How Do We Reach Them? - Tech Learning

How Do We Reach Them?

Spring is a time for renewal, hope, and a look toward the future. It can also be a time of apprehension and anxiety for both educators and students. The No Child Left Behind Act (2001) holds schools more accountable than ever. Educators are doing everything in their power to ensue that no child is left behind.
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Spring is a time for renewal, hope, and a look toward the future. It can also be a time of apprehension and anxiety for both educators and students. The No Child Left Behind Act (2001) holds schools more accountable than ever. Educators are doing everything in their power to ensue that no child is left behind. Throughout the year they develop and implement programs and strategies. But with the spring comes a time for testing, which means a time to again hold schools, and, ultimately, teachers, accountable. The scores of the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT-10) have become a major factor in determining whether a school receives a passing or failing grade on its report card. Therefore, everyone in the school community is searching for the best way to reach the student, to instill a desire and motivation for learning that will result in achieving the knowledge and skills that eventually will show up as higher test scores. The world today is more changeable and complex than ever before. All the technological advances and availability of media have exposed children to more than their parents ever were. Families are more mobile and diverse than in the past. Children are both more intelligent and, in some ways, less capable academically than before. In this extremely complicated world students need more advanced life skills, knowledge, and strategies to aid in the ability to cope and succeed. Educators must compete with numerous mental, emotional, and physical distractions to provide these skills. At times it seems to be a losing battle. This age of media bombardment exposes children to sensory overload. In 1999, households in the United States watched television an average of seven hours and twenty-four minutes a day (Nielsen, 2000). The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, after examining the media environment of 3,155 children representative of the U. S. child population, from ages two through eighteen, found that children of less educated parents watched television thirty minutes more a day than those of higher-educated parents (Roberts, Foehr, Rideout, and Brodie, 1999). Another disturbing finding was children of higher-income families watched an hour less than those of lower incomes. Other aspects of the impact of media found in the study were:

  • 60% of households have 3 or more televisions
  • 58% have two VCRs
  • 58% watch television during meals
  • 50% have no television rules
  • two- to seven-year-olds watch television an average two hours per day
  • eight- to 18-year-olds average 2.75 hours of television per day
  • African-American children watch twice as much television as their Caucasian counterparts (3 hours a day as compared to 1.5 hours a day)
  • two- to 18-year-olds average 29 video minutes daily
  • 53% of children have a television in their bedroom
  • African-American children are far more likely to have a television, and one with premium cable service in their bedroom

It appears that those who watch the most television achieve less in school. The U. S. Department of Education compared the scores of 13-year-old math students based upon how much television they watched. Students watching two hours or less of television a day scored nine points higher than those watching three to five hours a day, and 23 points higher than those watching six hours or more (Campbell, Hombo, and Mazzeo, 2000). An interesting statistic is that before 1970 sports existed on television only two days and one night a week. By the mid-1990s, there were various sports-only channels and additional stations carrying many more sporting events. Sports, now available on demand 24 hours per day, have a predominantly male viewing audience. Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (2001), surmises, “The boy who only sees his father focusing on athletics, who lives in a home or culture where it’s all sports all the time, will allot far less value and time to school than to athletics.†Perhaps Trelease has a revealing insight into the problems boys seem to have when it comes to academic achievement. Boys are more likely than girls to repeat a grade or drop out of school. They suffer more from learning disabilities, are three times more likely to be enrolled in special education classes, are more likely to be involved in criminal and delinquent behavior, are less likely to be enrolled in college preparatory classes, have lower educational expectations and do less homework (Riordan, Sommers, 2000, 1996). Student motivation accounts for almost as much of the discrepancy in student achievement as does measured intelligence (Walberg, 1986). It is likely that little learning is taking place if students, whether boys or girls, are unmotivated; or if some learning does take place, it is probable that it will not be retained (Maslow, 1954). Bruner (1960, 1966, 1973) proposed that instruction must provide experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn. Instruction should also be structured so that it can be grasped easily by the student, and designed to facilitate extrapolation by going beyond the information given. Another facet of motivation was noted by Carl Rogers, who in his Freedom to Learn (1969, 1983), offered the principle that one tends to become more rigid under the perceived threat to self and relax boundaries when completely free from threat. Therefore, the educational situation that effectively promotes learning is one in which the threat to the self of the learner is reduced to a minimum and a differentiated perception of the field of experience is facilitated. According to Heinich (2002), successful instructional practices include making provision for:

