Analysis of Relevant Research and Best Practices
The process for preparing this plan began with the district student achievement council, district technology team, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, the library media specialists and the district administrative council. The group reviewed current research related to information and technology in student achievement.
This group has attended professional workshops, user conferences and professional development opportunities to gather relevant information for the planning process. The team reviewed and discussed the goals and objectives of the current plan. The following is a summary of the goals and objectives and the status of the plan for the school years 2007- 2010.
In the process for preparing for this plan, the teams reviewed current research related to information and technology in student achievement as well as information/administrative systems in relation to the SETDA Assessment Results. SETDA is based on years of assessment bringing reliability and validity to the data
compiled allowing the district to be confident in developing a plan that moves it toward and educational system that meets the needs of students and community. At the yearly district data retreat processes, staff members discuss program improvement and program analysis. This process provides additional information to help review and assess the plan direction and to provide additional research/best practices work being done in the district that should be capitalized upon as the district moves forward.
A current review of recent research along with the research review conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction and Madison Metropolitan Area School District about the impact of information technology on student achievement resulted in the following categories for discussion: (1) a robust school library media program, (2) sustained systematic professional development, (3) effective use of technology by students that fosters higher order thinking, (4) authentic inquiry/problem-based learning, and (5) staff adoption and use of technology during teaching practices.
1. Robust Library Program
The State of Wisconsin conducted an analysis of the library media programs related to staffing, resourcesavailable, types of support structures, and types of learning environments correlating these items to thestudent achievement levels in participating districts. The findings are:
- Schools with full-time certified library media specialists and full-time library aides have higherperformance on the WKCE.
- Schools where the library media specialist spends more time on instructionally related student andteacher activities have higher WKCE scores.
- Teachers who aligned WMAS for Information and Technology Literacy to their lessons found school library media programs more helpful to student performance.
- Schools with greater library media program resources for collections and technology have higher performance on the WKCE.
- Library media specialists help students acquire unique skills not taught in the classroom and information and technology skills essential for students in the 21st Century.
This study completed in spring, 2006, supports the research conducted by the following studies in other states.There is a significant amount of recent research concerning student achievement and the presence of high quality school library media programs.
A sampling of research-based resources and strategies for administrators to implement a library program that enhances student achievement found that when re-conceptualizing the school library as an instrument of school improvement a fundamental shift in thinking must occur as follows:
- Thinking about the library program as a place for movement/management of information resources toa place/tool for knowledge construction,
- Thinking the library program is a cost instead of an academic investment,
- Viewing the library program as part of rather than apart from the classroom, and
- Utilizing the school library media specialist as a key instructional leader and as a line professional of the teaching staff rather than an adjunct to the staff. (Hartzel, 2005)
The National Commission on Library and Information Science (NCLIS) reviewed several school library research studies in 2007 and summarized five key points why we must care about school libraries. They found school libraries:
- Are critical for student achievement,
- Play an important role in teaching,
- Lead the way for effectively using technology to enhance learning,
- Inspire literacy, and
- They “don’t matter” without highly qualified school librarians. (NCLIS, 2007)
The watershed study concerning student achievement, the “Colorado Study,” was completed in 1993. In regard to student achievement, the study concluded that the size of a library media center’s collection and staff is a strong predictor of academic achievement resulting in these findings:
- The instructional role of the school library media specialist influences the collection and ultimately,academic achievement,
- LMC expenditures influence staffing levels, collection size, and ultimately, academic achievement,and
- Of school and community variables only the absence of at risk factors was a stronger predictor of
- student achievement than variables related to LMC size (Lance, Welborn, and Hamilton-Pennell, 1993).
Subsequent replications of the first Colorado study, in Alaska (1998), Pennsylvania (1999), Oregon (2000), and a second time in Colorado (1999) using similar methodologies generated similar findings. Some of those findings are:
- Level of LMC program development was a strong predictor of student performance,
- Level of staff activities related to the teaching of information literacy were strong predictors of student performance,
- Individual visits to the LMC were correlated to test scores, and
- The availability of internet-capable computers in the LMC was related to test scores (Lance, 2002).
In addition to the Colorado-styled studies, some of the other studies of note features correlations between student achievement and library media programs are the “Massachusetts Study” and the “Texas Study.” Results of the Massachusetts study revealed positive correlations between Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Scores and:
- The existence of a school library,
- Per public book counts,
- Increased student use,
- Library hours,
- The existence of a library instruction program,
- The presence of a full-time librarian,
- The presence of non-professional assistance,
- Curriculum aligned with state standards (especially in schools with a high percentage of free and
- Reduced lunch), and
- At the high school level, the presence of a library automation system (Baughman, 2000).
