2011 #5

Here is copy of Alison Prescott's masters' paper.  I am sharing this with  you because she has been one of the leaders in technology at the first grade level.  As many of you know, the state has responded to grants this year and has put i-pads in the hands of primary students.  Take a look and see what you think.

Notice her focus on prior knowledge and connections - the basis of comprehension in the brain.



First Grade Classroom



ABSTRACT
There are two first grade classrooms with 15 students.  Students are grouped according to their personal reading level and all are progressing in areas of word recognition and fluency.  The problem is that a majority of those readers cannot tell the teacher about their favorite part of the story or what it makes them think about.  This study is done to try and answer the question of whether or not the integration of technology throughout a first grade curriculum will help student’s reading comprehension by broadening their experiences?  Will technology help student’s reflection skills?  Will it help them with the “big idea” of a story?  Do virtual field trips help students go beyond that which is concrete to making connections to real world events?  The following study shows support in the hypothesis that technology will help students reading levels climb in comprehension specifically in the areas of reflection and making connections.












LITERATURE REVIEW
In the mid to late 1900’s, schools in the United States were spending large portions of their funding on technology.  Affordable machines along with the availability of a variety of programming tools made it possible for many schools to purchase enough equipment to open a school based computer lab as well as a small handful of single computers to house within individual classrooms (Staples, Pugach, & Himes, 2005).  With the arrival of these digital resources came questions as to whether or not technology was beneficial to children in the primary grades.  Many skeptics considered these tools to be toys.  Many believed that they would cause children to be withdrawn and create social barriers later in life, or cause them to have health issues due to repetitive actions, eye strain, obesity and emotional or intellectual developmental damage (Mouza, 2005).  Those who believe in Piaget’s theory of cognitive development argue that computers are like televisions and would “replace essential learning experiences” (Mouza, 2005, p. 513) in primary grade students.  It has been over a decade since technology was first introduced.  School administration, teachers and parents now understand that technology plays a pivotal role in today’s world and that the effective use of this tool is paramount to becoming a contributing member of the global community of tomorrow.   Even so, schools continue to struggle with the idea of technology use in primary grades.  Teachers feel overwhelmed and under educated on ways in which to integrate technology to enhance student learning, parents are concerned that their children are not getting the educational foundation they need to compete in the world of tomorrow, and administration is frustrated with the lack of quantitative research that reinforces the effects of technology on primary age achievement (Staples, Pugach, & Himes, 2005).  This information strengthens the belief that more research is needed around the effects of technology on academic achievement at the primary grade levels and how we can measure those results.  This review specifically targets reading comprehension in primary grades.

