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Motivating Students to Use Comprehensive Computer Based Learning Programs The Teacher Librarian’s Role in Project-Based Learning Kristina Johnson Touro University


Introduction The use of technology in the classroom is becoming increasingly widespread and popular; many classrooms across the United States now incorporate technology into their daily instruction. Computers, smartboards, applications and other technologies are quickly becoming a staple. Technology is used to engage students, appeal to popular culture and delivers information in new ways. Technology is appearing in classrooms beginning in kindergarten (or earlier) and often continuing through high school and beyond. Many schools use supplemental learning programs to help fill in learning gaps appearing in student populations. Comprehensive learning programs are becoming increasingly popular, but do they really add to student achievement?

Background and Need Technology is becoming, or is, very important in the educational world. Students and teachers alike are finding innovative was to incorporate it in the classroom. Different apps, and computer programs are helping teachers reach more students in a fun and interactive way. Recently, a new type of computer program was introduced and is in the beginning stages of increasing its popularity and reach. The program is used to assess students and provide them with interactive instruction as well as practice. It provides an individualized instructional program based on student assessments within the program. Many different schools are begging to test these programs, and many appear to be working. These programs are coined Comprehensive Computer Based Learning Programs or CCBLP. Schools that highlight the use of comprehensive technology based learning programs often do so at the expense of instruction time. This occurs because teachers are forced to delegate a prescribed amount of time for students to work on computers in order to access the learning programs. Is the use of such programs worth the time taken away? Do these programs actually benefit students’ achievement and learning?


The school which this paper will focus on is an urban school that uses a comprehensive learning program called Ready Start. The school is called, Mountain Elementary (all names have been changed for anonymity including the name of the program) and it is located in a low income area that is known for its high dropout and crime rate. The implementation of this program within this school is less than three years. The success of the school has been attributed to its teachers, use of direct instruction, and the use of this comprehensive learning program. The performance rate and API scores have dramatically increased since the programs implementation, and Ready Start is gaining in popularity. Mountain Elementary prescribes that each student is allowed 2-3 hours each week on the program. Each grade level, kindergarten through sixth grade, is required to use the program throughout the academic day. Students are given usernames and also encouraged to use the program at home, but few do. The program itself is structured in a way that is conducive to learning- it utilizes accesses different learning domains, engages students with animations, and re-teachers subject matter in an EDI format. Students are assessed quarterly in reading and math; the assessments determine their academic level in each domain, and covers different skills that are required for each grade level. Students who do not test high, or in their grade level, start lessons at a level that fits their learning needs. Ready Start is both a learning tool for students and a tool for teachers. It provides feedback on learning gaps, performance, areas needed for improvement and groups students based on these needs. Teachers can add extra lessons to go along with what they are teaching and supplement their instruction. Ready Start uses an interactive interface and is very engaging for students. It includes instruction, animations, games, and brain breaks that encourage and motivate students. Many teachers at Mountain Elementary use Ready Start to supplement their instruction. They are able to login to the program, and choose lesson domains, as well as specific skills, that they want their students to practice. The question posed by many in the school is whether or not Ready Start is useful in this aspect. There is need for research regarding the success of students who use Ready Start to supplement a specific skill. Does using the program after teaching a skill, such as synonyms and antonyms, or perhaps regrouping


during multiple digit subtraction, increase and promote student success? Is it worth the instructional time to have students work on the Ready Start lessons or would teachers be better off pulling small groups and using interventions for students who are struggling with the concept instead of delegating time for specific lessons within the program? These are all great questions in relation to comprehensive computer based learning, but how is it relevant if students are not able to stay motivated enough to complete their lessons? At Mountain Elementary, administration requires teachers to allow three hour of computer based instruction per student per week. Currently, most teachers at the school average one to two hours per week, nowhere near the required amount. Some students can access the program at home, given the use of a computer, but most choose not to utilize the program. In the classroom investigated, the time allotment for students is not being met. This is partially due to teacher error, lack and loss of instructional time, and low student motivation. Keeping students motivated and interested in computer based learning lessons is an issue in many classrooms. The rest of the investigation will explore different ways of motivating students to be invested in their interactive computer based lessons.

