrated teaching. Effective technology-using teachers employ three unique types of knowledge: content knowledge about the specific topics that they teach; pedagogical knowledge, or the understanding of how to teach and manage stu- dents (Shulman, 1986); and technological knowledge, which involves an understand- ing of the unique characteristics of particular types of technologies that lend themselves to particular aspects of the teaching and learning processes (Pierson, 2001). A technology-rich lesson requires teachers to draw on extensive content knowledge, to understand how best to use content-related technology resources as well as pedagogical knowledge, and to use the most appropriate methods to man- age and organize technology use.
Discussion of the limitless classroom technology applications can be facilitated by describing them according to four types (Smith & Radigan, 2003). Note that these categories are flexible, and many activities can be described by more than one type.
- Technology as business Often, the first way teachers who are new to using technology attempt a technology strategy is as a resource for communication and in- formation management. Before they are comfortable with using any technology with students, they can be attracted to the power of electronic tools for planning and man- agement. (See Chapter 3 for coverage of communication and Chapter 16 for a dis- cussion of classroom administration using technology.)
- Technology as Technology is the subject when the software or hardware it- self is the focus of learning. The aspect of technology that poses unique challenges to teaching and learning is the levels of student skill. Diversity in student compe- tency with technology is unavoidable, and the digital divide becomes evident quickly; some students in schools now have had regular computer access since they were toddlers, while others have had little. With any lesson, teachers must have ways to assess the prior knowledge of students about the material. Teachers must make decisions about the technology skills that students need, and when and how those skills should be taught.
One approach maintains that all students must have basic instruction in the use of individual tools before actually using each tool. So, if graphics software is to be used, students must engage in an introductory lesson during which they are guided to use the various functions of the software before they use it independently. Then, they can proceed to using the tool in the context of a learning activity. The opposite approach maintains that learning tools in isolation is ineffective; instead, learners need “just-in-time” instruction of what they need to know when they need to use it. Subscribing to this philosophy of learning about technology tools leads teachers to have students learn new tools as they are using them for real purposes, rather than up front.
Most teachers fall somewhere between these two extremes; however, some thought must be given to how students will learn to use the technology needed to extend and demonstrate their learning. Indeed, the best plan is to have a plan. Be com- fortable with experimenting with a variety of teaching methods, including direct in- struction on the tools, having individuals or small groups of students learn and in turn teach others, and having students “play” with technology to discover new uses independently.
- Technology as content Frequently, the way technology is perceived as be- ing an instructional tool is when it is used as the main lesson delivery, such as through an electronic presentation or web page on a specific topic. Used in these ways, technology comprises the majority of a lesson. To novice technology-using teachers, this large-scale use of electronic tools is often threatening and intimidating. Planning and designing activities in which technology tools will be the primary con- veyor of information can be extremely time consuming, and the greater the portion of a lesson in which technology plays a role, the greater the potential for change in teaching habits.
- Technology as lesson support. An often overlooked genre of technology-enabled learning instances is the collection of strategies, from simple to complex, whereby technology can support learning As lesson support, technology does not have to be a central component of a lesson; it can instead be “popped in” as just one among many other strategies. Thought of in this fourth way, technology does not have to represent a radical departure from established teaching methods. It instead becomes a flexible, as-needed, very approachable part of a teacher’s instructional repertoire.
Before planning to use technology in a lesson, teachers should consider how this electronic tool will extend their abilities to teach. Technology can do things that traditional methods cannot: simulate dangerous or distant phenomena, easily connect multiple media formats to produce a sophisticated finished product, deliver obscure and timely resources to the desktop, or capture the attention of otherwise uninspired students. Informed teachers armed with these tools enjoy a powerful advantage in reaching students with various learning modalities and styles. Informed teachers know that technology best serves its purpose in the classroom when it is combined with nanotechnology resources so that a whole range of appropriate tools as used to help students reach each learning objective. Ill-informed teachers use technology because they know they are supposed to, and often the tools are used to do things that do not appreciably advance the learning opportunities of students.
Teachers should ask themselves of each lesson, “Why this technology in this way at this time?” The questions in Figure 7.1 are offered as starting points to the plan- ning of using Internet-based resources; however, the questions are relevant to the planning for all technologies. If the answers speak to extending the teacher’s abili- ties to meet the specific needs of students, to engage students in compelling content in accessible formats, and to empower students to take a role in their own learning, then the use of technology may be warranted.
|FIGURE 7.1 Questions to consider when planning for the use of Internet resources.|
The structure of a technology-integrated lesson should be consistent with an indi- vidual teacher’s teaching style and philosophy. If child-centered work is common in a particular classroom, for instance, then child-centered work should be considered for an Internet-based lesson. Of course, this should not discourage teachers from exploring new methods and letting the technology facilitate change in their teaching. It simply must be understood that any change that occurs is not the sole result of the use of any technologies. Technology can supply the resources to motivate teachers and students, but this will happen only with the conscious desire of teachers to embrace continuous growth in their teaching.
One practical consideration that arises as teachers contemplate ways to use tech- nology in their teaching is whether it can be employed to enhance an existing lesson or whether teachers instead need to draft plans for completely new lessons.
