The educational technology revolution is a powerful agent of change in schools throughout the world. In line with this trend to integrate information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education, UAE has embraced to use technologies in all educational levels to facilitate leaning and teaching, and increase access to learning opportunities.
The purpose of this study was to conduct a survey to examine how education in UAE is better with the implementation of technology from the perspective of both teachers and students from grade 7 to 12.
The methodology was both qualitative and quantitative as I have done primary research comparing education technology of UAE to other countries like China, UK, Japan, and the USA. Also, I have surveyed both students and teachers about technology in education in UAE and have conducted few interviews from the school/university management, teachers, and students.
New findings within this research show that teachers and students feel education was improved with the use technology in education in UAE. Teachers and students indicated that it could be better if only the constructs of time and curriculum could provide a true perspective of integrating technology in the classroom.
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
Background of the Study
Dubai is changing- from the economy, the environment to medicine and education, there are new ideas navigating. And in this new world, one thing is transforming everything- globalization. It seems that globalization has changed the way things are done, ushering in what is now known as global society. As such, it is important to gain new knowledge, skills and character in order to perform, survive and thrive in this new world. In a time of YouTube, Facebook and iPod, it is evident that new technologies are useful in helping individuals be equipped in this new global society. Technology is changing everything, even in education. Technology makes it possible to students to learn in ways beyond the traditional classrooms.
The use of technology in the instructional setting is not a new idea, but advances in computer and other hardware technologies have made it possible to embed instructional technology in education. Schools at level are installing technology in the classroom that allows the instructor to access software tools, the Internet, and audio and video resources from an integrated, centrally-controlled system. Hence, it is pivotal to recognize the impact of technology on how students are learning in the classroom through teachnology.
Educational technology improves learning and prepares students for today's workplace,
which supports the need to expand the use of these technologies in education. This technology use is required to enhance the opportunities of today's students and provide them with the tools for learning and competing in a global workplace (Butzin, 2001). While teachers may not always use technology in the classroom, they express interest in technology use. However, they also report barriers to this use, such as a lack of time and a lack of ability to integrate technology effectively in the classroom (Pierson, 2001). Literature findings regarding reasons for teachers' lack of technology use in the classroom are inconsistent. Therefore, it is important to understand, from the teachers' perspective, why they are not using technology in the classroom. Study results do, however, support the conclusion that effective teacher training is required to help educators learn how to use technology in the classroom (Kingsley, 2007).
The infusion of numerous applications of technology on education only indicates the vast use of technology in everyday lives. In this age, it is something that is welcomed and appropriate but its effect will only be seen many years from now.
Significance of the Study
The problem is significant since a lack of Dubai educations` use of technology in the classroom prohibits students from receiving the benefits of this technology use. Technology in the classroom has the potential to increase positive student outcomes and it is essential to provide today's students with optimal opportunities. Thus, this study's findings will provide information on overcoming this problem, by revealing reasons why teachers and thus students do not use technology and what needs to be done to change this outcome. Study results are needed for the design and implementation of future technology training and support programs for Dubai teachers. Findings will also help guide future research.
Statement of the Problem
The UAE Ministry of Education has allocated a great amount of money to provide centers and workshops to advance instructional technology in an effort to train teachers hopefully to improve the technology use for the teaching-learning process in UAE schools. This is because the UAE government realized that the integration of technology may be considered an essential factor when attempting to enhance the teaching-learning processes of future educators. Attitudes and perceptions toward integration of technology impact the level of technology use in classroom instructions.
This study attempted to explore how education in UAE is improved with the presence of technology as perceived by the teachers and students. It will also try to find out the perceptions of students and teachers on what can be added to the educational technology in UAE in an effort to identify the possible added value of using technology in the classroom.
Four research questions on the education technology questions in the United Arab Emirates were derived from the areas identified above:
- How education in UAE is better with the presence of technology?
- How is the use of technology in UAE education compared to other countries?
- What are the advancements of education technology in UAE and how is it improving?
- What can be added to education technology in the UAE, and what will be the value.
- Describe how education in UAE is improved with the use of educational technology and how it can still be improved.
- Discuss what can be added to the education technology in the UAE, and what will be the value.
- Compare the use of technology in education in the UAE with that of other developed countries.