What does the classroom look like? Ms. Smith’s class is comprised of 10 girls and 17 boys. This is a second grade classroom made up of mostly students aged 7-8. A few of them are 9, and one is 6. The students range in academic ability and a few of them are very low in reading and math. There are many different behavior issues within the class, and more than a handful have been through dramatic life and home situations. 85% of students at the school are on the free and assisted lunch program. Ms. Smith’s classroom is a rather small portable building that has eight computers in it. The 27 students rotate on and off the computers throughout the day. All of the computers in the room are in the same area, and they face a wall so students are not distracted by the noise around them. They are all old, but are able to run the program at a decent speed.


The class has a currency system where they earn “Starbucks” for doing their best or for listening to directions. The students can choose a variety of prizes once they earn more than 25. Ms. Smith’s classroom as an environment that demands students to excel and perform at their best ability. The students set personal as well as academic goals on a regular basis and meet with Ms. Smith on a weekly basis. They progress is tracked and the students celebrate both small and large gains.

Statement of the Problem It appears that comprehensive technology based learning programs are quickly become popular in the educational world based on the success rate of the schools that are implementing them. This paper is going to address the question proposed by the teachers of Mountain Elementary- how can we motivate our students to be invested in their learning and comprehensive technology based learning lessons through the Ready Start platform. In Ms. Smith’s class, students are having a difficult time becoming motivated to use Ready Start. Many of the students waste learning time when they are working with the program. You can see them looking around, and becoming distracted at the smallest thing. Originally, it was through that they tested at too low a level, or were becoming frustrated when they were unable to comprehend a certain academic skill. When talking with a variety of students about the topic, many suggested that they just didn’t feel motivated to use the program. They said it was interesting at first, and they enjoy the games, but they didn’t feel like they needed the program since they are learning the skills during classroom lessons. Those that were working at kindergarten levels (because of the test placements) reported not feeling motivated. How do you motivate a group of students to be invested in the Ready Start program? Moreover, how can students in difficult situations become motivated in general? In Ms. Smith’s classroom, the students have a difficult time focusing and taking ownership of their learning despite the classroom dynamics that are in place. A majority of the students take their learning seriously and are motivated to perform their best daily. Motivation in her classroom, does not work for


every student. Since every student is important, and Ready Start is important to the school, the goal is to motivate all students to make academic gains in the Ready Start program.

Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to look at specific questions regarding the use of a particular comprehensive technology based program (Ready Start). To narrow down the field of inquiry and address a specific kernel of the larger question, this paper will deal with implementation issues surrounding the use of Ready Start. The question- How can we motivate students to use, focus, and make academic gains using the comprehensive computer based learning system Ready Start? There is not a lot of research surrounding the use of comprehensive computer based learning programs or CBLP. This paper will therefore look at how to motivate students, and come up with some strategies to increase their time on task (TOT). Research Questions Research Question 1. How can we motivate students to use and progress academically in the Ready Start Program? Research Question 2. How can we motivate urban youth? Research Question 3. How do we increase our TOT (time on task) to 3 hours a week?

Review of the Literature Introduction The following literature reviews are different journals, magazine articles, and studies that discuss how to motivate students and encourage them to invest in their own learning. The purpose of reviewing literature related to this topic, will ensure that proper techniques are used to help motivate students.


Theme 1: [Computer based instruction vs. Traditional Instruction]

Article 1 [Which is better, traditional instruction or computer based instruction?]

Lowe, J. (2001). Computer-based education: is it a panacea? Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 34(2), 163-171.

[Purpose] The purpose of this article was to investigate different studies that presented cases for and against computer based instruction and traditional instruction. This particular article conducts a meta-analysis of five different educational studies that sought to find the effects, correlations, and outcomes of computer based learning. Lowe, sought out to determine if computer-based education was a “panacea.” Her findings, based on academic studies, turned out mixed results. [Procedure] Her meta-analysis contained 247 different studies that were conducted in the 80’s and 90’s. Those that participated in the studies ranged from elementary school through college. [Results] The results of her study indicated that computer based instruction should be used as a supplement to traditional instruction. There was not strong evidence for either case acting by itself. The best results were indicated in studies were computer based programs were used as a tool of traditional instruction. The criticism of all studies involved is that of teacher bias and instructional style. Another concern regarding the study is the “appropriateness of the application used in the learning situation (Lowe).” [Analysis] Lowe, also determines that computer based education, “should be used to enhance conventional teaching methods…the one analysis dealing with aptitude and achievement found that [computer based education] had a small effect on correlation between aptitude and achievement. Attitudes toward computers was found to be positive, and retention was found to be positive in one analysis. (Lowe)” Lowe’s meta-analysis supports the idea that computer based learning is best as a support to teacher instruction. The studies she used, are rather outdated, and the programs used for computer based learning most likely obsolete. New advances have emerged and programs have become more in-depth and interactive.


