The content of this page was discussed and agreed by both authors and the page was written by Megan Dick.
A transcript of the discussion can be found in Appendix L.
Both case studies concluded that the computer applications the students were learning from were partly effective. Using the LOGO software, all the pupils gained some new skills and most pupils who gained new knowledge retained that knowledge when questioned later. Using the ‘Fletcher’s Castle’ simulation, the students learned some information about how Motte and Bailey castles were built. They worked well in groups and were also using problem solving skills. The program was also successful in engaging all of the students. In both case studies, it was concluded that the teachers had clear expectations for the students’ learning. Both tasks displayed some level of authenticity.
The History teachers expected the students to learn some complex information about building these castles and William I’s reasons for doing so. When questioned, the students rarely responded with this level of understanding. This might have been a result of the fact that the students had all been taught by Megan, and the other teachers may have made their learning expectations more explicit. In Case Y, the teachers also had clear expectations of the learning outcomes. However, the two main weaknesses of the LOGO activity were that some pupils were unable to express the theoretical circle relationship, and that pupils tended to estimate using three rather than a value closer to pi. These weaknesses could be a result of the fact that the applications encourage situated learning, which is not ideal for learning abstract concepts.
The authors felt that they had not made their learning expectations clear to their students, as they felt that this might affect their results. Their aims were finding out what the applications alone could teach their students. However, when reflecting on this, they decided that this resulted in poorer learning outcomes for the students. The research had indicated (Scrimshaw, 1993) that teacher intervention and facilitation was essential if students were to learn effectively. As the authors felt that this could interfere with their results, they had not intervened very much. Both concluded that they had, in effect, let the research interfere with their teaching.
Intervention by the teacher is essential in these situations, and ties in with Vygotsky’s theory of the zone of proximal development, as intervention by the teacher is most effective at the point when students are learning new things. The authors conclude that there was a flaw in their research. They attempted to discover what an IT tool could teach their students and they neglected the important role of the teacher in making learning more effective when using IT.