Reading Comprehension throughout the Years
Prior to 1975, reading comprehension instruction was primarily based in behaviorist school of thought.  Students were conditioned to read new text over and over until reading became automatic. Basal readers, Scott Foresman’s Elson Readers, and Grey-Elson’s Dick and Jane, became products of this era (Israel & Duffy, 2009).  A primary grade student’s comprehension level was then determined through a series of tests at the end of each reading. If the student successfully answered the questions, they would “move up” one level in their reading process. Test results were quantitative and easily understood by the educational community.  Quantitative results are invaluable for any research, however, the affects of technology on reader’s comprehension, to date, has been presented mostly through qualitative research results and therefore is not used as freely as it should be when determining the effects of technology on comprehension (Burnett, 2009). 
After 1975, and into the mid 1990’s, a “popular and influential movement” took place, called the cognitivism theory (Israel & Duffy, 2009).
"Cognitive theorists recognize that much learning involves associations established through contiguity and repetition. They also acknowledge the importance of reinforcement, although they stress its role in providing feedback about the correctness of responses over its role as a motivator. However, even while accepting such behavioristic concepts, cognitive theorists view learning as involving the acquisition or reorganization of the cognitive structures through which humans process and store information." (Good and Brophy, 1990, pp. 187).
What came to be was the belief that primary school children’s comprehension skills grew from the child’s internal knowledge structure or schema.  New information is compared to existing cognitive structures and can then be combined, extended or altered from the existing structure.  With cognitivism, reading comprehension is realized through a series of events that build on a child’s schema.
The assumptions of cognitivism
·      Making meaning through knowledge, interest and practice.
·      Transferring that meaning to new tasks or materials.
·      Organizing thoughts to make them easier to remember and/or recall. (Saettler, 1990) 
Another approach that was incorporated around the same time as the cognitivism theory was constructivism theory (Bruner, n.d.).  This approach can be found in many philosophical and psychological theories of the past but is best known through the writings of Jean Piaget, Edmond Burke Huey, and Edward Thorndike.  Although very similar to the cognitivist approach, it was Thorndike who tried to “launch inquiry into the complex thought processes associated with comprehension.  He regarded reading as reasoning suggesting that there are many factors that comprise it.” (Israel & Duffy, 2009, p. 6)    
The assumptions of constructivism
·      Knowledge involves active cognizing by the individual.
·      Knowledge is adaptive, facilitating individual and social efficacy.
·      Knowledge is subjective and self-organized, not objective.
·      Knowledge acquisition involves both sociocultural and individual processes. (University of Illinois Springfield, n.d.)
As technology becomes more prevalent in today’s classroom, new educational approaches are being formed with behaviorist, cognivitism, and constructivist theories in mind.  Although not considered a theory, Instructional Design (Dabbagh, 2006) is a major approach and/or practice that rely on all three theories to work cohesively with technology. The behaviorist theory objective is to change the behavior of the learner by practicing skills over and over.  In Instructional Design, this would be considered the introduction to new learning where anchors for schemas are developed.  This is best suited to the behaviorist theory because it is predetermined, constrained, sequential and criterion-referenced.  The cognitivism theory considers the learner’s knowledge, interest and practice.  It is very important in Instructional Design because it helps the learner in organizing information, using metaphors, and arranging information from simple to complex ideas.  Constructivism focuses around the idea of metacognition when using Instructional Design (Dabbagh, 2006).  Knowing “that” and knowing “how” are the basis for its strategy of monitoring, evaluating, and awareness, which are the key concepts of metacognition (Israel & Duffy, 2009) and key to the Instructional Design process.
Although we still know today that comprehension is strengthened by prior knowledge, the primary grades very rarely use technology to build upon that knowledge.  Taking students on virtual tours to places around the globe or inside places they would never be able to go (i.e.the human body) sounds wonderful to skeptics and exciting to students, but does that process have valid research to back that it is beneficial to student comprehension achievement?  According to Iyla Ferguson (2001, p. 27) as cited in Mandel (1999),
“The virtual field trip can deliver the same cognitive and affective rewards as the actual field trip.  Mandel recommended that these filed trips be taken in small collaborative groups that would foster dialogue and higher thinking skills.  When appropriate follow-up discussions and activities are used, the virtual field trip, like the real field trip, is enhanced.”
Many students do not take part in discussions about classroom themes because of their limited background of the event and/or the vocabulary to communicate about it.  For those students, learning can seem confusing and symptoms of stress may develop.  Often they are labeled as behavior problems, which can further complicate their academic lives.  “Learners need a concrete world of hands-on experiences and enrichment to provide them with a foundation of knowledge for when the construction of abstract learning will take place.” (Ferguson, 2001, p. 28)  The computer is the tool that will give them that experience.  
During the 1990’s, recontextualization and revisionism put into place the theory of literacy as “social and cultural learning”, and did not divided literacy into the headings of reading and writing (Israel & Duffy, 2009).  An example of social and cultural literacy through the use of technology is illustrated through the Jokes City studies done with school children ages 7-9 in 1991.  In this study, pairs of children engaged in peer discussions about their understandings of a joke or a puzzle.  The studies showed that students made significant gains in comprehension on a standardized test after using Joke City for three half hour sessions as compared to those students who participated in the regular literacy classes (Cartwright, 2008, Chapter 15).  Technology can also be used the same way in digital story telling with primary aged children where students “are actively constructing knowledge together while building skills in reading, writing, and thinking” (Moss & Lapp, 2010, p. 136).  In 2004 the National Education Technology Plan for the U.S. Department of Education concluded that “This digital disconnect is a major cause of frustration among today’s students.  Public schools that do not adapt to the technology needs of students risk becoming increasingly irrelevant.” (Rief & Heimburge, 2007, p. 249)