Theme 2: [Motivating Students] Article 1 [Pupil Motivation: A Rewarding Experience.] Nichols, S., & Maryland Univ., C. k. (1970). Pupil Motivation: A Rewarding Experience. Maryland English Journal [Purpose] The purpose of this study was to look at methods of motivating slow and discipline- problem students. [Procedure] The experimental group was conducted with 24 eight graders, in a school in Maryland. The experimental group were given incentives for completing assigned tasks in the form of a class currency. They were given concrete rewards and also used a progress chart to help motivate students. Two control groups were used that contained low-regular learners. Students were measured through objective testing and teacher observations. [Results] The experiment indicated that using concrete reinforcement (classroom currency and progress charts) is an effective method of motivating students. [Analysis] It is important to offer different ways of motivating students. This experiment targeted low performing students, so it would be safe to assume it may work for the general classroom setting. Students who are able to physically see their progress compared to others are often motivated to perform better. This however could prove challenging for students who become discouraged when they are outperformed by others, especially those that are drastically behind.

Including a strategy that includes group and individual p where students receive rewards individually, such as a class currency which can then be turned into a prize, serves to motivate both groups of students. This indicates that using both methods in a classroom setting could prove to be beneficial for all those involved. This may work for using computer based learning programs as well.

Article 2 [Teaching for Consequences.] Hansen, J. (1998). Teaching for Consequences. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 35(1), 18-20.


[Purpose] This article appeared in a journal and is a review of previously conducted research. It aims to discuss and explore different ways of managing a classroom, and a particular management style. The article discusses the idea of motivating by rewards. [Procedure] This article looked at eleven different resources related to the topic at hand. [Results] the results indicated that some students are motivated by grades, praise and recognition, and acknowledgement. The author indicates that students are most likely motivated both extrinsically and intrinsically especially when the rewards are reflections of their interests. [Analysis] This article looks at different ways of classroom management and touches upon motivating students. The implications of this article are reminders that students need to be motivated in a multitude of ways. This is possible through tangible rewards or intrinsic awards that appeal to the student themselves, such as selfgratification.

Article 3 [How To Motivate Students] Girmus, R. L. (2012). How to Motivate Your Students. Online Submission, [Purpose] The purpose of this article is to investigate different methods of motivating students. The article discusses seven motivational strategies. [Procedures] The literature review looked at 190 different articles and analytical reviews surround issues dealing with motivation. Seven strategies were then identified in which successful teachers use with their students. [Results] the results indicated that there were seven strategies common throughout the research. These seven strategies are, “(1) Extrinsic rewards, (2) Social interactions, (3) Student autonomy and choice, (4) Situational interest, (5) Goal setting, (6) Competition, and (7) Relevancy and meaning-making. This research highlights the importance of student motivation in academic settings and suggests that teachers use motivational practices to improve academic achievement in their classrooms.” [Analysis] The research indicates that using these different strategies can help students become motivated and increase their academic performance. Using all of these strategies or in an appropriate combination can help motivate students to complete their online learning tasks.


Theme 3: [Motivating Urban Youth]

Article 1 [Motivating Urban Youth]

Curwin, R. L. (2010). Motivating Urban Youth. Reclaiming Children And Youth, 19(1), 35-39. [Purpose] the purpose of this article was to discuss urban youth and how to motivate them academically. [Procedures] No procedures were included in the article. [Results] The author discusses the problems facing urban youths and how we can help them. Curwin suggests that there are strategies that fir all students, but some are particular effective with students that are struggling with issues prominent in urban areas. Curwin suggests that they key to inspiring those students are, “Creating a hopeful attitude in students whose hope is in short supply is the key to inspiring motivation in urban youth. The author discusses four keys to building hope: (1) believe in students; (2) genuinely care about students; (3) refuse to give up on them; and (4) start making a difference.” [Analysis] The students at Mountain Elementary are from an urban area, using these strategies in correlations with those previously discussed, will hopefully yield positive results. Implementing these motivational strategies may help students increase their academic achievement and perhaps motivate them to participate in their comprehensive computer based learning lessons.

