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Technology Use and Elementary School Aged Students A Critique of Three Articles By David Berljawsky Submitted to Dr Stephan Carey

Etec 500 March 14, 2011

Introduction: Over the previous fifteen years home computers have changed from a luxury that few had to a common household item. For all intents and purposes, with the rise of the internet and the changing requirements for school the personal computer has become a necessity. This critique will examine three articles that involve computer use in education. They all have different main theme yet they are all compatible and come to their conclusions by using different research means and focuses. The key theme of the articles is that technology usage among students is increasing, and the results are beneficial, with few slight exceptions. The articles all have their benefits and negatives. This critique will compare these articles and provide the reader with an understanding of their respective strengths and weaknesses when using them for personal research. Articles: The Beck and Fetherson article “The Effects of Incorporating a Word Processor Into a 3 Year Writing Program” examines the relationship between Word Processor use and student achievement in an elementary school setting. This study was conducted using standardized marking criteria over a 6 week period. Questions centering on development and overall attitudes towards word processing were the main focus. There were some issues with the data collection in this article. The Students developmental age is not taken into consideration, which can lead to unpredictable and inaccurate results. However the authors are aware of this potential issue. Tompkins, quoted by Beck and Fethrston (2003, p.145) states. “Writing is “multidimensional and not adequately measured simply by counting the number or quality of compositions a student has written”.” The

paper is based out of Perth Australia, and thus is not completely relevant to North American based research. It can provide some useful information, but is not ideal due to its research location. The underlying statement that this article provides the reader with is that there is a positive correlation between the use of word processors and the written output quality in elementary aged students. According to the authors it provides reluctant writers with a tool that is beneficial to them and easy to use. Ultimately leading to increased writing abilities. According to Beck and Fethrston (2003, p.140) “...these students may no longer be hampered by some of the frustration that often accompanies writing tasks undertaken with pen and paper.” The second article to be critiqued is “Middle School Students’ Technology Practices and Preferences: Re-Examining Gender Differences by L. M. Miller, H. Schweingruber and C. L. Brandenburg. This article is a very well written piece that provides the reader with relevant information concerning technology use and elementary aged students concentrating on the technology usage differences between boys and girls. The focus of this paper is slightly different as it examines the technology practices based on gender lines. This leads to a unique paper that provides the researcher with plenty of useful information. However the data collected does have its faults and needs to be examined carefully before using for personal research. According to the paper elementary aged boys and girls have different overall behaviours in relation to technology usage. Boys are seen as more likely to embrace computer technology. However this research does need to be taken with a grain of salt because the research quoted is from over a 15 year span. As we become closer to the date that the article was published there has been a societal change in the use of personal computers. They have become far more

commonplace over the research span. The article mentions that these standards are maintained in later studies. Miller, Schweingruber and Brandenburg (2001, p.126) state that “Studies throughout the 1990’s found relatively similar evidence of differential perceptions of computer use Giaquinta, Bauer and Levin (1993) found that boys conceptualize computers differently than girls.” A key statement that this article presents is that the amount of technology use in elementary aged students is increasing drastically which correlates with good academic results. Miller, Schweingruber and Brandenburg (2001, p.127) state that “Additionally, the greater prevalence of computer technology in the daily lives of middle school-aged students may play a factor in changing adolescents’ perceptions from those described in previous research.” The information presented is relevant and useful. Although the study does focus on the gender division with technology, the information is presented very clearly and can easily be used or modified for non gender specific research. The final article that this paper is critiquing is “Technology Application for Students with Literary Problems: A Critical Review” by MacArthur, Ferretti, Okolo and Cavalier. This article focuses on the benefits of technology for students with literacy problems, and concentrates on examining the research of special education teachers and their overall optimism towards technology. This article collects its research from journal and books from the past 15 years. The information is relevant and fairly recent. However dates do need to be taken into account when using this information for personal research. According to the article, the quality of the research is uneven and the article is thus presented as a narrative review. This has benefits, because it

shows that the authors are looking at the information and examining it based on its own merit. However this can lead to the authors using their own biases to make their points in their article because of the lack of firm research data. The information presented in this article needs to be examined on a case by case basis for best results. Overall the article is positive. It is divided itself into the main categories of Technology and Word-Identification Skills, Technology and Text Comprehension and Technology and Writing. All of these main categories have sub-categories that concentrate on a key aspect of educational technology. According to MacArthur, et al. (2001, p.296) “The methodological quality of the research on technology applications for students with literacy problems is mixed. Only a few research teams are conducting programmatic, well-designed research that can lead to confident conclusions about how technology affects literacy learning and instruction” This is problematic. Despite the seemingly overall positive results found in the article there are certain areas in where technology usage seems to have a greater benefit than others. It is possible that this is because of the way that the research has been conducted. For example, according to According to MacArthur, et al. (2001, p.296) “The research on technology and word identification is the methodologically strongest and most programmatic work reviewed in this article.” I found this article to have the most bias compared to the other articles, however much of that has to do with the fact that the authors present their findings as a narrative view. However I did find that this article wasn’t afraid to criticize the results if needed, but it could have gone further in its criticism. Synthesis and Conclusion:

These three articles all have relatively similar results concerning technology use and elementary aged students. They mainly paint a positive picture despite their differences in topic and research methodology. They reach their respective conclusion through different means. The article “Technology Application for Students with Literary Problems: A Critical Review” uses a narrative approach, concentrating examining books and articles. This compares to the other two articles that concentrate mainly on data that the researchers themselves have collected. The main conclusion in all the articles is that technology does positively assist students in their academic pursuits. Technology has developed over the years into a useful and valuable tool. I would not hesitate to recommend all three articles to be used for personal research. 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. 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. MacArthur, C. A., Ferretti, R. P., Okolo, C. M., & Cavalier, A. R. (2001). Technology applications for students with literacy problems: A critical review. The Elementary School Journal, 101(3), 273-301.