Technology Uses in Primary Grades
            There is little research that informs educators of primary grade students using technology to enhance learning in their classrooms, however there are three very classic uses of technology described in the case studies done by Staples, Pugach, and Himes (2005).  The first case study discusses how teachers and students use technology to support a required curriculum project.  The principal mandated technology use by students.  This amount of technology use was often determined through the teacher’s comfort level in using technology (Staples, Pugach, & Himes, 2005).  This is often the case in many public schools.  Some teachers feel comfortable with technology and are willing to use it more freely with their students, and others will use it very minimal because their comfort level is low.  Using technology as a presentation tool will often meet the school’s mission concerning general technology integration, but can fall short of aligning itself with the school curriculum. 
The second case study discusses how technology originated from the classroom teacher but was shared with the principal.  “If technology was perceived by them to increase the power of their instruction, they used it; if it did not, they chose not to use it” (Staples, Pugach, & Himes, 2005, p. 296).  Here, the principal talked about how technology was used “as a means of improving instruction and, in the long run, as a means of student achievement” (Staples, Pugach, & Himes, 2005, p. 302).  Once again, this is often the way in which schools use technology within their classrooms.  It is almost by default that student achievement will go up because technology is being used to improve instruction.
The third case study discusses the good intentions of teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms, but due to their uncertainty of how to use technology, these resources were used sporadically.  The school itself was focused on technology as a means to grade, store files, and communicate with one another.  Technology, the school mission, and curriculum alignment were not evident (Staples, Pugach, & Himes, 2005).  As schools begin to assess where they are headed in terms of technology, the schools mission statement, and curriculum alignment, they will often find that teacher support and professional development are key to making technology become a tool of enhancement and not just a replacement for paper and pencil tasks. 

Summary
            There is little research concerning the use of technology in a first grade classroom to enhance student learning in any subject area.  There is extremely limited research concerning the enhancement of reading comprehension skills in particular.  The benefits that students could achieve, through the use of technology as a learning tool, is an area that needs to be carefully researched and reviewed.  There are a variety of ways to enhance learning for young students as addressed in this report, but further research is needed.  Comprehension can be measured in many ways.  Our school uses the Developmental Reading Assessment 2 as its only source of assessment.  Educators must step up to the standards we desire from our students and develop ways to use all the tools needed to achieve greater results in the area of reading comprehension.

Conclusion
            Achievement in the area of comprehension is a skill that all schools, all teachers and all parents want to strengthen within their children.  To achieve, one must be able to learn.  Learning begins with a strong foundation in the primary grades.  One constant that will follow primary students throughout their school career and into adulthood is technology.  Finding ways in which to enhance student learning and improve comprehension through the use of technology is a must.  What does enhancement look like in a primary classroom?    Will enhanced learning in comprehension through technology lead to greater achievement scores?  What do schools, teachers, parents and students define as meaningful tasks?   

Problem
            Comprehension scores at the first grade level in the areas of Reflection and Making Connections are below benchmark levels as shown in the Developmental Reading Assessment 2.

Purpose
            To find out if enhancing the first grade curriculum through technology integration will cause comprehension scores to go up as shown by
1.     Developmental Reading Assessment 2
2.     Observational checklist of small and whole group discussions.

Question
Will using technology to build background knowledge, to engage in digital story-telling, to communicate, synthesis, and evaluate information, increase comprehension skills in the areas
of Reflection and Making Connections as shown on the Developmental Reading Assessment 2 and observation checklists done during small and whole group discussions?

INTRODUCTION
Winthrop Grade School (WGS) in Winthrop, Maine prides itself for its above average scores in both standardized testing and grade level assessments.  One of the assessments, called the Developmental Reading Assessment 2 (DRA2) is a tool used to help teachers design specific reading strategy lessons and methods aimed at individuals or groups of students on a needs based focus area.  All groups are developed and designed to raise student-reading competencies as shown by DRA2 testing.  Another aspect of the DRA2 is that it can target students who are eligible for Title 1 assistance and get them in the program as quickly as possible. 
Last year, the reading specialist at WGS met with the first grade team to discuss comprehension scores over the past three years of using the DRA2.  Comprehension in general was low, but there were two areas that fell exceedingly low year after year:  Reflection and Making Connections.  In alignment with the Mission Statement for WGS (which states that all students will have the opportunity to learn, advance and be successful students in Maine’s established learning standards) two classrooms were chosen to participate in the research project.  The aim of the research is to verify the proposal that when technology is used as an enhancement tool, to build background knowledge, to engage in digital storytelling, to communicate, synthesize, and evaluate information, it will increase comprehension skills in the areas of Reflection and Making Connections.  The information will be evaluated through DRA2 results and classroom observational check lists.  The observational checklists will be completed during small and whole group discussions. 