Conclusion Many of us struggle with motivation ourselves whether it is going to the gym, learning a new language, staying on track with a diet, completing our school work and it becomes even more difficult when we are unable to see the point. Imagine how difficult it must be for students! Many students are dealing with issues that are more pressing to them than academics. They might be worrying about where their next meal is coming from, where they are going to sleep at night, even who if anyone, is going to pick them up from


school. They may go home to a family where substances are an issue, or a family that is dysfunctional. Maybe they go home to an empty house and must take care of younger bothers or sisters. Not every student has an ideal home life, urban youth often have a very difficult time finding motivation, because they have other pressing issues to contend with. In Ms. Smiths class, many of the students are dealing with such situations at home. Some of the students come to school without being bathed for weeks, without breakfast, and shoes that are two sizes two small or too big. There are students in the classroom with parents that abuse substances, siblings that have been murdered or are in gangs. Some of them have many siblings and are required to look after them. Many have parents that cannot read, and parents that are unable to provide for themselves and their children. There are a few students who at one point or another were homeless, and many of them take leftover school food home to feed their families. Please keep in mind that these students are seven, eight and nine. They are dealing with issues that are more pressing than, “did I do my homework.” Working with urban youth is very rewarding and also emotionally taxing. Helping students realize that education is important and will help them in the future can be difficult to instill. Motivating students to want to lean as oppose to making them feel that they have to learn is a daunting task. They do have to learn, but the goal is to create lifelong learners, and the only way to do that is to help students want to learn. Motivating students to use Ready Start is the goal of this paper, so motivating students in general, will help with that goal. Finding ways to motivate students and be invested in their futures is key. Richard L. Curwin, author of Meeting Students Where They Live, asserts that consequences is usually not a good way to motivate students. Working with students can often lead to disciplinary issues. In Ms. Smith’s class, classroom management is a daunting task. There are 27 students in the classroom, managing the class and minimizing behavior issues, is key in instruction. If many students are acting out, it makes instruction very difficult. Often consequences are used in managing a classroom. In Ms. Smith’s class, a behavior tracker is used. Students are “clipped down” for not following directions and distracting the class. In classroom management, consequences are important, but so is rewarding for good behavior.


Curwin suggest that, “threats can produce behavior changes, but students who are continually threatened often develop a psychological "immune system" that can render such attempts at coercion useless. These students have been threatened so many times that they no longer fear the worst a teacher can inflict upon them. Ironically, when threats do work, it is usually with good students, who rarely receive them and, consequently, are more frightened by them. Regardless, changes in behavior do not necessarily equal motivation” (Curwin, ). With that being said, we need to motivate our students academically, not just motivate them to improve classroom behavior. Urban youth are often used to threats, threatening them or bullying them into doing work can result in students becoming numb to them, and performing at the bare minimum. This often results in very little academic progress. Curwin suggest that by reducing the number of threats in a classroom, and instead celebrating academic gains leads to a more joyful experience. When this occurs the students who do the bare minimum are often motivated to do more, learn more, and participate! Each student is an individual, and each student learns different. It is safe to assume, that each student is motivated differently! If students are motivated differently, you must try a variety of things in order to reach each individual student. Curwin states that, “What is motivating to one student is not necessarily motivating to all. Some students like group activities; others hate them. Some learn by listening, others by seeing, and still others by doing. These factors all affect motivation. To successfully motivate, we must accept that fair is not the same as equal—that is, applying the same motivational strategy to all students may be equal, but if one student responds well to that technique and another student does not, it is almost certainly not fair” (curwin). In a classroom it is important to address the different learning domains. Each student deserves to learn in a way that works for them. In many different classrooms teachers only teach one way, lecturing and talking! This doesn’t work for many if not most students. Many of us have experienced that person who talks and talks and talks. After a while, we just stop listening both intentionally and unintentionally. This happens to our students as well. If the lesson is not engaging, or students are not taking ownership of the material, no learning gets done and