The Texas Study, comparing Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) results with a host of demographic and school programmatic variables, found:
- Socio-economic indicators were the best predictors of student test performance,
- 52% of schools with librarians met minimum TAAS expectations while only 21% of schools without librarians met minimum TAAS expectations,
- Library variables explained four percent of student performance in reading at the elementary level, 3.9 percent at the middle school level, and 8.2 percent at the high school level (Smith, 2001).
All of the recent research on the impact of school library media programs on student achievement as measured on standardized tests, indicates a positive correlation between achievement scores and (a) materials collection size, (b) staffing levels, and (c) expenditures.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction maintains a webpage devoted to links to research on the impact of school library media programs on student achievement at www.dpi.state.wi.dltc/imt/relevres.html.
2. Sustained Systematic Professional Development
Online professional development has ballooned and continues to grow at an exponential rate. NCREL (now REL Midwest) reposts this summary of professional development planning related directly to the use of information and technology in the classroom, which is also supported by other research cited here.
Professional development for technology use should contain essential components that research has found to be important. These components include the following:
- A connection to student learning,
- Hands-on technology use,
- Variety of learning experiences,
- Curriculum-specific applications,
- New roles for teachers,
- Collegial learning and active participation of teachers,
- Ongoing process,
- Sufficient time,
- Technical assistance and support,
- Administrative support,
- Adequate resources,
- Continuous funding, and
- Built-in evaluation.
The INTEL Teach Program: Designing Effective Projects is a research based curriculum development program that aligns to standards and promotes higher-order thinking, curriculum-framing questions, authentic project tasks, research-proven effective instructional strategies, and high quality academic performance. This
type of professional development allows districts to systematically enhance student learning through a proven professional development process. (INTEL, 2008)
Metiri Group in 2006 reports through their research that professional development must triangulate content, sound principles of learning, and high-quality teaching aligned with assessment and accountability to realize a full learning return from technology investment. (Metiri, 2006)
The National School Boards Association presented findings from three surveys in 2007 regarding creating and connecting guidelines on social and educational networking. The report shows that social networking is omnipresent in the lives of most tweens and teens outside of school and most districts are cautious about its use in school. Yet schools, educators, and especially parents have strong expectations about the positive roles that social networking and online conversation could play in students’ lives and in the preparation of the future workforce. (National School Boards Association, 2007)
Staff development, in Fullan’s words, “is conceived broadly to include any activity or process intended to improve skills, attitudes, or performance in present or future roles” (Fullan, 1990). Many of the characteristics of a positive school culture, including “norms of continuous learning and improvement” and opportunities for staff reflection, collective inquiry, and sharing personal practice” (Peterson, 2002) are directly related to staff development efforts. In general, the staff development that makes a difference in teacher practice, (a) focuses on content, (b) involves hands-on activities and (c) “is integrated into the daily life of the school” is more likely to produce improvements in staff knowledge and skills (Garet, Porter, Desimone, Berman, and Yoon, 2001).
3. Effective Student Use of Technology
The increase of online education is beginning to have a great impact on students, learning, and access to additional learning. The National Forum on Education Statistics has developed a guide to use in help learning about the impact of this delivery method on educational systems and students. Their Guide to Elementary/Secondary Virtual Education provides this background demonstrating the growth of virtual education opportunities:
The Internet has revolutionized all facets of our society, including education. By 2004, 91 percent of public schools had Internet access in one or more classrooms, and 77 percent reported that at least half of their teachers used the Internet for instruction. During the 2002-03 school year, 36 percent of public school districts enrolled a total of more than 328,000 students in technology –based distance education courses. Most reviews of education trends show a dramatic increase in both the capacity
and use of technology in our schools. In fact, at least 22 states had established “virtual schools” by the 2004-05 school year. (nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo/asp?pubid=2006803)
In COSN’s “Meeting the Needs of the Long Tail Learner”, the Florida Virtual School reports a growth of 68% of enrollees from 2006-2007 to 113,900 students, 475 instructors and 90 courses. Wisconsin legislature passed the online learning law in 2008, which states that the State of Wisconsin shall develop a “depository” of online learning courses/opportunities for schools to select from in providing online learning programs to Wisconsin students.
A multitude of studies attempt to demonstrate a direct link between use of technology and students achievement with varied success. Some of these latest studies show the following:
Research report on the Effectiveness of Technology in Schools (Sivin-Kachala, Bialo, 2000)
o Statewide technology improvement measures have been correlated to improvements on standardized tests in Idaho and West Virginia.
o Use of word processing and/or email positively impacts writing skills of students.
o Students using technology that focuses on problem-solving and hands-on experimental activities in mathematics classes demonstrate superior conceptual knowledge.
o In social studies classes, learning advantages were noted for students who develop multimedia presentations.
o Kindergarteners who are technology users demonstrate greater ability in the areas of vocabulary, reading comprehension, and conceptual knowledge.
o Special needs student populations have improved achievement as a result of technology use. Speech recognition technologies are especially valuable for the learning disabled.
o When concepts involve a visual component, interactive video is effective.
o There seems to be little, if any, proof that there are significant differences between the effectiveness of instruction that originates locally and instruction delivered via distance
o Technology can also play a key role in improving student motivation and self-concept especially in language arts and writing instruction, mathematics instruction, science
instruction, telecommunications technology, and video technology.
Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow – ACOT (Baker, Geerhart, Herman, 1994; Schachter, 1999)
o The ACOT experience appeared to “result in new learning experiences requiring higher level reasoning and problem solving” (Schachter).
o ACOT participation positively impacted student attitudes (Schachter).
o Teacher practices shifted toward more collaborative group work and away from lecturing (Schachter).
o When comparing correlations between student participation in ACOT and performance on the 1990 Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) results were mixed (Baker, Gearhart, Herman).
Effect of Computers on Student Writing: A Meta-Analysis of Studies from 1992-2002 (Goldberg,
Russell, Cook, 2003)
o The use of computers in student writing increased both the quantity and quality of student
o On average, the effects on quantity and quality of student writing were found to be larger at
the secondary level than at the elementary level.
o In general, student writing using computers is more of a collaborative process than student
writing using pencil and paper technology.
Learning with Technology (Marshall, 2002)
o Watching the television programs such as Blue’s Clues, Choices and Consequences, and Sesame Street has been shown to impact viewer’s flexible thinking, problem solving, and pro-social behaviors, verbal aggression and subsequent performance in reading, mathematics, school readiness, and vocabulary.
o Five-year old viewers of Sesame Street were subsequently found to have significantly better grades in science, English and mathematics as 15-20 year olds.
o When students use computers for problem solving in mathematics, they demonstrate greater achievement on standardized tests.
o When computer reading games were used with remedial reading students, students exhibited “significant knowledge gains and improved attitudes toward reading.” o When computer simulations were used with learning-disabled (LD) students, they scored significantly higher than conventionally taught students.
The Digital Disconnect (Levin and Arafeh, 2002)
o Internet-savvy students use the Internet to help complete their homework.
o Internet-savvy students use the Internet for other education-related purposes.
o The most frequently used student metaphor for the Internet was virtual library; other metaphors included virtual textbook, tutor, study group, locker, and guidance counselor.
o Most student educational use of the Internet occurs outside of the school day.
o Students identified the greatest barrier to use of the Internet at school as quality of computers and access.
o Students expressed a desire for better coordination of classroom use and out-of-school educational use of the Internet.
o Students urged schools to make efforts to “ensure that high-quality online information to complete school assignments to be freely available.
In short, some technology use impacts student learning while others make no difference (Dwyer, 1994; Butzin, 2001). A summary of the research conducted cited by Barnett in October 2001 ERIC Digest indicates that in regard to learning with computers (i.e. using computers as tutors) and learning from computers (i.e. using computers as a tool in the learning process for communication, collaboration, research, or publishing) is effective when:
o students have easy access to the technology and technology is in the classroom (not just labs),
o ongoing teacher training is provided, reform of teaching practices is evident with a balance between traditional instruction (e.g. teacher as expert) and that of construction (teacher as facilitator, and
o the software meets student needs and instructional objectives.
The effective student use of technology is realized when students “deepen their understanding of academic content and advance their knowledge of the world around them” (Barnett, 2001).
4. Authentic Inquiry/Problem-based Learning Units
Continual work is being conducted in the area of authentic inquiry and problem-based learning. Portions of the 21st Century Skills describe more fully the ways we can ensure teaching of appropriate skills for our students. Some of these 21st Century Framework Skills include are listed on the next page:
Learning and Thinking Skills
As much as students need to learn academic content, they also need to know how to keep learning and make
effective and innovative use of what they know throughout their lives. Learning and thinking skills are
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
- Communication Skills
- Creativity and Innovation Skills
- Collaboration Skills
- Information and Media Literacy Skills
- Contextual Learning Skills
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) literacy is the ability to use technology to develop 21st century content knowledge and skills in support of the evolving learning needs of students.
Research supports the development of these skills with different language that described the educational work of the time, but with the same goals and outcomes. Authentic inquiry is defined as the process of using questioning in connection with real-world variables to promote understanding. In “Five Standards of Authentic Instruction, “Newmann and Whlage (1993) suggest that five variables control the degree to which authentic instruction is said to be in place. Those variables are:
- Higher-order thinking,
- Depth of knowledge,
- Connectedness to the world beyond the classroom,
- Substantive conversation, and
- Social support for student achievement (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993).