POPULATION AND SAMPLING
            Winthrop, Maine is a small rural community located in the lake regions of central Maine and includes Winthrop as well as East Winthrop villages.  According to the 2000 census, Winthrop’s population was 6,232 with 1,739 families living in the area.  The racial makeup of the town is 98.43% white, 0.32% Black or Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, and 0.06% from other races.  30% of families have children under the age of 18 living with them, 56% are married couples, 10% are female households without a husband present, 30% are non-families, 23.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 9% have someone living alone who is over the age of 65.  The average family size is 2.85%.  The average household income is $41,733 and 8.7% of families live below poverty level.  Winthrop School system consists of three individual public schools (a grade school, middle school and high school).
            For the purposes of the research project, the sampling will be taken from two first grade classrooms.  Classroom A has 15 students.  Its racial makeup is 100% white.  Three students receive Title One assistance, and one student receives special services.  43.75% of students in this class receive free or reduced lunch.  Their teacher has been teaching first grade for five years and has used the DRA2 as an assessment tool in her classroom since 2007.  Classroom B has 15 students.  Its racial makeup is 100% white.  Five students receive Title One Services and One Student receives special services.  29.41% of students in this class receive free or reduced lunch.  Their teacher has been teaching first grade for three years and has used the DRA2 as an assessment tool since 2008.  Both classrooms conduct their literacy blocks at the same time of day using the same curriculum guidelines and lesson plans.  Class A students have individual access to computers for a 20 minutes a day, three to four times a week, within the classroom setting as well as a half hour block of technology time in the computer lab once a week.  Class B has two computers in the classroom that are used for drill and practice skills in math, reading, typing and games.  Class B also goes to the computer lab once a week for one half hour.  Both classrooms use the DRA2 as their school approved assessment for literacy.

INSTRUMENTATION
            Both Class A and Class B give the DRA2 to all students in the fall and again in the spring of each school year.   The students are given the DRA2 to determine their current level of reading achievement.  The assessment consists of a short story being read by the student to the teacher.  Upon completion of the oral reading, the teacher then asked a variety of comprehension questions regarding the text.  The DRA2 gives information regarding the students reading ability including the level of Reflection and Making Connections.  Reflection is the ability to relate the text to something the student has done, heard, seen, or knows.  Making Connections is the ability to relate the “big idea” of the story to the student’s own life. A score of 4 means the student is Reflecting and Making Connections at an advanced level.  A 3 means the student is reading at an independent level.  Level 2 or means they are at a developing level, and level 1 means they are an emergent reader.  The DRA2 is a quantitative data collection tool that is designed to be precise and measurable.   The researcher knows exactly what features he/she is looking for in the participant’s response and rates those responses using this 4 -point rubric.  This type of quantitative testing provides structure and helps to eliminate any bias in the researchers results.  There are limitations to this method.  The researcher can become desensitized to the responses that are given, in turn missing valuable research information.  Another limitation is that the data being collected is a snapshot of what is happening to a particular participant on a given day at a given time.  These two aspects can affect the validity of the tests results.
Classroom A will be using technology integration as a means for broadening base knowledge across all content areas.  This integration was done in small and whole groups settings within Classroom A.  The first two months, September and October, were used as specific technology training for the students in small group settings during a literature center.  Here the students learned to use MaxWrite, KidPix, and Kidspiration.  These programs would be used throughout the year to do reading, writing, analyzing, classifying and digital storytelling. Whole group activities involved virtual field trips and web quests.  The technology specialist was available to give some direct instruction to each group as well as consult with the classroom teacher.
            Students in classroom A had technology use throughout the day.  Reading groups would use six computers in a classroom pod for 20 minutes three days a week.  Two days a week were devoted to Language arts, and one day to either math or investigations.  During the day, students that completed tasks early were able to use the computers to go to links on the school and teacher web page.
Both classroom A and B used the computer lab of 18 computers for 90 minutes per week.  Most activities in the lab were designing activities that went along with a project students were working on in social studies or science such as a classroom book or KidPix picture detailing the parts of a plant. 
Classroom A will be using observational checklists for both small and whole group settings.  An observational checklist is a qualitative method of research.  It is a systematic view of participants in both small and whole group settings where the researcher is able to gain deeper insights through context and emotions he/she hears and perceives.   Disadvantages are that it is more time consuming, less able to be generalized, and the researcher is usually immersed in the subject matter being rated therefore becoming less objective.  So as not to use leading questions when discussing books with students, the Visual Thinking Strategies were used as a less bias questioning technique.  The checklist used is based on participant response.  A copy of the rubric used by the teacher in Classroom A for small group discussions in the area of Reflection and Making Connections appears in Appendix 1.  A copy of the checklist for small group discussions appears in Appendix 2.  A copy of the whole group checklist appears in Appendix 3.  There will be no classroom checklists used in Classroom B.