- The differences in views expressed by the teachers, and students with respect to:
- The differences in views between the teachers and students regarding:
- The differences of views between the government and private schools teachers on the use of educational technology with respect to:
- The differences of views between the government and private schools students on the use of educational technology with respect to:
Statement of Hypothesis
The major hypothesis was that there will be overall betterment in education at both government and private schools from grade 7 to 12 in the United Arab Emirates, based on the students and teachers surveys regarding technology education.
Purpose of the Study
This research is intended to investigate the following:
Additionally, the following was investigated:
The extent of availability of educational technology.
The extent of using educational technology in the classroom.
Obstacles which hinder the full utilization of instructional technology.
The significance of using educational technology.
Evaluation of educational technology available.
Obstacles which hinder the full utilization of instructional technology.
The extent of availability of educational technology.
The extent of using educational technology in the classrooms.
Obstacles which hinder the full utilization of instructional technology.
The extent of availability of educational technology.
The extent of the use of educational technology in the classrooms.
Obstacles which hinder the full utilization of instructional technology.
CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Review of the previous studies related to this research can be divided into three areas in light of five dimensions of the questionnaire. This review is organized into the following topics: education in UAE; the educational technology in other countries; importance of using instructional technology in UAE; the obstacles of its use; use of instructional technology; training on instructional technology; a summary and comments. The following is a summary of findings associated with these topics.
Education in UAE
The UAE educational system was established at the beginning of the 1970s, This was a main concern for H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, who said : "Youth is the real wealth of the nation." He intended to use the oil income to develop UAE nationals educationally and technically to be capable to serve UAE in its future growth. At that time there were around 28,000 students in UAE. Government was financing any student wishing to complete his higher education to go abroad mainly to UK and US and if possible to other Arab countries.
Later on The Ministry of Education and Youth established an education strategy, to be executed over the coming 20 years, to develop the educational system in UAE to be parallel with the latest international standards, focusing particularly in introducing the most recent IT resources for all education levels
IT education is a key factor for Dubai and for UAE generally. H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum initiated an IT Education Project (ITEP) in Dubai in the year 2000, which took care of setting up computer labs in all schools, and creating a complete advanced curriculum. He is aiming to create a generation of UAE youth who are aware of technology and capable of serving the UAE needs in technology, as well as to prepare students for the 21st century jobs that requires a lot of technology education.
From the first days of its development, the UAE government realized how important the country's youth to its future development is. The government is always pushing to develop and progress techniques and infrastructure in order to take advantage of the economic growth potential that a qualified workforce represents.
Lately on the second week of March, 2009, the UAE Ministry of Education organized a twin events "Gulf Educational Supplies & Solutions-GESS" and "Global Education Forum-GEF", the forum focused on four tasks: "technology and class interaction, role of technology in supporting decision makers, importance of technology and its relation to the basic educational facilities, and technology in identifying different approaches and methods in the teaching process."
Abdullah AlAmiri, advisor to the minister of education, said "A good chunk of the education budget will go into integrating latest educational technologies in schools" This is because in the UAE the role of technology and its benefit in changing education are recognized as important.
So the technology revolution around the world resulted in huge changes in how do we live, play, work, and how do we learn as well. So we should adapt to these changes with least mental and physical stress. To facilitate this we should train the public to work with new technologies capably.
This change should happen not only to create more motivating or interesting learning environment, it should happen because there are major changes in the world that force us to change, and change fast for the sake of our economic future survival.
As we have seen lately that the international economy and ours are related which means that if a crisis happened in one fraction of the world it can have an impact for many fractions who are thousands kilometers away.
Education and Technology in the UAE
The systematic educational system specifically started in the country in 1972. Since that time, education has been developed and expanded to provide highly standardized services from the primary level to the university. Most governmental and private schools, colleges and universities are separated according to gender with a strong focus on computer literacy and on English language teaching in higher education to equip young Emirates with the necessary skills (Ministry of Education, 2003).
Arabic is the official language for learning and communication in the country. However, teaching in English is becoming the language for learning in most colleges and universities to meet the demands of the open and competitive market in the country. Thus, the education system takes the main mission to prepare youth with skills and knowledge to function effectively in the today's marketplace.
Information and communication technologies are considered important to be integrated in the education system. They have been promoted as a platform that provides opportunities for learning and training as well as support interaction and exchanging of knowledge. Learning supported by technologies is suggested to bring people of different gender, place, and background without consideration of time and not depended on time or place. Therefore, educational institutions strive to embrace pioneering strategies to integrate ICTs technologies in education.
