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Running head: CRITIQUE ON TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION

Critique of Three Articles on Technology in Education Kevin Wilnechenko UBC ETEC 500, Section 65 A March 14, 2011

CRITIQUE ON TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION

Introduction The use of technology in todays classrooms is highly researched and hotly debated. Some suggest that technology can improve learning and increase student motivation, while others feel that technology makes no significant difference in education. This paper looks at three research studies focused around the use of technology in education. Beck and Fetherston (2003) investigated how the use of a word processor improved student writing in an elementary class. Miller, Schweingruber, and Brandenburg (2001) discussed gender differences in computer ability. Deng and Zhang (2007) looked at student perceptions of multimedia classrooms and traditional classrooms. The combination of these three articles gave a unique perspective on technology in elementary, middle school, and post-secondary education. I will summarize and critique each article, followed by a synthesis of the main ideas. Summary / Critique Beck and Fetherston Beck and Fetherston (2003) were interested in how student attitudes toward writing changed when using a word processor instead of handwriting. They collected qualitative data from 7 year three students through interviews, observations, and field notes. The students wrote two sample writings with pen and paper and two with a word processor. The authors determined that when using a word processor there was more devotion toward writing, resulting in improved writing quality.

CRITIQUE ON TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION

Issues with Beck and Fetherstons research lie in their failure to control a number of variables. Firstly, when writing with a word processor, students were allowed to use the multimedia capabilities of the computers to correct things like spelling errors. Secondly, when students used a word processor they were provided with visuals, which could have stimulated creativity. Thirdly, the writing topics themselves were more restrictive when writing with pen and paper. These different standards for each group decreased the validity of the study. The authors also failed to point out that students may have been more motivated to write with a computer because it was a new and novel writing instrument. Finally, although this was a qualitative study where a small sample is acceptable (Gay et al., 2009), Beck and Fetherston's research cannot be applied to other populations, which seemed like their intention.

Miller, Schweingruber, and Brandenburg Miller et al. (2001) set out to determine if there was a narrowing gender gap between boys and girls in terms of computer use and ability. In this study, a large sample was used, from various socio-economic categories and demographic backgrounds. Data was collected solely from a 68 question survey by 512 middle school students (222 boys and 290 girls). The results of many of the survey categories showed that there was no significant difference between males and females. The authors concluded that this provided evidence of a narrowing effect on the gender gap. Reasons for this had to do with greater availability of computers in homes and schools, as well as prevalent internet access. There were many areas in this study that put the methodology into question. Firstly, the questionnaire used in this study was long and may have caused participants to become

CRITIQUE ON TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION

disinterested (Gay et al., 2009). Secondly, the authors failed to provide a concrete definition of the term use, which may have resulted in different interpretations and inaccurate data. Thirdly, the study lacked triangulation; the data would have been more valid had Miller et al. measured the students computer abilities in conjunction with the survey. In addition, by providing a list of the survey questions in the article, the reader would have had a better understanding of the students thought processes. Finally, the study lacked a proper representation of rural schools as well as adequate time to conduct the study. These issues detracted from the overall validity of the study.

Deng and Zhang Deng and Zhang (2007) published a comparison study that tried to determine if students in a multimedia classroom (MC) versus a traditional classroom (TC) had different perceptions on learning and instruction. This study involved 187 MC and 110 TC students in a major mid-south state university. These students completed similar surveys, which contained 23 or 24 questions, including one open-ended question. In order to ensure validity, Deng and Zhang conducted a pilot study in advance, where the surveys were critiqued and modified. Students answered three questions that compared MC and TC students perception of their learning achievements, instructors teaching methods, and satisfaction with the technology provided in their classroom. Deng and Zhang determined that there was no significant difference between each groups perceived learning as well as their satisfaction with the technology used in the respective classes. However, they concluded that the students perception of teaching methods was more positive in the MC. They suggested this was because MC instructors need to be better prepared if they are to effectively use the many technologies available to them. In addition, the authors

CRITIQUE ON TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION

felt that students were more satisfied with MC instruction because MCs were more studentcentered and interactive. The authors took steps, like conducting a pilot study, to increase the validity of their research; however there were some problems with the study. Firstly, the placement of students into a MC and TC was not random as the students chose which class they preferred. This choice invalidated the data collected on student satisfaction as students probably chose the class that interested them the most and would ultimately bring them the most satisfaction; students went into their classes with a predetermined bias. Secondly, the entire study was based on closedended questions, with the exception of one open-ended question, with the data coming solely from student opinion. Very little validity can be placed on qualitative data that fails to examine biases of the participants and is based on opinions alone. (Gay et al., 2009) The authors recognized the limitation of relying solely on opinion and they admitted to the inadequacies of their study to fully understand MCs. They provided recommendations for future studies that would involve more in-depth qualitative and quantitative methods. Further research beyond this study is needed before an institution bears the cost of moving to multimedia classrooms. Analysis / Synthesis All three studies contained problems that decreased the validity of the research. Deng and Zhang (2007) as well as Miller et al. (2001) used surveys in their research and based their findings solely on the opinions of the participants. Beck and Fetherston (2003) had issues with the number of uncontrolled variables in their research. However, all three articles contained extensive literature reviews from relevant studies, most of which were generally in support of

CRITIQUE ON TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION

technology. This literature set the stage for the reader to accept the positive findings of each study. Each of the studies acknowledged the importance of technology in education. Beck and Fetherston (2003) and Deng and Zhang (2007) both showed that technology can be used to increase student motivation. In addition, they provided evidence that students have a greater satisfaction of learning when using technology. Miller et al. alluded to this by showing that girls interest in technology has increased significantly over time and closed the gender gap. Conclusion These studies raise some good questions and each one has added to the body of knowledge surrounding how technology is and can be used to improve education and student satisfaction. They also highlight the need for careful analysis of research in order to determine if there are bias and/or validity problems with research methodology. In order to better understand the positive aspects of technology in education, and to obtain concrete evidence in support of its use in classrooms, further research is needed that triangulates qualitative and quantitative data.

CRITIQUE ON TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION

References Beck, N. & Fetherston, T. (2003). The effects of incorporating a word processor into a year three writing program. Information Technology in Childhood Education Annual, 139161. Deng, H. & Zhang, S. (2007). What is the effectiveness of a multimedia classroom? International Journal of Instructional Media, 34(3), 311-322. Gay, L.R., Mills, G.E., & Airasian, P.W. (2009). Educational research: Competencies for analysis and application (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall. Miller, L.M., Schweingruber, H., & Brandenburg, C.L. (2001). Middle school students technology practices and preferences: Re-Examining gender differences. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 10(2), 125-140.