students often fail to see the point of the lesson. Teaching requires differentiations, motivations also requires this. We need to tailor our motivation or individual students! Let’s be realistic though, time is a precious commodity in life and in teaching! There is not enough of it! How would it be possible to do individual motivational plans for each of the 27 students in Ms. Smith’s class? Realistically that just won’t work. It seems more likely and time effective to implement multiple motivational strategies. Then you can look and see who those strategies didn’t work for, and come up with a few individual plans. Curwin suggests a few strategies that may help motivate urban youth and may help in Ms. Smith’s classroom. He suggest that we need to, “Build hope, believe in students, use evaluation to encourage and build learning rather than defeat it, genuinely care about students, refuse to give up on students, no matter how hard they try to make us quit, stop thinking "What difference can I make?" and start making a difference. Teachers have the power to change lives....changes in attitude, however, are not enough. We must also take action. Concrete steps we can take include; welcoming all students, building lessons that involve and engage, motivating and energizing ourselves” (Curwin).

These ideas will help Smith in motivating her class to buy into their education. Creating and nourishing a learning atmosphere is key in helping student success. Implementing a blanket motivational strategies, and then tailoring it to individual students will help improve the learning outcomes within the classrooms.

Summary Motivating students should include a variety of strategies. Mountain Elementary is a school located in an urban setting and many have difficult home situations. It is important to help students become invested in their futures and to strive to succeed. The motivation techniques that might help motivate theses students are important to include. Students need to be motivated in a plethora of different ways, both intrinsically and extrinsically. The research indicates that creating a program that uses rewards and intrinsic motivation would


be best in motivating students to succeed. The atmosphere of the classroom needs to foster learning and support small academic gains. Finding individual means of motivation will help students’ achievement and motivation. In terms of Ready Start, using these ideas and tailoring them to include the program, will meet the needs of school administration and the learning needs of the students.

Research Methods

Project Introduction This project deals with an issue that many teachers at Mountain Elementary face- how can we increase our time on task and motivate students to make academic gains in the program. This paper will address one particular case study of a second grade class at Mountain Elementary. We shall call the teacher, Ms. Smith. Currently, the total time on task (time spent on lessons within the Ready Start Program) averages around an hour. At this particular school a three hour minimum is set as the goal per week for each individual child. Ms. Smith’s classroom falls short of this mark, her students don’t particularly feel motivated to work on the program. The aim of this project is to help motivate students to succeed and increase the total time on task. The project aims to use and implement extrinsic and intrinsic modes of motivation that has been indicated as successful based on relevant research on the project. The project will consist of looking at data for Ms. Smith’s classroom, without any altering. Then different strategies will be used an in attempt to increase the TOT. Since the ultimate goals is to meet the three hour minimum for the classroom, different strategies may work for certain students. For this reason, data will be collected for each time a new strategies is introduced.


Materials 1) Class currency system students purchase prizes 2) Prizes with different values, and that appeal to different students 3) Poster Board with individual student progress denoting lessons passed in English and in Math 4) Goal setting sheet for each student 5) Special prize for students with lessons gains of 25+ 6) Survey measuring student attitudes towards the motivations 7) Student attitudes towards feelings of CBLP 8) Notebook for anecdotal evidence

Means of Motivation 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) Individualized motivational plans Personal goals Incentives High standards- support in achieving those Less consequences in terms of learning

Data Analysis Plan Data of TOT and student progress will be needed before and after the materials are put into place. A questionnaire will be given to 27 students, twice, to measure their thoughts and feeling towards the program. The questions will be closed, and open ended. Teacher attitudes will be measured and anecdotal evidence will be collected. TOT will be measured each time a new strategy for motivating students is put in place. Then TOT will be compared with a sister class who are not using similar techniques.




Curwin, R. L. (2010a). Motivating Urban Youth. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 19(1), 35-39. Girmus, R. L. (2012). How to Motivate Your Students: Online Submission. Hansen, J. M. (1998). Teaching for Consequences. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 35(1), 18-20. Nichols, S., & Maryland Univ, C. P. (1970). Pupil Motivation: A Rewarding Experience: Maryland English Journal.