  • Active student participation
  • Practice
  • Individual differences
  • Feedback
  • Realistic contexts
  • Social interaction

Students learn more if they are actively engaged in it, have more time on task or opportunity to learn (Berliner, 1990; Brophy, 1988). Achieving fluency and proficiency requires practice. One must consider student ability and individual differences. Sometimes a little support makes it easy enough for the student to be successful. For although knowledge is important, solving problems that encourage students to go beyond their current skill and knowledge level lead to further development of skills at a higher level (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978). Guided or scaffolded practice with a student’s zone of development is more likely to maximize the successfulness and effectiveness of that practice (Rosenshine and Meister, 1992). Practice combined with information feedback for both the student and teacher could yield a significant positive effect on performance; computer feedback being associated with particularly large effect sizes (Kluger and DeNisi, 1996; Paul, Swanson, Zhang, and Hehenberger, 2000). Learning Through Sports (http://learningthroughsports.com) is a language and math based learning system that gets students actively involved, providing practice in academic skills, leveling practice to provide for individual differences, giving immediate feedback to responses by rewarding correct responses and providing explanations and answers to incorrect responses in a realistic sports oriented context. Although students work individually at computers, there is a sense of camaraderie as they interact with the program and each other. Its Web-based Kid’s College™ program combines state-standard curriculum, favorite college teams and interactive sports games into one program to engage and motivate all students. It especially targets those students who are typically hard to reach. An independent panel of experts in math, language arts and instructional technology reviewed the content of each item in the Kid’s College™ program directly to be sure that it matches the appropriate academic content and achievement standards for each state. They reviewed items for content validity, fairness, educational appropriateness, congruence with state and national standards, ease of use, technical quality, and documentation and support. After viewing the spring 2003, SAT-10 results for Hueytown Elementary School (Alabama State Department of Education, 2004), the administration and staff concluded there was a need for continued emphasis on reading skills, and a renewed effort toward improving mathematical skills. There were 768 students on the 120th day of school in 2003 with an average daily attendance rate of 96.2%. Hueytown is a designated Title I Federal Program school, in which 45.5% of the student body participate in the free or reduced lunch program. In April, 2003, third, fourth and fifth grade students were given the Stanford Achievement Test. The following is a break down of results. Third grade students were not as successful in math as their fourth grade counterparts. Although at the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year all grades were advised to concentrate on the improvement of math skills, the former third and fourth grade students were targeted as needing the most assistance. The following were the results of their achievement in math on the 2003 SAT-10. Hueytown Elementary decided to participate in the Learning Through Sports Kid’s College™ program after the Title I Resource Coordinator for the Jefferson County School District in Birmingham, Alabama approached the media specialist/technology coordinator. The plan was for one fourth-grade class and one fifth-grade class to visit the library media center for 30-minute sessions each school day for four weeks. They would spend time “playing basketball†using only the math activities. Each student in the fourth and fifth grades would take the STAR Math (Renaissance Learning, 2004) test to determine achievement level and placement. Additionally, all fourth- and fifth-grade students brought home forms stating that if randomly selected to use a Kids College CD-ROM, they would spend 30 minutes each day on math — any sport — five days a week to simulate time spent on the online version at school. After four weeks the students would again take the STAR Math test to measure growth. Students exposed to the Kids College SEC software program would be compared to those who were not. We selected the fourth and fifth grade classes most closely resembling the total make-up of the student body to participate in the study. After gathering all the fourth- and fifth-grade returned permission forms, twelve students in a fifth grade class drew out the names of twelve prospective participants — eight fourth- and four fifth-graders — out of a basket. These students had to keep track of time spent each day on math for four weeks. Some problems cropped up: after failing to install the program for two weeks one fifth-grade boy returned his CD because he did not have the computer hardware requirements. A fourth-grade girl (designated in the following table with a star) was then selected and participated for two weeks. After four weeks the students again took the STAR Math test to measure growth and completed a questionnaire to assess effectiveness of the program. Students using the Kids College SEC software program were compared to those who had not. The following are the results of growth of all students as evidenced by the STAR Math test: Growth for Fourth Grade Students Not Exposed to KC SEC