Both practices are acceptable and can lead to quality learning experiences. If a lesson has already proven successful, technology can be used simply to bring in fresh, timely resources. Based on the lesson support technology type (Smith & Radigan, 2003), technology tools can be popped into lessons without overly modifying the existing plan.
Thoughtful placement of small uses of technology, however, should not be con- fused with a less advised tack toward technology use that is common among those new to using technology: taking a traditional lesson and just tacking technology onto the end of it. An example might be to have students participate in a book-based lit- erature lesson and then, when they are done, to have them visit the website of the book’s author. On the surface, this appears to be a related content-driven use of tech- nology. However, if the visit to the website is an afterthought, it may not serve a real purpose, meaning in particular that it may not further students’ opportunities to meet the stated learning objectives.
The technology in this case is added onto, rather than integrated into, the lesson. A better way to think through the use of the website in this example, once the site has been reviewed for quality and applicability, of course, is to consider how technology relates to the learning objectives. Which of the four types of technology is it? How will students use the tool in question to develop, advance, demonstrate, or enrich their learning? If the teacher determines that a technology strategy truly would benefit stu- dents, then that strategy should ideally be articulated as a part of the lesson objectives. Oftentimes, however, it may be easier to start the planning completely fresh rather than trying to retool an existing lesson. The blank piece of paper may empower a teacher to try new teaching formats or learning procedures facilitated by the tech- nology. See Tools for Standards Integration and Lesson Plan Creation in MyLab- School (http://www.mylabschool.com).
Lesson Plan Formats
Countless lesson plan formats are used by teachers, from those that are extremely structured to others with flexible parameters. Often school districts have a template they require teachers to use, yet frequently teachers settle into a shorthand sequence that is comfortable to them and reflective of their own teaching philosophies. Most lesson plan formats adhere to a predictable set of components, frequently resembling the classic steps of Madeline Hunter’s Essential Elements of Instruction (Hunter & Rus- sell, 1994). Consideration of technology use can be made at all stages of the planning process and is highlighted here as part of Hunter’s basic model.
Anticipatory Set. An anticipatory set is a quick introductory activity that hooks stu- dents into the lesson from the very beginning, essentially preparing their minds to accept the new information. Teachers might show a relevant photograph found on the Internet, conduct a brainstorming session with concept mapping software, or check prior knowledge about the subject by posing a series of questions beamed to students’ hand-held computers.
Purpose. The teacher states the purpose of the lesson, or the objectives, based on content or technology standards, that will be met. Students hear a sense of why they would want to learn it and how they will know they have learned it.
Understanding the place of a technology-based activity within the larger scope of a standards-based curriculum will help teachers to plan meaningful and effective learning experiences. (Chapter 1 introduces the NETS for Students; individual states also have technology standards for students.) Teachers must make themselves aware of what their students are expected to know and be able to prepare them so that tech- nology standards can be met at the same time as content standards.
Using technology, teachers might project up for the whole class an electronic slide that states the purpose and then print the information for students to monitor their own progress.
Input. The input is the information, vocabulary, content, and skills—in other words, the stuff—that students need to learn in order to meet the objectives. Teachers have a variety of options for presenting this information in addition to the more traditional lecture, including educational websites, interactive electronic presentations, videos, teacher-produced documents, and digital photographs. Teachers may choose to pre- sent the material themselves with the assistance of technology, such as by using web- based content projected on a monitor or by guiding students through streaming videos. Students may also be expected to grapple with new content independently. For this task, options include having students progress at their own pace through a teacher-produced electronic presentation that provides text, images, and perhaps audio and video, and even may feature assessment questions so students can check themselves. (See Chapter 14 for ideas on creating educational presentations.) Teachers might also develop activities that allow students to interact with online content in a collaborative, team-driven environment.
Modeling. After the material is presented, the teacher demonstrates how students will be able to show that they have learned the information, especially showing ex- amples or describing any products that they will be able to produce to exhibit their learning. Items in previous students’ electronic portfolios might be used as exam- ples, as might a live demonstration of any software that will be used.
Guided Practice. Guided practice is students’ opportunity to interact with the ma- terial in a sheltered, assisted environment, often with the teacher leading the way through the necessary steps of an exercise. This is the teacher’s best chance to make sure students are using the skills correctly. Having a computer that projects to a screen or monitor is helpful so that the teacher can walk through a procedure step by step. Students might also work independently through tutorials or sets of direc- tions with screen captures.
Checking for Understanding. Before, during, and after guided practice, the teacher questions students to monitor and assess how well they understand the concepts be- fore moving on. If students understand it, then the lesson can progress; if not, the teacher may need to back up and reteach the concepts. If working in the computer lab, teachers can walk around the lab and glance at students’ computer monitors to assess progress as they work with a new piece of software. Students might be asked to come to the front of the class to lead peers through an electronic presentation. As teachers check for understanding, they can elect to jot down brief notes of student progress on a hand-held or tablet computer.
Independent Practice. When the teacher is assured that students have mastered the content or skill enough to work on their own, they are ready to practice independently, in the form of in-class activities or homework. Practice homework activities might be listed on the class website, and product files can be either saved and submitted on disk, on the school server, or emailed directly to the teacher. Nonlinear edugame activities, such as those created with PowerPoint templates, are effective practice activities because the game format attracts students’ attention to repeatedly review the content.