Integration of Technology in the Education
In line with the current trends to integrate information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education, UAE emphasizes the need to use technologies in all educational levels. This emphasis comes in response to the needs to facilitated leaning and teaching, and increase access to learning opportunities.
The Vision 2020 program is one of the reform projects launched by the Ministry of Education in 1998-1999 to improve education in the country. The project underlined strategies to provide schools with the latest instructional technologies and educational resources to promote self-leaning with the latest instructional technologies and educational resources to promote self-learning and continues education programs (Ministry of Education and Youth, 2004).
The IT Education Project (ITEP) was also established in 2001 to complement the efforts for providing schools with the latest ICT through installing computer labs in all schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as a first stage to be implemented eventually in all other emirates. The project provided all participating schools with high-speed Internet connections and video conferencing facilities. In order to support teachers, the ITEP project established IT Academies for teacher training. Moreover, the project established an online community for learners and educators in the regions to share knowledge, and an online market for offering products from the world leading IT companies (IT Portal, 2003).
In additional to that, technology in all colleges and universities in UAE is rapidly becoming a way of life for learners and educators. Classrooms are equipped with various technologies (i.e. computers, projectors, smart boards) and wireless cover giving instant access to the Internet and the World Wide Web.
This access to the Internet provided the base for the development of e-learning. Thus, teachers and learners in the UAE now possess laptops and use them regularly to meet the learning goals and development modes of e-leaning (Raj & Bukey, 2002). E-learning in the literature is defined "as the use of Internet technologies to deliver a broad array of solutions that enhance learning and training" (Rosenberg, 2001).
E-learning in the UAE
E-learning is gaining momentum in the UAE ... "The major demands that urge us to bring in e-Learning programs are shortage in faculty and staff, the cultural background of male and female students, and the need to continue education"
E-leaning has become a major priority in the UAE. The launch of the Dubai Electronic Government in 2001 caused a huge change in the steps directed toward e-learning. Although the intention of the E-government is mainly to facilitate government works, it facilitates various e-learning projects in the country such as Dubai Internet City and its Knowledge Village (Karam, 2002).
This rapid development of the country in the business and the IT industry increased the demand for innovative leaders with skills, knowledge and experiences who demonstrated leadership, confidence, and excellent communication. The education system has been required to meet the needs of a fast development society. Educational institutions, in response, are encouraged to embrace e-learning programs to provide more flexibility for learning in the country.
Barriers in the Integration of Technology in the Education
The problem, however, is that although e-learning can provide tremendous benefits, educators, students, and learning organizations need to understand this technology to use it well (Karam, 2002). Moreover, although the Internet continues to expand rapidly, most electronic communication networks are used effectively by only a relatively small proportion of educators (Wells & Anderson, 1997).
Research on the use of ICTs in learning has been conducted and continues to be investigated. One of the most prominent areas of research has been on the use of the electronic learning networks and the online learning communities in teacher learning and preparation (i.e. Beirnacka, & Puvirajah, 2003; Brook & Oliver, 2002; Narnett, 2001; Hoadley, Roschelle, & Nason, 1999; Brown, Ellery & Campione, 1998; Schlager, Schank, 1997; Pennell & Firestone, 1996).
However, the claims about the power of e-learning and electronic learning networks for teachers raise even more questions when considering the findings of a recent survey completed in the US (Becker, 1999). The survey result show that despite the fact that over 90% of teachers had across to the Internet, either at home or in the classroom, only 16% communicated by e-mail with teachers from other schools as often as five times during the school year. Furthermore over 2,250 teachers from all over the country responded to the survey, only 18% explained that they began to post and share information, suggestions, opinions, or student work through the Web, or engaged in online learning activities.
Technology used by teachers in the United Arab Emirates is not better. In a study that included 829 in-service teachers from different schools around the country, Alghazo (2004) explained that very few teachers use the Internet for collecting information and communicating with others. He study revealed that although teachers in UAE do have positive attitudes toward computer technologies; they lack the understanding of the use of the information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education (Alghazo, 2004). Teachers in UAE use computer technologies mainly for presentation, typing works sheets, and recordings student's grades. The frequency of ICTs use in these types of workprobably during their preparation programs -explains the reason for integrating ICTs in this type of work as opposed to others (Alghazo, 2004).