RESEARCH PROCEDURE
            Classroom A and Classroom B will continue using the Horton Mifflin series as its accepted curriculum at WGS, along with the adopted program “Words Their Way”.  Leveled reading groups will meet daily for mini-lessons, and reading practice.  Word Walls will be practiced daily; spelling words will be developed and practiced each week.
            Classroom A will be adopting some of the “Visual Thinking” questioning strategies (Ritchhart, Palmer, Church, & Tishman, 2006) and using them as the basis for the checklist responses:
                    Connect – Extend – Challenge   A routine for making connections to learning
1.     How are the ideas and information connected to what you already know?
2.     What new ideas did you get that extend your thinking in a new direction?
3.     What is still challenging or confusing for you?  What questions or puzzles do you know have?
This routine can be used at the end of any unit of reading activity that students have completed.  It is best used when discussing new learning and what to do with that knowledge.           
What Makes You Say That?   Interpretation with justification routine
1.     What’s going on?
2.     What do you see that makes you say that?
This is a thinking routine that would be great when used with story telling using pictures from the internet in the areas of social studies or science.  Great for gathering what students know about something before you introduce a new topic.
I Used To Think… But Now I Think…   A routine for reflecting on how and why thinking has changed
1.     I used to think…
2.     But now, I think
This routine can be used whenever initial thought, beliefs or opinions about a topic have likely changed.  Often it is best used after a film, listening to a speaker (interview), or after a class discussion at the end of a unit of study.

Think/Puzzle/Explore   A routine that sets the stage for deeper inquiry
1.     What do you think you know about this topic?
2.     What questions or puzzles do you have?
3.     What does the topic make you want to explore?
This routine is best used at the beginning of a topic, concept or theme.  Virtual Field trips are a great ways to lay the base for classroom or small group discussion.

Think Pair Share Routine   A routine for active reasoning and explanation
Think Pair Share involves posing a question to students, asking them to take a few minutes of thinking time and them turn to a nearby student to share their thoughts.
This routine can be used before and after any activity on a computer.  Journal writing or discussing e-Pals and Google Docs are great ways to share, listen and understand many perspectives on the same topics.
See/ Think/Wonder   A routine for exploring works of art and other interesting things
1.     What do you see?
2.     What do you think about that?
3.     What does it make you wonder?
This is another great routine for digital storytelling to apply new knowledge and ideas.
Circle Of Viewpoints Routine   A routine for exploring diverse perspectives
Brainstorm a list of different perspectives and they use this script to explore each one:
1.     I am thinking of (the topic) from the point of view of (viewpoint chosen)
2.     I think (describe the topic from your viewpoint.  Be an actor—take on the character of your viewpoint)
3.     A question I have from this viewpoint is (ask a question from this viewpoint)
WRAP UP:  What new ideas do you have about the topic that you didn’t have before?  What new questions do you have?
This routine can be used before any group video productions are completed to help students think about other people’s perspectives.
            Technology integration used in the classroom to broaden knowledge was based on the
Essential Question, “Where Are We in Time and Space”.
September and October
The Horton Mifflin Series focused learning is on letter sound and review.  The students are given the first DRA2 to help develop individual/group reading levels.  In technology, the students learn how to utilize Garage Band, MaxWrite, Kidspiration, and how to navigate the Internet.  During these two months our Essential Question was “Where are we in Time and Space”.  The lens we looked through was Our Community: Goods and Services.  We went on educational, virtual field trips of various community workers, the goods they make and the services they provide.  When videos were not available we used photographs to help our understanding of real world goods and services.  Students categorized and made webs of workers and products using Kidspiration.  Students conducted school personnel interviews using Garage Band and turned the information into a digital storybook using the computer program Comic Life.  Students began to use Max Write and Kidspiration during Writers Workshop times in alignment with the Horton Mifflin writing program.
            November
The Horton Mifflin Series begins theme one and two.  On Mondays a group “big book” is read and reflection and making connection skills are modeled along with the target comprehension technique in that story.  On Thursdays, the teacher meets with individual reading groups to read the Anthology story.  During this time, student focus is on learning to read and modeling skills for understanding.  Using the Essential Question, “Where Are We in Time and Space” students use prior knowledge about community goods and services and related it to our next lens:  Colonial Times: Goods and Services.  Once again the students used virtual field trips and photographs to discover what it was like in colonial times.  Students created a T-chart using KidPix to show things that are alike and things that are different.  The students picked a colonial worker and created a poster, which they photographed and turned into an i-Movie.  Students continued using Max Write and Kidspiration and also began pod casting our weekly poems to post on the classroom web page.
            December and January
Classroom A’s teacher uses the checklist for both Monday’s whole group reading and Thursday’s small group reading.  Using the Essential Question, “Where Are We in Time and Space” we used our prior knowledge about community goods and services to further our knowledge on how Maine’s weather affects its plant life and the goods and services we create.  Virtual field trips and time-lapse photography were essential to our understanding of seasonal changes and plant growth.  Students used Web Quest to solve plant mysteries.  Students continued with Max Write and Kidspiration as a writing tool.
            February
Horton Mifflin series continues as stated.  The spring DRA was administered to both classrooms with focus on the reflection and making connections section of the testing.  Using the Essential Question, “Where Are We in Time and Space” and our prior knowledge about community goods, services and weather to compare what we had learned about Maine to areas of China.  We talked about celebrations and how they are alike and different than Maine celebrations.  We created Venn Diagrams using Kidspiration and once again used virtual filed trips as well as web sites to learn about China’s geography and weather.
              All technology integration done during this time is aimed to broaden student’s knowledge base therefore helping them reflect more deeply and make more connections to real world events as shown by the DRA2 results and checklist outcomes when participating in daily literature blocks.