Closure. The conclusion to the lesson is a chance for the teacher to cap off the learn- ing experience with a few final examples or statements to help students make sense of what they have learned. Closure is often the part of the lesson that gets rushed as students run out the door when the bell rings, but allowing time for this important exclamation point in the learning process is an essential opportunity for students to reflect on what they have learned, solidifying new knowledge into a coherent un- derstanding and improving the chance that this new information will indeed be used. Recording students’ ideas of what they have learned on a word processing document or a quick electronic slide show projected up to the whole class can ensure that every- one has input into the closure. Individual students might be asked to email the teacher with their own thoughts on their grasp of the material.
Alternatives to this classic directed lesson plan format exist; the Unit of Practice is one that was specifically developed to pay special attention to the natural use of technology. Developed by Apple Computers in collaboration with the National Science Foundation and the New American Schools Development Corporation, Units of Practice (UOPs) are structured curriculum frameworks for sharing lessons with other educators. UOPs emphasize a holistic approach to technology, considering its inclusion as just one of many needed planning steps rather than including it as a tacked-on feature. Although the components of UOPs resemble those in more tradi- tional lesson plans when viewed as a list, the UOP plan is conceived as a nonlinear, flexible plan (see Figure 7.2).
|FIGURE 7.2 Unit of practice format.|
|• Invitation. The curriculum question and project overview
• Tasks. The actions that students will be asked to undertake
• Assessment. The criteria by which students’ work will be evaluated
• Situations. The places where the activity will take place, and the amount and specific periods of time that the students will have to work on the activity
• Interactions. The ways students will work, the ways the teacher will work with students, and the ways students will interact with others
• Tools. The materials that students will use to approach their tasks
• Standards. The frameworks developed by the school, district, or state as guidelines in the development and assessment of curricula
Considerations beyond the Instructional Flow
The focus of the lesson plan steps in the previous section is on the discernable fea- tures of a lesson, those activities that would be noticeable to an observer in the class- room. Lesson plans typically consist of other information, those behind-the-scenes details that teachers must attend to or risk dooming an otherwise well-conceived lesson to failure. Technology also commands thought for these areas.
Pedagogical Considerations. Just as with traditional learning activities, teachers must decide whether technology resources will be used as a demonstration with the whole class, with a small group, with partners, or even with students working individually.
These determinations will depend on the concepts being taught and the strategy that will be the most effective with students. An effective teacher meters lessons with a tempo that mingles a variety of grouping options to move students through a cho- reographed and interesting array of experiences. Student boredom with the learning environment breeds inattention; frequent reshaping of the context encourages interest.
Identifying Resources. After lesson goals are solidified, locate the software, hard- ware, or Internet-based tools that will be necessary for the lesson. The time and ef- fort involved at this stage can be significant, depending on a teacher’s familiarity with locating web resources, the amount and quality of information available on the particular topic, and the ways and extent to which resources will be used in the in- struction. Sometimes the time required to locate quality resources discourages teach- ers from using technology to teach. With regard to Internet resources, the best advice is to start with sites that have been recommended by others or with larger portal sites (see Chapter 8). The next steps can involve conducting a web search for information relating to your topic (see Chapter 3 for searching strategies). Because the quality and age appropriateness of websites vary, you will want to explore the entire site thoroughly before having students use all or parts of it.
The key to the effectiveness of any instructional tool lies partly in the tool’s unique attributes, but also to a larger degree in how the tool is actually utilized. No matter how flashy or cute or seemingly educational a website or piece of software sounds, if time is not taken to plan carefully for its use as a part of an entire instructional se- quence, the potential benefits to learners may be squandered. Select several re- sources, including teacher background information, lesson plans, and student activities. At this point, you will also want to consider nonelectronic information sources to complement the online information. Finally, assess what tools you have available at your school and determine procedures to reserve and use those tools. A scavenger hunt of technology tools and policies available at a particular school should be an important part of any new teacher orientation.
WebQuests are an approach for organizing web-based learning tasks (Dodge, 1995). WebQuests are a popular activity that follows a lesson formula (see the WebQuest site at http://webquest.org). Countless WebQuest examples exist online—a simple web search for “WebQuest” and the desired topic will result in examples that other teach- ers have created and placed online. As with any lesson plan, teachers must preview all resources and consider in what ways WebQuests follow a constructivist lesson for- mat used widely around the world. WebQuests follow a lesson formula (see the WebQuest site at http://webquest.org). WebQuests encourage creativity, higher-order thinking (see www.ceap.wcu.edu/Houghton/Learner/think/thinkhigherorder.html), and problem solving. WebQuest templates are available on the web (for example, http://webquest.sdsu.edu/designpatterns/all.htm or www.spa3.k12.sc.us/WebQuest Template/webquesttemp.htm). Internet resources are necessary to create a web-based learning task. Videos, sound, images, animations, and specific information can all be included in a WebQuest. As with any lesson plan, teachers must preview all resources and consider in what ways the lessons might need to be modified to best serve the needs of their particular students. For the most part, WebQuests placed online have been shared for the benefit of other teachers and students; any modifications made should include reference to the original source. As an example, review The Civil War Gazette WebQuest (www.itdc.sbcss.k12.ca.us/curriculum/civilwar.html).