On the other hand, preservice teachers gain limited experience of the use of information and communication technologies and online learning networks for learning and interaction (Becker, 1999; Zhao & Rop, 2001). They posted electronic responses only because it was a course requirements (Thomas, Clift, & Sagurmoto, 1996; Rovai, 2002). The instructors' message had the highest priority, whereas their peers' messages had relatively low priority. Reflective exchanges typically occurred between faculty and students were not shared with peers, which might reinforce student teachers' perceptions that learning only comes through individual reflection rather than extended social discourse with others (Thomas, Clift, & Sagurmoto, 1996).
The question to be raised here is why do more teachers not benefit from, or use, the ICTs technologies to improve their learning and profession (Zhao, & Rop, 2001). One explanation offered by Becker (1999) is the limited opportunities that teachers have had to see the use of these technologies in their practice. Technology is mostly introduced as isolated literacy concepts or add-on elements.
"We stay abreast of new technological developments and innovative learning systems so as to give our students the skills and attributes they need to succeed in a global work environment. We strive to develop who are prepared for the future, ready for the changing needs of the workplace, and trained for a life ongoing learning and professional success".
Teachers in UAE are expected to prepared for the revolution in information access brought about the ICTs for their continuous learning and professional development (College of Education, 2001). Achieving this goal involves exposing teachers to technology-based learning experiences that show the obvious applications of ICT technologies in education (Kearsly & Shneiderman, 1999).
The notion of an Online Learning Community systems (OLC) as a technology supported environment is suggested to provide teachers with opportunities to experience creative use of ICTs in education, as well as enhance interaction and asynchronous online tools, teachers can be engaged in reflective discussions, accessing various information resources, and constructing and disseminating knowledge (Schlager & Schank, 2007).
Furthermore, engaging in an OLC is suggested to enhance their technological proficiency by integrating ICTCs into their learning and facilitate introducing learning technologies in context, not just basic computer literacy (Boling, 2003). More importantly, it would increase technology acceptance for learning and educational purposes which can have a long term affect on teachers on their continues learning (Yu, 1998; Kenny, 2003). Table (1.1) introduces themes that emerged after reviewing relevant research on the effectiveness of teacher electronic networks and online educational technology.
Training Professionals for Technology Use
The Ministry of Education and Youth (2004) seek to make technology more present in primary and secondary classrooms, but this goal has not been reached. There are many barriers to reaching this objective, but for the most part, veteran teachers are failing to gain technological fluency, which hinders their use of technology. Thus, professional development programs are needed, and these must restructure how teachers gain educational technology knowledge.
Teachers must acquire this knowledge in a manner that complements and assists with the teaching of curriculum standards. Plair (2008) suggested that teachers need a "knowledge broker" to serve as an intermediary between the teacher and the changes in technological innovations. This knowledge broker would provide new levels of professional development that support traditional forms of development.
The term "technology" for educators needs to be redefined (Plair, 2008). This term includes the use of computers, handheld devices, and multimedia equipment (voice recorders, graphic calculators, video projectors, and cameras). Any device with a microchip would be called a technological device. Thus, technology is no longer referring to the use of a keyboard and a central computer. Schools today can no longer avoid the need to use the many technology-related tools available.
Veteran teachers may be resistant to using technology and they may not view this use as their responsibility (Plair, 2008). Previously, students learned about computers separately from core content curriculum, but the situation has changed and computers are being applied to all content areas. Thus, veteran teachers need to be aware that computers and technology include more than word processing or certain software packages. TPCK stands for technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge, a theoretical framework for the 21st-century skills required for teaching. To meet this need, technology-related professional development must take place, and even this process is changing. Longer programs have been found to be more effective at helping teachers keep up with the times, and knowledge brokering is introduced.
The International Conference on Information Communication Technologies in Education and the group of international community of scholars and practitioners in 2009 to discuss the notion of marketing information abroad, including the third-world countries that have limited expertise and information in educational technology (ICICTE, 2009). The group discussed brokering knowledge to these countries. The group listed five dimensions of knowledge needed for the broker to be able to support users, which included creating knowledge, acquiring knowledge, assimilating knowledge, using knowledge, and disseminating knowledge. The ICICTE applied these roles to the professional development of teachers who require on-the-spot training. Teachers need a knowledge broker to be available when they attempt to introduce new technology-laden lessons to students and they need this support in a timely fashion. The knowledge broker serves as an on-site resource for the teachers and helps to make educational technology a reality for them.
