Aligning Research with Classroom Practice: 1:1, Digital Divide, and Moodle

from Educators' eZine

Learning With Technology: The Impact of Laptop Use on Student Achievement

If your objective is to increase student achievement in schools, you must read these research results.

Here's the bottom line. Student participants in a "Laptop Immersion Program" demonstrated higher achievement levels over several indicators compared to nonparticipants.

Here are the basic details. This research examined the impact of the "Laptop Immersion Program" on academic achievement in the Harvest Park Middle School in Pleasanton, California. Although all students followed the same grade level curriculum, program participants received full-time access to a laptop computer. (Parents purchased the laptop for their child. Loaners served families unable to afford this expense.)

The demographics of participating students closely mirrored the nonparticipating population over several categories including ethnicity, gender, gifted and talented, special education, economically disadvantaged, English learner and parent's education level. Since the program was open to all students, this fortunate coincidence provided two statistically matched sets of learners to compare.

The academic achievement of over 250 students from both cohorts (participating and non-participating) were analyzed over five outcome indicators—grade point averages, end of course grades, district writing assessment results, standardized norm referenced test scores and criterion referenced test outcomes.

Baseline data showed similar achievement levels prior to the Laptop Immersion Program. After only one year, however, participating students "earned significantly higher test scores and grades in writing, English-language arts, mathematics and overall Grade Point Averages". Statistical analysis over the next two years confirmed continuing superior academic achievement.

This research is one of the few reliable studies to inextricably link a 1:1 laptop program with increased academic achievement in several outcomes areas over three successive years. The significance of this contribution is substantial.

Gulek, J.C. & Demirtas, H. (2005, January). Learning with technology: The impact of laptop use on student achievement. The Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment, 3(2), 1-39.

Latinos Online: Hispanics With Lower Levels of Education and English Proficiency Remain Largely Disconnected from the Internet

Over a decade ago, the term digital divide was conceived to reveal the deep chasm between individuals with and without technology access. Does the gap still exist today?

The Pew Hispanic Center, a unit within the nonpartisan and prestigious Pew Research Center, recently explored a slice of the broader digital divide phenomenon—Internet use. Data was obtained through telephone interviews of 6,016 Hispanic and 2,928 Non-Hispanic adults.

Their results document disparities. English dominant and bilingual Latinos, for example, use the Internet nearly two and a half times more often than Spanish-dominant language adults. Internet use also varies by race. Only 56% of Hispanics, compared to 71% of Whites and 60% of African-Americans, are online consumers.

U.S. born Latinos use the Internet approximately twice as often as those born outside America (76% versus 43%). Although language may account for some divergence, a family's receptiveness to technology as well as their socio-economic condition may also influence access.

Latino college graduates use the Internet more frequently than high school graduates and nearly three times as much as high school non-completers. (This non-completer rate is similar for African Americans and Whites.)

Although specific recommendations for change are absent from this report, here are two practical suggestions.

Increasing access to computers in schools will begin to break the connection between educational attainment and frequency of Internet use. Creating and sustaining fully equipped technology environments in every classroom, regardless of grade level, will produce remarkable results. Coupled with sound pedagogical practices, learners will eventually appreciate and respect the Internet as an irreplaceable, life-long resource.

Shattering the language barrier is also possible. Instantly and seamlessly translating web pages into another language is accomplished through Babelfish. Resetting the Internet Explorer language preference is an alternative yielding similar results. Ironically, technology itself offers non-English and limited English language learners viable solutions.

Evidence of the digital divide regrettably continues ten years after conception. This disappointing revelation frustrates some to the point of professional paralysis. Others become inspired. Will you personally accept the challenge to narrow the divide? How will you make a difference?

Fox, S. & Livingston, G. (2007, March). Latinos online: Hispanics with lower levels of education and English proficiency remain largely disconnected from the Internet. Pew Hispanic Center and Pew Internet Project, 1-16.

Moodle: An Open Learning Content Management System for Schools (CoSN Open Technologies Implementation Study #3)

With over 17,000,000 users, Moodle is one of the premier free, open source software e-learning platforms for PreK-12 schools.

Implementation insights from five diverse educational organizations are featured in this descriptive study by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). Those selected included two public school systems (East Grand Rapids Public Schools in Michigan and Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Tennessee), one state-wide service center (Arizona School Services Through Educational Technology), one California private school (Valley Christian Schools) and one California charter school (Eagles Peak Charter School).

Unlike most implementation studies where "exemplary best practices" are touted, this study features real world "snapshots". Educators tell their authentic stories while illuminating the power and versatility of this software.

Moodle is the "Swiss army knife of instructional technology" according to the East Grand Rapids Public Schools. Teachers in various disciplines (e.g. Speech, Spanish, Genetics, and Arts) successfully tailored Moodle to meet particular educational needs.

They suggest implementing Moodle through a slow and deliberate grassroots process. ""[Moodle] has been successful because we have not set any benchmarks or goals. We kind of view it as a . . . multipurpose tool. . . Do not push your staff too hard to use Moodle. Let Moodle sell itself."

Both Clarksville-Montgomery and Arizona School Services use Moodle to provide an array of distance learning professional development courses. Although Moodle facilitates distance learning, the Instructional Technology Coordinator for Clarksville-Montgomery reminds us that "school districts . . . need to realize the time factor not only in developing a course but also facilitating anytime/anywhere" teaching and learning.

The greatest barriers to implementation in the Valley Christian Schools (VCS) were "teachers' lack of awareness and reluctance to innovate". These common obstacles were overcome through a common strategy—building on the successes of their early adopters. In just three years, the number of teachers using Moodle increased by 10%.

Their level of expertise also expanded over this time period. Using sophisticated Moodle tools, VCS teachers developed and now offer fully accredited courses through their e-learning portal, "Virtual Valley".

Eagle Peak Charter School (EPCS) serves 3,500 K-12 home schoolers in Southern California. Some students attend EPCS onsite two to five days per week. Basic Moodle tools enhance instruction in these blended classes. On-demand, asynchronous online courses are also available. They primarily serve the independent study needs of full-time home schoolers.

Additional interesting details on each of the organizations are available through the web address listed below.

By the way, you might be curious about Moodle's unique name. It's an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. This factoid is useful when playing trivia games, completing crossword puzzles or impressing your colleagues.

The Consortium for School Networking. (2008, January). Moodle: An open learning content management system for schools (CoSN K12 open technologies implementation study #3), 1-16.

Janet Buckenmeyer -