Technology Tools for Lesson Planning
Thus far, technology has been addressed in this planning chapter as a resource to be worked into a lesson for the learning benefit of students. As is often the case, technol- ogy can serve a number of purposes if seen from different perspectives. Technology can also be a powerful tool that assists educators in the planning process itself.
- Software designed specifically to assist with the planning process provides lesson templates that can be customized, correlated to state standards, and printed in a variety of forms. Software exists in shareware versions that can be tried for a set period of time (see Lesson PlanIt at lessonplanit.net or LessonPlanZ at www.unicornsoftware.com/windows.html) as well as commer- cial software (see http://www.taskstream.com). In addition, many professional educa- tor websites offer planning tools.
- Templates are a teacher’s best technology friend. Templates for lesson planning mean teachers can save key lesson features, according to district requirements or per- sonal preference, and then simply fill in pertinent information for particular (See Chapter 3 and Chapter 9 for discussion of templates and lesson planning).
- Online resources are invaluable for acquiring background information as teach- ers prepare to teach unfamiliar subject A little research before teaching a lesson can provide needed content, teaching strategies, and professional advice. (See Chapter 8 for content and professional web resources.)
- Productivity tools can be used in any number of ways to assist planning. Vicki Barrera, a teacher education student, suggested using a spreadsheet to keep track of when state standards are addressed (personal communication, October 17, 2003).
Selecting Educational Software for Your Lesson
There are thousands of commercial and shareware educational software titles. There- fore, educators must have effective, planned processes for the critical investigation and acceptance of software for use in their classrooms, so as not to waste valuable teacher time and district money on the basis of advertising hype. Many software publishers forsake strong instructional design for colorful graphics and packaging (Hoffman & Lyons, 1997). The lines between educational software and educational websites are blurring, as many new software titles include web interactivity and websites offer engaging student activities. This section presents strategies for mak- ing decisions about educational software, first highlighting considerations that must guide any resource choices, and then suggesting an assessment process that takes into account the intended uses. An example Software Review Form is offered, with extensive descriptions for its use and adaptation. The types of educational software are discussed, along with examples of how software can be integrated into the classroom. See Chapter 8 for guidance on evaluating and using educational websites.
Guiding Principles behind Developing a Resource Review and Selection Plan
Based on their own experience and teaching styles and on what they know about the abilities and needs of their students, but without actually performing any structured review, teachers select what they think will work best. Because the audience reading this book will be most interested in strategies they themselves can use to make informed decisions about what software will work best in their classrooms, this section will focus primarily on district review procedures and individual electronic resource selection.
Depending on the extent of their use in the classroom, electronic resources have the potential to have quite an impact on the delivery and even the interpretation of a school or district’s curriculum. For this reason, districts must have a clear plan for reviewing and selecting educational resources for use with students.
At the outset of the selection process for electronic resources, it must be under- stood that merely sitting a child in front of a computer with an educational software title plugged into it does not constitute a sound educational plan (see Figure 7.3).
Doing this allows a software publisher’s goals and intentions to override those of the district and the classroom teacher, thus taking thoughtful control out of the hands of those closest to students. Resource use must be consistent with not only the goals and objectives of individual classrooms but also those of the school, the district, and the state. Not only should the content be compared to local scope and sequence guidelines, but also the instructional design and the way in which the material is pre- sented should be considered. The learning theories that underpin the content of a re- source should match what is accepted in current educational literature and should correspond to what is accepted in the local communities. Often, an implicit set of values is embedded into the structure and content of a piece of software or website, and these values must also be examined carefully to see whether they fit the intended learning environment. In essence, electronic resources, like any other learning tool or activity, must match the purpose for which they will be used and must represent the best way to accomplish those particular educational goals.
A basic understanding of evaluation is also helpful not only for those involved with district review but also teachers who will be interpreting the reviews for class- room use. Evaluation is a highly subjective process, no matter how specific and criteria based it aims to be. We make personal evaluations every day, such as whether we enjoyed a new restaurant or how well a tie looks with a shirt. Who- ever is evaluating a software package is viewing it through the filter of his or her own unique perspective. The person’s background, experience, educational phi- losophy, and even personal interests play a role in determining how he or she will rate the software. Because we are human, there is simply no way around this nat- ural subjectivity. The important point to make is that anyone who reads a review of software—or hears an opinion on anything, for that matter—must always con- sider the source of the review and again filter it through his or her own perspec- tive. Because one evaluator dislikes a program does not necessarily mean that it is completely unusable for all purposes.
A Software Review and Selection Process
School districts must have an organized process for assessing new software and making decisions regarding purchase and usage. See the steps listed below.
- Obtain software copies for review purposes. This can generally be done by contacting the software publishers Many universities and regional edu- cation centers maintain review sites with software available for checkout.
- Select who will actually have the first look at a new piece of Questions to be considered:
- Will curriculum policy administrators review software for the entire district?
- Will a committee of teachers representing their curricular areas or grade lev- els serve as reviewers?