Teachers need related training programs to meet the demands in information and communication technology (ICT); (Markauskaite, 2007). Good practices in ICT training programs for teachers must help them:
- become competent personal users of ICT
- use ICT as a tool
- master a range of educational paradigms that use ICT
- use ICT for teaching
- understand social aspects of ICT's use in education
- master a range of assessments that use ICT
- understand ICT policy dimensions in teaching and learning."
Recent focus in pre-service training has gone from a general personal ICT-related capabilities perspective to the teaching of pedagogical aspects of ICT use and the integrated use of ICT for pre-service training. Remaining issues in this training include the nature and level of general ICT capabilities and the importance of understanding these in the development of instruction competences.
This information is important for the development of ICT training programs; general cognitive and technological capabilities to perform problem-solving tasks did not interrelate. Helping trainees to integrate these capabilities in a broader problem-solving framework would help them interconnect personal experience and understanding of ICT literacy.
There is a need for a collaborative process to help train and support teachers in their use of educational technology (Murphy, Richards, Lewis, & Carman, 2005). Murphy et al. noted that there is a crisis regarding the gap between teacher preparation programs and the need to implement educational technology in the classroom. To meet this need, a Teacher Inquiry Group that included classroom teachers, school and district personnel, and faculty members met for 2 years to examine, share, and expand their best practices regarding the integration of technology into K-8 and college classrooms. This collaboration significantly affected the teachers and the schools.
There is a need for teachers to participate in a reflective practice instead of a technical rational paradigm (Murphy et al., 2005). With the reflective view, social-constructivist ideas prevail, which allows students to construct meaning with new experiences that use existing knowledge in a building process. The Teacher Inquiry Group also concluded that a new community of learning must be developed which requires that schools determine which teachers are using education technology effectively, in order to solicit their views on what methods are effective. This sharing of experience is important for the training of all teachers. Teachers must collaborate to enhance the repertoire of each and new information must be provided to all teachers.
Peer computer conferencing for teacher training results in positive and negative effects (Maher & Jacob, 2006). Peer interaction in a collaborative learning community helps support the professional development of teachers, since it increases teachers' peer interactions in face-to-face settings. However, it remains unclear how this process helps with teacher reflection.
Maher and Jacob (2006) studied 13 teachers enrolled in a program for practicing teachers. Computer conference interactions were recorded and examined along with teacher self-reports of their qualitative experience. Findings were that some teachers benefited from the use of computer-mediated communication with increased reflection and use of alternative cultural perspectives in the classroom. However, problems included lack of time and energy, technological complications, and the preference for face-to-face interactions.
Wang, Ertmer, and Newby (2004) reported on the outcomes of an introductory education technology course at a university designed to help pre-service teachers increase their self-efficacy to integrate technology into the classroom. The study examined outcomes for 280 students in the course. These students were assigned to one of three experimental or one control condition. Pre- and post-surveys were gathered to examine beliefs of self-efficacy after the course. Findings showed that when vicarious learning experiences and goal-setting were present, there was a more powerful effect on self-efficacy for technology integration, compared to conditions with only one of these factors. Thus, both of these factors are necessary to develop optimal confidence in teachers regarding their ability to use technology in their classrooms effectively.
Matzen and Edmunds (2007) presented an evaluation of The Centers for Quality
Teaching and Learning, which is a professional development program for teachers to help them develop their ability to use technology in the classroom. The program included 7 days with 50 hours of intensive professional development that connected practices, curriculum, and use of computers. Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered to evaluate teacher outcomes. They found that teachers increased their use of technology and became more constructivist in their orientation. Teachers reported making substantial changes in their instruction practices following this training. Comments from participants included, "I think of myself as a very traditional teacher. I have started to teach and think outside the box." and "I have changed my instructional practices . . . my role from information server to coach, helper, manager, and advisor" (p. 426).
Access to computers and related training is no longer a problem; rather, it is teacher beliefs that stand in the way of computer use in the classroom (Park & Ertmer, 2007). Park and Ertmer proposed that problem-based learning is the answer to changing these beliefs. They studied 48 pre-service teachers who enrolled in an educational technology course with this problem-based learning perspective. These authors found that beliefs about technology use did not change due to this course participation. However, the course did result in shifts from teacher-directed to student-centered learning. Thus, the program did not result in expected outcomes. The authors concluded that this may have been due to sampling problems, the instrument used, and the course being too short (8 weeks) to impact teachers' beliefs. Kay (2006) evaluated strategies in the literature that are used to ensure that pre-service teachers receive the training in technology integration they require. The author reviewed 68 articles on the topic and found 10 effective strategies:
- delivering a single technology course;
- offering mini-workshops;
- integrating technology in all courses;
- modeling how to use technology;
- using multimedia;
- collaboration among pre-service teachers,
- mentor teachers and faculty;
- practicing technology in the field;
- focusing on education faculty; focusing on mentor teachers; and
- improving access to software, hardware, and/or support (p. 383).
