Thesis: Technology in the Elementary Classroom

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Technology in the Elementary Classroom

The use of technologies within the elementary school classrooms of today is defining and enabling the development of entirely new teaching and instruction strategies for students. These technologies are enabling entirely new teaching strategies that are focused on customized and highly tailored lesson programs called scaffolding which allow students' deficiencies to be addressed through personalized use of technology. The use of technologies to create customized learning strategies for students relying on scaffolding shows significant potential for increasing overall learning effectiveness and retention of concepts over the long-term (Wasonga, 585, 586). The use of smartboards that can also function as intelligent, touch-panel screens in addition to the use of these devices as touch-sensitive projectors are being used effectively for both individual scaffolding strategies and small group learning strategies (Campbell, Mechling, 45, 46-49). As the sophistication and level of performance of educational software continues to increase, individualized scaffolding strategies are accelerating in terms of efficiency and effectiveness (Butler, Lumpe, 427, 428, and 429). Scaffolding and small group teaching has been the process-based transformation that has occurred in elementary school teaching, enabled and nurtured by the continual price/performance gains of PC and display technologies (Nussbaum, Miguel, 147, 148). The intent of this paper is to analyze how these technologies can better serve elementary schools students, increasing the efficiency and long-term retention of knowledge gained. The experiential nature of integrating technologies into teaching supplants and creates long-term retention of key concepts and simplifies complex concepts. Technologies have proven to add significant value to the long-term retention of students, specifically when interactivity is included as part of the teaching strategy (Halden, 257, 258). Technologies suppliant the learning process and make it significantly more effective over time compared to purely didactic approaches of requiring memorization or purely relying on lectures. Technology is not the panacea, but the interaction and collaboration it enables is (Lawrence, 90).

Innovation in Teaching Begins at the Process Level

One-to-many teaching strategies often must be supplanted and supported with individualized instruction to ensure each student gets to their learning objectives. The majority of technological tools however have been designed to support only one-to-many teaching strategies. Empirical research into teaching effectiveness validates that the creation of individualized learning plans, called scaffolding, increases student performance significantly over time when combined with technological tools that support this teaching technique (Halden, et.al.). Combined with the advances made in educational software for elementary school children and their specific and unique learning needs, it is possible for teachers to tailor learning strategies both for individual students and small groups by focusing on their collective sets of unmet needs overall (Butler, Lumpe, et.al).

New technologies including smart boards are designed to allow for scaffolding and personalized learning strategies to be designed. These strategies are particularly effective with low-functioning or remedial learners, who often require tailored programs to address their specific learning deficiencies. Scaffolding strategies have also been successful in increasing learning and retention of complex concepts across small groups of students when electronic white boards have been used (Nussbaum, Miguel, 147,148).

The problem today however are that the majority of technologies are designed to only support one-to-many teaching strategies, lack the ability to customize them for one-on-one and one-to-few learning strategies, and are inflexible in supporting new media including interactive websites for students to gain mastery of abstract skills. As a result, scaffolding and individualized learning strategies are often not as effective as they potentially could be, and students end up missing out on the potential to fully grasp and use concepts in future learning. Schools that have adopted these combined approaches of scaffolding both at the individual and group levels in conjunction with a strong focus on using technologies to create learning strategies that align with the unmet needs of students see significant performance gains overall (Zappier, 56). To fully appreciate how these technologies can significantly increase the levels of performance students can attain, it is also important to look at the specific objectives schools rely on for integrate these technologies into their learning strategies as well. The following are the key objectives of innovation that are commonly relied on when schools migrate into using technologies over purely didactic methods to communicate (Halden, 257, 258).

Objectives of Innovation

The majority of schools which excel at integrating technologies into their teaching strategies first rely on a process-centric view of the overall teaching process, stratified by the specific levels of students by their learning levels. By segmenting students in this way, specific small-group scaffolding strategies can be created (Campbell, Mechling, et.al) and then more closely aligned with the key software applications that are designed for the specific unmet learning needs of each smaller group of students, and in some cases, individual students as well. Scaffolding for teaching strategy enables a greater focus and accuracy. This is only the first step in creating the potential for elementary schools to gain the greatest benefits from technology however. Systems analysis of how best to align technologies with the unmet needs of students must also be assessed. Once these steps have been taken from a process and planning perspective, the chances significantly increase for the technologies being implemented to have a much higher level of success over the long-term (Nussbaum, Miguel, et.al.).

With these process requirements in mind, the objectives of investing in more interactive technologies that can support scaffolding and individualized learning plans include the following. First, to accomplish a statistically significant rise in low-functioning students' test scores across their most deficient subjects through the combining of scaffolding techniques and the use of interactive white boards to accentuate the learning of complex concepts. Second, to create and execute small group-level scaffolding strategy that capitalizes on interactive technologies to bring up group scores of those subjects that are more abstract in nature including mathematics and statistics it is critical for benchmark testing to be completed before, during and after each specific segment of teaching. These benchmarks will provide the basis of how the combined process focused and technologically enabled approach is helping students to attain learning objectives. Third, continual scaffolding strategies can be used to fine-tune and continually monitor and evaluate the performance of the combined process-technological approaches taken in defining group-based and individual scaffolding.

After the objectives have been set, many schools undertake the following series of strategies for attaining their objectives, specifically integrating in the technologies necessary to attain them. First, the development of individualized lesson plans with specific steps where key technologies including personal computers, specializing educational software and smart boards are used to supplant and strengthen the learning process are completed. Second, small group learning objectives are created to specifically address group-based learning deficiencies and strategies specifically designed using the technologies, both computing and presentation-based to bring up scores will be created. Third, continual monitoring during lessons of how the students are progressing on key concept retention and focus are necessary. The parallels of student performance in conjunction with the selective applying of technologies has proven to be the most effective approach in integrating technologies into the classroom (Wasonga, 585, 586).

Presentation Technologies Critical

The combined effects of PCs, software and smart boards are critical for students to be able to fully grasp the key concepts and interrelationships of abstract concepts in order for long-term learning to take place. As a result, there continues to focus on how smartboards, which are capable of performing a wide variety of tasks, integrate into learning strategies and scaffolding. Empirical studies suggest that smart boards increase retention and ability to grasp complex, abstract concepts (Miner, B1). One Florida school district has standardized on smart boards and interactive learning to increase test scores and retention of concepts (Zappier, 56). There are other interactive technologies that are potentially usable for the purpose of creating scaffolding and individualized learning programs, however the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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