- What role might parents or community members play in the process?
- Will students be observed using programs or will their opinions or comments be elicited?
It is important for this flow of review information to be made clear to teachers so they have a clear understanding of how diligently and by whom a new software package has been reviewed. If comments are available from district reviewers, a plan should be in place for disseminating the review information to teachers. If little local review has been performed, teachers should likewise be made aware of how much of the burden of selection and review falls to them.
- Reviewers need some kind of a standard form on which review comments can be recorded and compared to comments about other A checklist form (see Figure 7.4) to assess software is the easiest and might contain any number of criteria to be examined and rated, sometimes with a simple yes or no and sometimes by choosing from a range of scores for each area. Forms can provide space to encourage longer answers regarding specific problem areas or ideas for integration of the program into curriculum.
- A district software review plan needs to include the distribution of the critique to all stakeholders for them to be well informed and to facilitate student
An Educational Software Review Form
The educational software review form outlined here is appropriate for district review purposes and allows software reviewers to assess the complete software package, including both content (curriculum) and technical considerations.
- Software Title and Version Number, Publisher, and Price. Providing these details ensures that the most recent versions of software are being
- Reviewer Providing the reviewer’s name becomes important when a num- ber of different people are participating in the review process.
- System System requirements are usually given on the software box or in the installation directions. Most districts have computers with a range of capabilities, so evaluators are well advised to try each software program on a number of different computers to get a complete performance picture.
- Grade The grade level that is posted on the package documentation should be used only as a general guide for use. Reviewers should always consider how each package might be used with students outside the stated grade-level range.
- Providing the evaluator with an entire list of subjects, as opposed to just a blank line on which to fill in the subjects, prompts full consideration of the range of possible subject areas and allows consistent searching of reviews. Because many software packages cross curricular lines, check all the subject areas that apply.
- The purpose for which the software was designed is described by the modes (ISTE, 2000). One piece of software can be classified under several modes because most software can be used in several different ways.
- Program Describe briefly the content that is covered by the program.
This description is generic, omitting any evaluative opinions. It is useful if there are plans to compile a database of all of the software reviewed, to give teachers ac- cess to these evaluations.
Content and Technical Information
- Documentation and Supplementary Software is generally sold with some accompanying materials, including installation procedures, teacher’s guides, student workbooks, and even the box itself. Were you able to install and operate the program successfully according to the supplied directions? Were educational objectives stated?
- Program The content is the heart of the program and determines in many ways just how useful the program will be. Does the way in which the instruction is presented reflect current research, allow for a variety of learners, and appear up to date and free from errors and stereotypes?
- Logical content with relevant examples and illustrations gives students a better chance of making meaningful connections. Is information clear and shown with enough variety to keep the interest of the intended audience?
- What ultimately matters with any instructional tool or strategy is whether it leads to student learning. This category is best judged by incorporating student participation into the review process. Are students able to apply what they have learned, and does it seem that they are now interested in the topic?
Audience Appeal and Suitability. Rate whether the way the content is organized and presented will hold the interest of these students, and if once their interest is piqued, they will be able to read and respond as needed.
- Practice/Assessment/Feedback. Good instructional design demands that the prac- tice and the assessment be aligned with both the objectives and with the instruc- tion. Is feedback related to student responses and does it occur immediately after a response in order to reinforce or remediate as needed?
- Ease of Use. The most well-designed instruction is rendered meaningless if a student cannot access it Are there directions and a Help screen available from every screen? Consider, also, how much control the user has to navigate freely and to move at a comfortable pace.
- User Interface and Media Ideally, all of the media elements, such as graph- ics, audio, video, and animations, combine to create a virtual learning environ- ment. Are these media elements used to heighten student interest and promote instruction, or are they merely decorative?
Evaluation Summary. Frequently, the only part of an evaluation that an end user sees is the final rating, so it is helpful to boil down the information to a more concise format. If you are using the checklist form in Figure 7.4, at the end of each section, you circled a summary score that best illustrated how the program performed on those particular indicators. Now, simply transfer those scores to the Section Summary Graph by shading in the score for each section. This creates a visual representation of the overall program rating, making it easy to see at a glance how the program rates and allowing for easy comparison of multiple programs. (The Overall Evalua- tive Comments give you the chance to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the program, including any areas that might not have been represented by the indica- tors on the evaluation form.) The form in Figure 7.4 can be duplicated and modified for educational software review purposes.
Final Note on Software Review. Review checklists might need to be modified to include more consideration of the learning contexts and the specific types of media being evaluated.
Educational Software Types
With a varied assortment of educational software at hand, teachers are able to indi- vidualize instruction to enrich or remediate as necessary for student success.
A standards-based curriculum ensures students’ continued growth according to identified standards, along with those strategies that will enable attainment of those outcomes. Teachers who understand how software might best be integrated into a standards-based curriculum will need to be aware of the different types of software that are available. This section defines and illustrates some of the common categories. In order to be an effective facilitator of software use in the classroom, however, it is not necessary for teachers to discern exact differences among the categories; in fact, most of the descriptors of the categories overlap, and most software titles can be easily classified in a number of different software categories. In an attempt to provide full-service educational solutions, newer software includes components of most of the different software types grouped together in one integrated learning environment. Distinctions can be further blurred by the various terms used in the software industry to describe similar categories. The descriptions of software types provide a common vocabulary with which teachers can discuss software use.