An evaluation of these strategies showed that when four or more of the strategies were present, there was a greater effect on teacher use of computers. However, most studies had limitations in methods with poor data collection instruments, small samples or a vague sample with a lack of program descriptions, and a lack of statistical analysis or the use of anecdotal descriptions (Kay, 2006).
Successful Integration of Technologies in Education
There are numerous applications of technology used in the academe to encourage learning. These tools help not only the teachers in relaying content and skills to the students but also foster a unique platform for students to facilitate student engagement.
The most common form of technology used in schools in digital communication. These may be done via obtaining information and lesson plan on the Internet, using the Internet to share information (Bolick, Berson, Coutts and Heinecke, 2003). Some also encourage the creation of newsgroups and online discussion boards and blogs, however this falls on instructional technologies but more on that later.
Teachers capitalize on the Internet because it is one, if not, the main mode of communication in the 21st century. An example which shows how technology assists students learning is through digital archives. Digital archives make it possible for teachers and students to retrieve historical materials for the Internet. As these are primary sources, students are able to get their hands (at least digitally) on pertinent raw materials which can be used for presentation and analysis.
As previously mentioned, multimedia presentation is also an instructional technology. A multi-media presentation integrates video, audio, pictures, text and sometimes even user interactivity, especially when it is viewed on the Internet. Multi-media presentations can include animated media-text, slide shows and even record voice-overs.
Furthermore, they can be transferred on CD/DVDs and into the Internet. Student can collaborate in creating multi-media presentations. Such presentations help students share their knowledge on a topic through a rich media. Furthermore, the proliferation of video software makes it possible for students and teachers to capture digital movies. Students and teachers their create movies on historical time period or an important person in history. Likewise, videos can be used to reflect on the current event or social issues. Documentaries are a good example of making the most of video software tools. It is a good instrument to increase social awareness among students.
Another technological application used in schools is the concept mapping software. As the term suggests, the software is designed to help students in brainstorming, organizing and creating flowcharts and diagrams. Through templates, students can create hierarchical outlines, among other things. Students also use concept mapping software to analyze things, show causation and even compare historical events.
Video conferencing and blogs are also technology applications used in schools. Through video conferencing, students are able to grasp the concept of cross-cultural awareness, especially when the videoconferencing involves individuals from other cultures, such as Dubai students engaging with Singaporean students. Although they are on the opposite side of the world, these students are able to interact and learn about each other's culture.
On the other hand, blogs are very common nowadays. In the academe, some teachers create blogs, bringing about discussions with students. Blogs are also used in teaching as it fosters academic interaction between students and teachers beyond the classroom.
Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) plays a critical role in schools today and is important in the teaching and learning of subjects such as science and mathematics (Leonard, Davis, & Sidler, 2005). Computer simulations are used to teach high-level thinking skills, which improves student achievement levels while increasing student motivation. A meta-analysis of 12 CAI studies from 1985 to 1998 showed that human intervention was more effective than computers for students with special needs, but this did not address the use of CAI as a supplement to teacher instruction for even greater student learning.
The use of CAI to supplement regular teacher instruction in mathematics has been shown to result in significantly higher scores in algebra (Leonard et al., 2005). However, more information is needed to understand whether these computer programs can close the achievement gap between White and minority students. The current widening of the achievement gap may be related to the widening of the technology gap and levels of computer access and ownership between racial groups. More White students have access to the Internet compared to minority students and this digital divide may be a factor in student achievement levels.
McDonald and Hannafin (2003) reported on the use of Web-based computer games to meet the demands of high-stakes testing. These authors stated that Virginia has standards of learning with curriculum objectives for each grade level in core subjects and that students must reach targeted grade-level proficiencies. A web-based review tool in the format of popular television game shows was developed by one of the authors to help students in one school. The class that used the program consisted of 22 students with 12 girls and 10 boys. A comparable third-grade class included 21 students in the same school who did not use the software but took the same exam. Two game formats, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Jeopardy" were used to teach social studies. This format was familiar and fun, which offered an engaging atmosphereto help students learn. A separate game was created for eight social studies topics and immediate feedback was provided throughout the game.