Scaled Score (SS)

15

Grade Equivalent (GE)

0.2

Percentile Rank (PR)

4

Normal Curve Equivalent (NCE)

2.1

Growth for Fourth Grade Students Exposed to KC SEC Online (6 white male, 8 white female, 4 black male, 2 black female)

Scaled Score (SS)

52

Grade Equivalent (GE)

0.7

Percentile Rank (PR)

14

Normal Curve Equivalent (NCE)

7.6

All students except one of 21 students in the fourth grade class experienced positive growth. This student scored above grade level on the first test.

STUDENT

SS

GE

PR

NCE

One (white male)

-36

-1.4

-35

-22.2

Growth for Fourth Grade Students Taking KC SEC CD-ROM Home

STUDENT

SS

GE

PR

NCE

One (white female)

28

0.5

6

4.8

Two (white male)

70

1.3

7

3.7

Three (white female)

3

0

-2

-1.1

*Four (white female)

21

0.3

7

3.7

Five (white female)

58

1.1

17

14.7

Six (black male)

-30

-0.4

-17

-9.2

Seven (white female)

29

0.5

7

5.3

Eight (white female)

-32

-0.6

-16

-10.6

Nine (black female)

51

1.0

16

11.8

Average

16

0.3

3

.9

Three of the nine students who took the CD-ROM home experienced negative growth. One has not yet returned the log. Two did note they had spent time doing math, but not quite the full 250 minutes a week asked of them. Growth for Fifth Grade Students Not Exposed to KC SEC

Scaled Score (SS)

24

Grade Equivalent (GE)

0.4

Percentile Rank (PR)

7

Normal Curve Equivalent (NCE)

4.1

Growth for Fifth Grade Students Exposed to KC SEC Online (6 white male, 4 white female, 5 black male, 4 black female)

Scaled Score (SS)

34

Grade Equivalent (GE)

0.6

Percentile Rank (PR)

10

Normal Curve Equivalent (NCE)

5.6

Six of 19 students in the fifth grade class experienced negative growth. Four of the six scored above grade level on the first test.

STUDENT

SS

GE

PR

NCE

One (white male)

-28

-0.4

-15

-10.1

Two (white female)

-21

-0.3

-7

-3.7

Three (black female)

-15

-0.3

-8

-5.4

Four (black female)

-25

-0.4

-10

-6.2

Five (black male)

-77

-1.4

-34

-9.1

Six (black male)

-10

-0.2

-6

-3.4

Growth for Fifth Grade Students Taking KC SEC CD-ROM Home

STUDENT

SS

GE

PR

NCE

One (white male)

49

1.0

39

11.5

Two (black female)

133

2.3

44

27.4

Three (white female)

38

0.7

11

7.0

Average growth

73

2.1

31

15.3

All three fifth grade students who took the CD-ROM home experienced positive growth. Looking at the data, of the 52 students exposed to the Learning Through Sports Kid's College(TM) online or CD-Rom software versions, only ten experienced negative growth. These student participants showed an average growth that was higher than their peers who were not exposed to the program. Questionnaire responses from both teachers and students reflected positive experiences with the program. Teacher responses included:

