Software-based learning

1:1 Supporters: How do we respond to this?

Photo by blogefl

Cross posted on 1 to 1 Schools

As a principal who promotes new models of teaching and learning with technology I frequently get asked, “How do you know that the use of technology helps students learn? Can you show me research?” I have a variety of answers and I can provide them with several research studies showing positive results. But, recently, someone shared this research report with me and I am trying to figure out how to react and respond. How would you respond to these findings?

The article entitled

Evaluation of Alternative Delivery Systems on Academic Performance in College Algebra by Wynegar, Robert G.; Fenster, Mark J. shows, ” that the traditional lecture delivery system had the highest grade point average and one of the lowest failing rates of all teaching strategies.”

The study took 3 groups of community college students who were taking College Algebra and put them into three different classes.

“Both online and televised variations of College Algebra were created and offered. Web support pages for on-campus sections were created and filled with thirty hours of streaming real-media and mimeo lectures, practice tests for each chapter, and quizzes for each section of the text. A course guide containing more than one hundred pages of worked examples, study tips, and additional support was written, and has been sold as a supplement to the course. Supplemental instruction and peer tutoring programs have been implemented to support College Algebra. Additionally, the math department established experimental sections of College Algebra that would abandon the text and internally developed support materials for the course in favor of a computer-aided instruction (CAI) model.”

The students in the traditional lecture class outperformed their peers in both the computer aided instruction (CAI) model and the online and television model. This is even after they controlling for differences in teacher grading. The articles finishes with the following statement.

“These results have implications for the way institutions schedule and deliver curriculum. CAI courses are held in computer labs which cap the number of students in a class. Traditional lecture courses are able to serve more students. Not only do students perform better in a traditional lecture course, as measured by final grade, but institutions of higher education can deliver instruction more efficiently on a per student cost using traditional lecture.”

Help! I need to better understand how to respond to these types of studies.

Image Credit: The Lecture Bored me to Death

Have We Been Banging our Heads Against the Desk for Nothing?

Repeatedly, originally uploaded by OsakaBen.

This summer I am working on getting through my list of books to read. It’s a good thing that my summer has been extended because I was way behind. Fortunately I was in the middle of Disrupting Class by Christenson, Horn and Johnson when I saw Scott McLeod’s presentation at NECC. Scott’s presentation got my into the spirit and the book really pushed my thinking on the role of technology in education. For years I have promoted the integration of technology into the classroom while the authors of Disrupting Class are now telling me that, “Teachers have implemented computers in the most common-sense way- to sustain their existing practices and pedogogies rather than displace them.” and that the real disruption will be with software-delivered instruction. There’s even a section entitled, “Cramming Computers in Schools”.

Sure, I’ve complained that too many educators “don’t get it”, “that it’s not happening fast enough, that the majority of uses of technology in the classroom is lame, and that we have to keep pushing this change in instructional tools. What has kept me going is that I have witnessed classrooms where the tools are making a difference in student learning. My vision for schools was soundly based on the integration model and I truly believed that progress was essential and possible.

Christensen, Horn and Johnson are now laying out a new paradigm that is forcing me to step outside my comfort zone. They describe an educational system where…

  • the classrooms are virtual and students are guided by software that is tailored to learning styles.
  • the feedback to students will be immediate and they will not move ahead unless they have mastered the topic.
  • the pace will be determined by the student’s needs
  • the role of teachers will be to coach their students (many more students) during the various stages of learning.
  • schools are organized, not geographically, but by students’ individual learning styles.

Can this really be true? Are companies like and ALEKS on the cutting edge? Do I need to stop chanting the integration model mantra and start plugging software options?

I am going to seriously begin looking at how I can use their suggestions for school leaders.

“Use the right tools to introduce change….negotiation toward radical change simply won’t work.”

“Solve it (problems) by facilitating disruption.”

“each school should have one person – whose sole job is to implement online courses.”

“Don’t place artificial limits on what students can take online or what teachers can build online either…”