McDonald and Hannafin (2003) used a mixed-method study to assess students in a third grade class who used the game to review for standardized tests, comparing outcomes with students from a class that used traditional methods to prepare for the test. Students in the Web-based review treatment scored higher on the test than the control group but findings were not statistically significant. The use of educational technology did, however, promote higher-order learning outcomes with increased meaningful dialogue among students. The computer games were able to identify student misconceptions, leading students to develop a deeper understanding of concepts.
Educational technology, when integrated into the classroom, seems to increase adolescent literacy achievement (Sternberg, Kaplan, & Borck, 2007). Literacy for this age student is in a state of crisis nationwide, with over eight million students in fourth to twelfth grades struggling to read. These students are unable to meet minimum standards for other content subjects as well and are at risk for dropping out of school. Further, students today must be technologically literate to compete in the marketplace. By 2006, half of the states had virtual schools and virtual learning with Internet-based courses for high school students, in which courses are provided online, with benefits for students and teachers.
Adolescents in many countries have what they need to become fully literate with the help of technology practices and applications (Sternberg et al., 2007). This state seeks to ensure that adolescents become proficient in new literacy practices related to information and communication technologies with curriculum that helps to prepare students and their parents to use these new technologies. A pilot study was conducted in Connecticut to determine effects of online instruction for students who drop out of high school; courses were offered to help students complete their GEDs. The students were successful in their online coursework with higher completion rates than were found in the traditional setting, the study showed.
Roschelle et al. (2001) have analyzed "the various ways computer technology can be used to improve how and what children learn in the classroom" (p. 2). The researchers note that in the past century considerable progress has been made in discovering how children learn best: "Learning is most effective when four fundamental characteristics are present: (1) active engagement, (2) participation in groups, (3) frequent interaction and feedback, and (4) connections to real-world contexts". (p. 5) With recent advances in networked technologies, students are now able to use the computer as a social and collaborative enterprise. Audience response systems (commonly known as clickers) A number of instructional technology innovations have become increasingly common in classrooms from elementary schools through graduate-level work. When used in pedagogically advanced ways, interactive classroom technology supports all four centeredness as described above. By promoting the more frequent use of formative assessment resulting in more accurate collection of data regarding student understanding, teachers have a better sense of what students do or do not understand. Connections among concepts can be made more readily. The focus of the classroom shifts from having a teacher lecture to having students engage in dialogue with one another and with the instructor. A sense of classroom community is developed that recognizes and honors the contribution of all students.
Sometimes referred to as audience response systems (ARS), interactive classroom technologies encompass a wide variety of specific hardware technologies. Many university lecture halls are being fitted for wireless communicators called "clickers." A clicker system generally consists of an IR (infrared) or RF (radio frequency) network to connect a central computer with a number of small handheld devices. The devices, usually smaller than a deck of playing cards, consist of a wireless transmitter and up to ten buttons, depending on the model. To use a clicker system, the instructor activates the clickers, poses a question, and provides time for students to respond. Various forms of presentation software, course management systems, or proprietary display software are used to provide students with the question prompt and reveal aggregated responses.
Students use the handheld devices to submit a response, and responses are tabulated and stored. With many systems, the teacher and students can then quickly view a graph depicting how many students chose which response (Burnstein & Lederman, 2001; Burnstein & Lederman, 2003; Caldwell, 2007; Skiba, 2006). Skiba (2006) describes the benefits of using a clicker system as encouraging responses from all students without fear of being incorrect, rapidly aggregating data involving multiple choice responses, increasing dialogue between student and teacher or among students, and promoting active learning in the classroom. Further, teachers are equipped to provide better feedback regarding student learning. Ribbens (2007) describes similar experiences, citing his use of aggregated student responses to make rapid decisions whether to reteach or move on to a new topic and the ways in which he facilitated open discussion and collaboration.
Most studies of clicker systems have been in undergraduate or professional school lecture halls. Many of these studies have focused on affective aspects of instruction. For instance, Medina and colleagues (Medina et al., 2008) used clickers in pharmacy classes on two different campuses simultaneously. The instructors faced the challenge of instruction in two locations physically removed from one another. Clicker technology was investigated as a potential way to increase student engagement, particularly in the remote classroom. The authors found that the students in both settings did appreciate the active learning that they attributed to the use of the clicker system, and preferred uses of the clickers that did result in graded assessments. The instructors reported that they found knowing more about student understanding to be very useful (Medina et al., 2008).