Drill-and-Practice/Instructional Game Software
Category Description. In general, drill-and-practice software allows learners to en- counter facts, relationships, problems, and vocabulary that they have previously learned until the material is committed to memory or until a particular skill has been refined. The best drill-and-practice software possesses an interesting format that encourages repeated use by students, thus establishing the stimulus–response asso- ciation required for memorization of certain facts. Sequential learning tasks and immediate feedback assist the student in the mastery of the skill. Drill-and-practice programs utilize brief, effective feedback, either giving students another chance for incorrect answers or giving positive, motivating reinforcement for correct responses. Students should be able to control the rate of the program, taking as long as they need to answer a question, and they should also have the ability to quit the program at any time and resume at the place they left off when they return.
Instructional games (see also Chapter 10) can be very similar to drill-and-practice, but have added increased motivation by having game rules, an entertaining environ- ment, and competition to be the winner. Depending on the particular game, students can compete against the computer or against other students. Some instructional games take on the form of many traditional games, such as board games, logic games, adventure games, or word games, whereas others are originally created as software. Drill-and-practice software can be an effective tool if used as one of many educational tools, as appropriate, to meet specific educational goals. Drill and practice is usually thought of for aiding math skills, because the largely unambiguous nature of basic math facts lends itself to the right-or-wrong format.
Integrated Learning Systems
Category Description. Integrated learning systems (ILSs) have offered schools com- prehensive instructional and management features for decades. Largely traditional in methodology, the expensive ILSs are networked software compilations that address objectives in the core curriculum areas. Pretests, instruction, practice, and posttests are designed to be aligned with national or district curriculum goals.
Students typically work independently, and their progress is tracked and reported automatically. When they have mastered a particular set of objectives, they advance to the next section. Teachers can monitor students’ performance by exam- ining reports printed out by the system and can choose to supplement the electronic instruction as necessary.
Practical Integration. The adoption of an ILS often makes the transition to using technology easier for schools because the curriculum is completely prepared. This packaged approach, however, may not always allow for easy integration into other outside curriculum. The software systems are generally intended to stand alone as the sole source of instruction. The systems follow a typically behaviorist approach to learning, funneling all students through a linear presentation of the curriculum.
Some newer ILSs include real-world scenarios and projects to present skills in context (e.g., Waterford Early Reading Pro- gram by Pearson Digital Learning at http://www.pearsondigital.com). Some systems offer entire cur- riculum options designed to play a significant role in content delivery, with lesson manage- ment tools, proprietary software games, and multimedia elements updated regularly over the Internet.
Systems like these (see, for example, Knowledge Box at www.pearsondigital.com, and Figure 7.5) are evolving into full- service options that recognize value in significant teacher par- ticipation, yet provide a great deal of support and resources for predetermined and standards- aligned topics.
|Applying Role-Playing Software in the Classroom
When he saw Decisions, Decisions: The Environment (Tom Snyder Productions) on the list of software the district had recently purchased, Omar Mahesh knew
it was ideal for his seventh-grade government class. The software is a role-playing simulation of a small-town pollution crisis during a political campaign. Students use the briefing books provided with the software to represent four different expert view- points—including an environmentalist, an economist, a scientist, and a campaign manager—to advise the fictional candidate on environmental issues.
Mr. Mahesh divides students into groups of four so that the random-number gen- erator can control turn taking. With his students armed with their briefing books and gathered in teams around the television monitor at the front of the room, Mr. Mahesh begins the simulation introduction.
As students learn about the pond being polluted, the software prompts student groups, acting as the mayor of the town, to set goals in priority and then, acting as the advisers, to look up information in the briefing books. Based on this advice, groups decide how to act and evaluate consequences of those actions. Just as in real life, sin- gle decisions lead to new problems, and students continue with the simulation over several class periods. On an especially contested decision in the classroom, several students suggest further time to think and do some outside research. At students’ suggestions, Mr. Mahesh broadens the activity to include parent interviews and Internet research before resuming the simulation. With amazing timing, a pollution issue appears in their own town newspaper just a couple of weeks after their study. Mr. Mahesh is particularly pleased when students demonstrate some of the same careful problem-solving habits developed during the simulation to debate the real environmental situation (see Figure 7.7).
The easy mistake many schools make is assuming that when technology is brought into their classrooms, these curriculum delivery systems will adequately replace their teachers. Another misconception is that the introduction of ILSs satis- factorily prepares students with technology skills. Just because students access lessons or assessments using the computer does not mean they are gaining important communication, information management, and problem-solving skills that broader technology use can help to develop.
Care must be taken to ensure that the instructional format and content provide the best learning opportunity for each student. Current beliefs about the variety of learning styles found in any group of students have led to the understanding that any one method will likely not be sufficiently individualized to be successful.
The human teacher is needed to orchestrate ILS use so that the most instructional benefit can be derived by each student.
If your school has adopted an ILS, be prepared to assume the role of an instructional facilitator. Be aware of the content and format of the software so as to anticipate student needs and questions. Rather than relying solely on the automatic records of each student’s progress, investigate further to be sure that students are getting the instruction they need.