  • beneficial to my students
  • kid-friendly format
  • varied formats to questioning and problem solving did not give the appearance of practice and drill
  • they were not bored or "burned out" with the program
  • became a math intervention for struggling students
  • everyone is a fan and likes to be a part of the team
  • success breeds encouragement - when they are successful in math it removes the fear factor
  • interesting and exciting way to get kids interested in learning
  • good drill and practice in an entertaining format
  • brings awareness to all of the schools in the Southeastern Conference - not just their favorite team

Some fourth-grade student responses were:

  • it helps me learn in a fun way
  • it can help kids with their skills.
  • you get to play and learn at the same time
  • It helped me in math; I was doing bad
  • I think it's cool...it teaches me new stuff.
  • I think it is very fun...I have been making better grades...you get to play on the computer and you get to play games with math
  • I like it...I did not know how to do right angles but now I do.
  • I learned what a prime number is...they make math into sports
  • it has helped me on decimals.
  • I'm very bad in math but I think at least I went from an F to a B. I think that is helping me

Some fifth-grade student responses were:

  • I think that it is a wonderful program to help kids who need it
  • I have started to catch up on math work in class and I've only needed help with little things
  • I like it because it has games you can play but at the same time it's helping you achieve in your work
  • it is so cool that I got it at home
  • you're having fun and learning at the same time
  • I think it is fun and it teaches you stuff that you won't know
  • I think it is great because it is an easier way to learn hard subjects
  • it's got pretty hard questions...it's a cool game.

Both students and teachers enjoyed their experiences with the Kids College SEC software program. Data shows it could improve math scores. Although STAR Math scores were positive after only four weeks for those students participating in the study, the real challenge with be in April when students take the SAT-10.

References

Alabama State Department of Education. (2003). Reports, SAT-10 scores. (http://www.alsde.edu). Bruner, J. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bruner, J. (1973). Going beyond the information given. New York, NY: Norton. Campbell, J.T., Hombo, C.M., & Mazzeo, J. (2000). NAEP 1999 Trends in academic progress: Three decades of student performance. (http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard) Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, NCES. Henich, R., Molenda, M., Russell, J. D., & Smaldino, S. E. (2002). Instructional media and technologies for learning. (7th ed.). New York: Macmillian. Kluger, A.N., & DeNisi, A. (1996) . “The effects of feedback interventions on performance:A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory.†Psychology Bulletin, 119. 254-284. Learning Through Sports. (http://learningthroughsports.com) Kids College Southeastern Conference educational software. Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York, NY: Harper. Nielsen Media Research. (2000). 2000 Report on television: The first 50 years. New York, NY: Nielsen Media Research. Paul, T., Swanson, W., Zhang, Z., & Hehenberger, L. (1997, 2000). Learning information systems effects on reading, language arts, math, science, and social studies. Madison: The Institute for Academic Excellence. Reprint, Madison: School Renaissance Institute. Riordan, C. (1999, November 17 ). “The silent gender gap: Reading, writing, and other Problems for boys.†Education Week, pp.46, 49. Roberts, D., Foehr, U.G., Rideout, V., & Brodie, M. (1999, November). Kids & Media @ The New Millennium. Menlo Park, CA: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Rogers, C. R.. (1969, 1983). Freedom to learn: A view of what education might become. Columbus, Ohio: C. E. Merrill. Rosenshine, B., & Meister, C. (1992). “The use of scaffolds for teaching higher-level cognitive strategies.†Educational Leadership, 49, 26-33. Sommers, C. H. (June 22, 1996). “Where boys are,†Education Week, pp. 52, 42. Sommers, C. H. (May 2000). “The war against boys,†The Atlantic Monthly, pp. 59-74. STAR Math Assessment (http://renlearn.com) Renaissance Learning.. Trelease, J. (2001). The read aloud handbook. New York, NY: Penguin Books. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Walberg, H. J. (1986). “Synthesis of research on teaching.†In Handbook of Research on Teaching, edited by M.C. Wittrock, 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan.

Email: Susan Nelson

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