Similar results were found in a study of twelve university courses using clicker technology for the first time (Graham, Tripp, Seawright, & Joeckel, 2007). In this study, students were surveyed with a variety of measures to determine their attitudes and beliefs regarding the use of the audience response system. Students preferred uses of the clickers that led to their own self-assessment and the instructor learning more about the class, as opposed to the clickers being used for grading and attendance purposes. The surveys also revealed that students were concerned about the cost of the clickers and whether they would be worth the cost, considering the amount of use. Some students also indicated that they felt that instructors would use the system as a way to avoid the "busy work" of grading quizzes or to incorporate attendance grades as a way to punish students (Graham et al., 2007).
While these studies highlighted the positive benefits (and some potential concerns) of using audience response systems in large lecture halls, they did not address the issue that is central to formative assessment: did the students participating in the technological innovation learn more? Various other studies have examined clicker technologies by measuring student progress on periodic quizzes and through the use of common final exams. In undergraduate business classes, a quasi-experimental study comparing the immediate feedback of quizzes scored with clickers to traditional quizzes graded and returned the following week showed a significant increase in student achievement (Yourstone, Kraye, & Albaum, 2008). However, it should be noted that the intervention here was not just the use of the clicker technology but also class discussions immediately following quiz scoring. The relative contributions of students seeing how they compare to their peers and discussion about misconceptions and misunderstandings to the increase in student achievement are not clearly understood (Yourstone et al., 2008).
Lasry (2008) also conducted a direct comparison between two undergraduate introductory physics classes at a community college, one using clickers and the other using cardboard flashcards to indicate their responses. He saw no significant difference in the student achievement gains when comparing pre-test and post-test scores. Lasry attributes this absence of a difference in treatment to the ineffectiveness of a technological innovation (Lasry, 2008). However, several aspects of this study present challenges to the conclusions. First of all, the finding of no significant difference is based on a gain score, the calculation of which is not explicitly described. It appears to be based on the overall class averages on pre-tests and post-tests rather than individual paired student difference scores. Second, the intervention in these classes is not just the presence of cardboard flashcards versus electronic clickers; both types of classes utilized a strategy described by Mazur (1997) as "peer instruction." In peer instruction, direct lecture-based instruction is interspersed with specific task prompts for students. They consider their responses individually then attempt to convince a neighbor, followed by an opportunity to revise their initial responses. After polling the class (show of hands) additional discussion takes place as needed (Mazur, 1997). In Lasry`s (2008) study, this pedagogical technique is the norm. His classes consist of about 40 students, allowing the visual aggregation data in the form of raised hands or flashcards.
By contrast to these findings, Crossgrove and Curran (2008) found a significant difference in the achievement scores of non-majors enrolled in an introductory college biology course using clickers compared to a non-clicker class. Retention of biology content after four months post-instruction was also significantly different compared to classes with no clickers used. A similar but lesser effect was seen in a second year genetics course for majors. More specifically, the increases in student achievement were found to occur across the major cognitive domains of Bloom`s Taxonomy. The authors do also suggest that some of the difference may be due to the active learning strategies that were used in the courses (Crossgrove & Curran, 2008).
Summary of Literature
In summary, the literature supports the need for integrating educational technology in the classroom and research. Educational technology leads to increased learning and academic performance as well as increased computer literacy and social skills in students of all ages. While differences in computer use among different countries were common in the past, with more developed countries using it, today's educational technology should also be made available to the developing countries. Regardless of the benefits of computers in the classroom, the problem remains that teachers are not using this technology. Reasons for this lack of use are unclear. While some report the lack of availability and access to computers as the reason for teacher non-use of educational technology, others conclude that teacher beliefs are the problem. Many teachers continue to believe that computers are not an essential component in student instruction and learning. To change these views, professional training of teachers must provide experiences with the potential to alter beliefs.
Since the literature presents inconsistent findings about reasons for the lack of teacher use of computers and technology in the classroom, more information is needed to fully understand this issue. A study is needed to determine whether teacher comfort with computer and technology use is related to their use in the classroom and whether their beliefs about the need for computers and technology to help students is related to computer use. One of the best ways to find out how a teacher feels about an issue is to ask them, implying the need for survey research to gather related data. Further, this study must also determine students` views about what they need to increase their use of computers and technology in the classroom, barriers to this use, and what they recommend for a program to help them change beliefs and practices and reach this goal.