Category Description. Problem-solving software requires students to apply higher- order strategies and synthesize knowledge from multiple curricular areas in order to solve problems. Students can test hypotheses, learn from mistakes, and refine skills as they gain mastery of problem-solving techniques. Software of this type can provide practice in solving problems by modeling general critical thinking steps, by focusing on specific subject-area issues, or by creating an open environment in which students can discover their own strategies. Whatever the method, problem-solving software affords the user more freedom than does drill-and-practice or tutorial software, but may or may not present the real-world context that characterizes simulation software.
Practical Integration. Effective problem solving is built by continuous practice and experience in a variety of meaningful situations. This understanding must be clear in teachers’ minds as they plan a place for problem-solving software in the daily workings of a classroom. No software can be used as the sole tool for developing students’ critical thinking abilities. Instead, software should be seen as one effective component in a repertoire of activities that promote the acquisition of higher-order thinking skills.
|Using Software to Practice the Basic Skills
Carlos, Whitney, Tiffany, and Cari, kindergarten students in Mrs. Hassam’s class, be-gan the year well above other students in their mathematical abilities. By midyear, they could count by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s with fluency and could write numbers past 100. To encourage their continued progress, Mrs. Hassam began introducing them to some basic place-value concepts. She used base-10 blocks to illustrate the relation- ship between 1s, 10s, and 100s, and within a short amount of time the four were trading place-value digits with confidence. Following the work with the concrete manipulatives, Mrs. Hassam connected what they were capable of with the blocks to numerical writing.
When the four students reached an independent level of familiarity with place-value concepts, they began working with Mighty Math Carnival Countdown (Edmark). With the Bubble Band, they could trade 10 bubbles for one big 10s bubble or trade 10 tens bubbles for a 100s bubble. The students were able to practice place values at their own pace, allowing Mrs. Hassam to work with other students on other math instruction.
|Using Problem-Solving Software in the Classroom
Ms. Brown always stresses problem-solving strategies to her upper elementary students and makes an effort to use word problems to illustrate real problem
situations. Midway through the fall semester, she notices that although her students are largely successful at solving math problems on paper, they are not always able to describe in words how they solve the problems, beyond pointing to the problems and saying the numbers. She decides to try some problem-solving software called Fizz & Martina’s Math Adventures (Tom Snyder Productions) as another tool to provide a use- ful context for their learning (see Figure 7.6).
Over the course of two weeks, she introduces her class to Fizz and Martina and the other characters in Mr. Barney’s math class. Mr. Barney loves to tell stories, which always involve some type of math problem. On the videos included in the program, Mr. Barney encourages students to take notes of any numbers they encounter during the stories. What intrigues Ms. Brown the most about the program is that not only does it help students to gain practice in team problem-solving skills, it also requires effective discussion techniques.
Students have to be able to describe their problem-solving strategies without looking at their notes, so they learn to assist team members to verbalize their team’s thinking.
Ms. Brown soon sees students excited about the program and hears them talking about the Blue Falls Elementary characters well after they finish using the computer. Speaking with students individually over the next several weeks proves two things to Ms. Brown: Not only are the students demonstrating proficiency with problem-solving strategies, they are also feeling confident about what they know. One student even offers to show students in another class how to use the software.
Category Description. In years past, when students needed to conduct research, they were required to go down to the library to peruse heavy encyclopedic tomes. Technology has brought both the storage capabilities to gather volumes of facts onto one small CD-ROM and the media variety with which to effectively bring life to static reference material. Reference software can take the form of any traditional reference works, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and thesauri. Contact your school resource librarian for other learning opportunities.
Category Description. Educational simulations allow students to experience events or phenomena that they are not able to witness personally and that would be too difficult or too dangerous to duplicate in a classroom setting. Software can simulate manipulating objects, performing a set of procedures, or acting in a given situation. Real processes can be slowed down or speeded up to study the effects of artificially tinkering with the variables. Simulations provide rich contexts for meaningful indi- vidual learning construction. Like life experiences, simulations require the synthesis of many skills and understandings, making for true cross-curricular learning. Simulation software prompts active discussion and encourages cooperation toward common goals. Depending on the situation being simulated, the software can be effective with a variety of student groupings.
Simulations can also be used to train students in the operation of tools and different types of equipment. Such training allows students to practice skills and procedures needed to operate the equipment safely and accurately—without danger to themselves or to the equipment. Social studies, science, business, and vocational simulations can be valuable learning devices if their use is wisely integrated into the curriculum at appropriate times. Simulations do not serve as stand-alone units, but are most effective when used to illustrate and use skills, ideas, and experiences that have first been explored by other means. Students must be prepared with both knowledge of the content and an understanding of how to operate the simulation itself, preparation they would undoubtedly receive in advance of the corresponding real-life situation.
When having students work in a simulated environment, you must ensure that they understand the shortcomings of the software. No matter how realistic the representation of the life situation, it remains merely a simulation and is thus not entirely accurate or sufficiently complex. Discussing decisions and consequences with others who have used the program can help students to connect the simulation with reality (also see Chapter 12).