The use of technology has tremendous implications for the degree to which school can make authentic inquiry available to students. Technology can be used by students to acquire and manipulate data, to produce authentic final products, and to assess their own work and the work of others. There is evidence that when computers are used in tasks related to high-order thinking, they are associated with significant achievement and learning gains (Kimble, 1999).
Learning and Thinking Skills
As much as students need to learn academic content, they also need to know how to keep learning -and make effective and innovative use of what they know -throughout their lives. Learning and Thinking Skills are comprised of:
• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
• Communication Skills
• Creativity and Innovation Skills
• Collaboration Skills
• Information and Media Literacy Skills
• Contextual Learning Skills
Information and communications technology (ICT) literacy is the ability to use technology to develop 21st century content knowledge and skills, in support of 21st century teaching and learning. Additionally, research supports the development of these skills – only with different language that described the educational work of the time, but with the same goals and outcomes. Authentic inquiry is defined as the process of using questioning in connection with real-world variables to promote understanding. In “Five Standards of Authentic Instruction,” Newmann and Wehlage (1993) suggest that five variables control the degree to which authentic instruction is said to take place.
Those variables are
(a) higher-order thinking,
(b) depth of knowledge,
(c) connectedness to the world beyond the classroom,
(d) substantive conversation, and
(e) social support for student achievement (Newmann & Wehlage,1993, p. 10).
The use of technology has tremendous implications for the degree to which schools can make authentic inquiry available to students. Technology can be used by students to acquire and manipulate data, to produce authentic final products, and to assess their own work and the work of others. There is evidence that when computers are used in tasks related to higher-order thinking, they are associated with significant achievement and learning gains (Kimble, 1999).
5. Staff Adoption and Effective Use of Technology During Teaching Practices
Most of the research involving staff adoption and effective use of technology is anecdotal in nature. The State of Wisconsin has attempted to study this in a more scientific manner with its work on comparing the successes of two separate staff development models involving the use of the Big6 Research and Information Inquiry Model and the use of Six Traits of Writing using Technology. Shared findings show that their results are inconclusive and it seems that there is no significant difference in the student achievement when teachers have used these two models compared to others they may use that have the same general approach to research and writing. (WI DPI, Information Technology Division).
Many of the policy statements or sets of recommendations follow similar patterns. In Technology in American Schools, focus is placed on the importance of learners, the learning environment, professional competency, system capacity, community connections, technology capacity, and accountability (Lemke & Coughlin, 1998). Ringstaff and Kelly (2002) place emphasis on the importance of “Changing teacher beliefs about teaching and learning.”
Sivin-Cachala’s and Bialo’s 2002 research into the effective use of technology during the learning experience
- The teacher’s role is critical in “creating an effective technology-based environment.” Teacher involvement in decisions about how computers are used may be more important than what technology is used.
- Collaborative learning practices have been found to be more effective, especially for low-ability or female students than for students working individually on computers; suggesting that male students are more effective working individually.
- Learner as multimedia designer in activities has been shown to positively influence student attitudes.
- Writing activities involving the use of a computer have been shown to more accurately assess a student’s performance than assessments relying on writing by hand (Sivin-Kachala, Bialo, 2000)
In The Impact of Technology on Learning, Kimble (1999) suggests technology is implemented most effectively when educators make decisions about the best way to use technology based on context and content and then seek training specifically addressing intended use.
For additional studies go to the following websites:
www.ncrel.org (Northcentral Regional Education Lab Research Archive)
www.dpi.state.wi.us/dpi/dltc/imt/relevres.html (WI DPI Technology Team Research Archive)
www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technoloyg/index.html (US Department of Education, Office of Education Technology Research Listing)
Summary of Technology/Information Literacy Research
There are many implications of recent research in the area of information and technology for educators attempting to meet the achievement needs of students. A few of them are listed as follows:
- A robust school library media program is an important ingredient in improving or maintaining student achievement.
- Collaborative use of technology may be more effective than individual use; however, additional learning styles and achievement needs must be addressed in determining this use.
- Teachers need to be involved in decisions about how information technology is implemented, if that implementation is to be effective.
- Computers may be more effective when placed in classrooms as opposed to labs.
- Students request that access to information resources at school must support classroom requirements and that access needs to be at a speed that is efficient and productive.
- Access to the technologies has been the hindrance in demonstrating the direct connection between the investment in technologies and student achievement.
The use of information and technologies can help to begin addressing the 21st Century Skills that all individuals will need to possess to be productive life-long learners, informed and involved citizens, and community/social problem solvers. The effective use of information and technologies in instruction can have
a positive impact on student achievement and motivation, but it still depends on the access and ability of educators to adapt their instruction and assessment practices to meet the needs of students and a changing society.
- District Schools
- District Departments
- Staff Services
- School Board