Category Description. Software tools help teachers and students become efficient and productive managers of textual, numerical, and graphical information. Because tools are not as content specific as other software types, they can extend what humans are able to do in virtually any curricular or management area. Just as teachers and students use pencils, for example, as tools in innumerable daily activities, so, too, can the word processors, spreadsheets, databases, graphics, and authoring programs be used. Other tools lend themselves to a particular content area, but allow users of many different ages to create or do something unique. Tools such as these will be used by students all their lives in most professions. The general skills and habits they learn by using software for various learning tasks will be transferable to other software they will be required to use in their future. Your students might use word processors to record information they have researched or to write creatively. They may compose letters directly on the word processor. Tool software can guide students to correct grammar and language use, and thus improve writing skills (see Figure 7.8).
With spreadsheet programs, students can study the relationships between amounts of money or can learn to schedule time. Students might organize research content using a database program. With graphics software, students can explore geometric relationships, geographic features, and artis- tic representations. Concept-mapping tools (see Chapter 2) facilitate brainstorming, process design, and understanding of how concepts relate (see Figure 7.9).
Internet tools, such as HTML editors, are making up an increasing share of the tool software. The creative production versatility of authoring software is discussed to a great extent in Chapter 8. Teachers should also be using productivity tools to support their efforts as teachers and managers of student information. Specific tips for using software as an aid to classroom administration can be found in Chapter 16.
Category Description. Tutorial programs that are designed to take full advantage of the medium should allow for students to interact with the programs continually as they practice new information. Good tutorials also allow individual students to work at their own pace, reviewing material as needed and moving ahead quickly when they fully understand a new concept. Adequate practice must be given following instruc- tion, but prior to assessment. In short, tutorial software requires the thorough instructional design that would be required of any good lesson a teacher would present in a traditional manner. In a busy classroom with dozens of different learning levels and styles, teachers can use tutorials to supplement their instructional efforts. Tutorial programs can teach students who require additional instruction on a topic or can allow more time to work through concepts at a slower pace. Tutorials can open up learning opportunities to students in smaller or rural schools. If there are no teachers trained to provide instruction in higher-level math or science courses or certain languages, students can use tutorial software to learn what they would otherwise miss.
An increasingly viable resource for teachers is web-based software, made possible through the latest web technologies that provide the sophistication found on most CD-ROM–based software. The programs, available largely for free on an endless variety of content websites, are designed to be used entirely online. Web-based software generally requires the downloading of Internet plug-ins; however, the user typically is led to the download site automatically. Teachers are cautioned that this software is not necessarily designed for educational purposes. However, these edutainment games, part education and part entertainment, can be used effectively for specific purposes, with clear planning. Depending on the purpose and provider of the software, teachers will find varying levels of supportive recommendations for classroom use.
Figure 7.10 presents a selection of web-based software. This is a fast-changing category, so teachers are encouraged to search for the latest resources.
|FIGURE 7.10 | Web-based software.
The Space Telescope Science Institute, operator of the Hubble Space Telescope, employs science teachers, scientists, and engineers to develop interactive web-based lessons based on a variety of space-related concepts.
Clicking Anastasia: www.lostsecrets.com
Students follow the story of Nicholas Romanov, former tsar of the Russian Empire, his wife Alexandra, and their five children, killed by Communist revolutionaries. The mys- tery that remains is the location of the tsar’s lost millions of diamonds and gems. Stu- dents can participate in interactive problem solving, receiving clues via email.
Provides over 500 free online games based on educational concepts in a safe, in- teractive, and entertaining environment, organized by grade level and game type.
This site was actually designed for parents to help children develop cognitive think- ing skills and deductive reasoning, but it has great potential for the development of the same skills in the classroom.
Secrets at Sea: www.secretsatsea.org
Fourth- through seventh-grade students can participate in an online ocean adven- ture, examining unusual behaviors by killer whales.
Spywatch is based on the popular BBC television series, set in a country village dur- ing World War II. Students develop phonics, spelling, and story-writing skills as they fol- low the adventures of a group of evacuees and investigate a range of spy suspects.
Future Directions for Educational Software
Looking back over the past few decades of educational software, noted educational software expert Judi Mathis Johnson (2003) has made some observations about where the industry currently stands. She has seen that educators move through a 3-year progression in the way they interact with a new piece of software, from learning about it in the first year, to testing it in the second year, to finally initiating real integration in the third year.
The market for educational software has changed dramatically in the last couple of years, notes Johnson. Not only are educators more savvy now about the role of tech- nology for teaching and learning, demanding that software address important learn- ing concerns, but with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, software companies must now demonstrate how research has shown their products to be ef- fective in order for federal money to be spent toward software purchases. Software companies will be looking to tie their product development closely to current research on software effectiveness, thus resulting in stronger products. An appealing direction advocated by some is to make the programs open source, meaning that the actual soft- ware code can be modified by teachers so that the content could be customized to meet student needs or local standards. This freedom to tinker with the design of a program is an element missing from most static, commercial software.
Gaming software approaches will become more educationally oriented as computer memory costs continue to drop. In other words, educational gaming approaches will become comparable to many of the high-end commercial video games (see Chapter 10).