DATA ANALYSIS
The research was done over a period of six months (September, 2010 through February, 2011).  The data collection was done over a period of three months (December, 2010 through February 2011).  The research was done to determine the influence of technology integration on student comprehension in literacy. A quantitative method was examined through the use of the DRA2.  Both classrooms used the DRA2 as a testing tool in the fall and spring of 2010-11 as part of the district reading assessment.  Students were scored using the 4-point rubric.  Classroom averages were done for both classrooms to show growth from fall to spring of each year.  This data was then compared to prior years results to see if a significant change took place.  Results for Reflection are shown in Figure 1 and results for Making Connections are shown in Figure 2.  A qualitative small group research checklist was used from December 2010 to February 2011 to gather information on Classroom A’s Reflection and Making Connections skills when working in a small group setting.  The checklist is a 3-point rubric shown in Appendix 1 and accompanying checklist shown in Appendix 2.  A qualitative whole group research checklist was used from December 2010 to February 2011 to gather information on how Classrooms A responded to Reflection and Making Connections shown in Appendix 3. Results for small group Reflection and Making Connections checklists are shown in Figure 3.  Results for whole group Reflection and Making Connections checklists are shown in Figure 4.
  
LIMITATIONS
            Using the DRA2 to report data concerning comprehension skills has its limitations, as it does not address real world issues as seen with digital literacy.  The focus of the DRA2 is to have the student reflect and connect to a short story after reading it aloud.  Often the story line is simple so that the student’s ability to connect to real world events becomes difficult.  Another limitation is that it can become very subjective in how the teacher decides to score the answer to the question although there are specific items to listen for.  When looking at the results of the DRA2 testing for both class A and B before full technology integration in the classroom was implemented (The fall of 2007 to the spring of 2010), different teachers did classroom testing.  To help alleviate the question of reliability due to subjectivity, classroom teacher A gave the DRA2 for spring of the 2010-11 school year to both classrooms.  Those responses were recorded so they could be analyzed more closely for the specific skill being tested.  Lastly, the DRA2 takes what is said by a student on one day at that particular time and does not allow for second chances or other reasoning that may show a deeper reflection or connection.   If a student is having a difficult day, they may do poorly because they just weren’t feeling well.
            The use of a checklist can be very subjective.  Often the researcher is very involved in the topic and has difficulty being objective or not using leading questions to the students.  To help offset that limitation, the use of Visual Questioning Techniques was used to foster deeper level thinking without leading the student to a correct or desired answer.  Although not done by the researcher due to technological difficulties, audio recordings of student’s conversations would prove helpful in the validity of response checklists if the conversations were then transcribed for the researcher.              
The time restraint of seven months poses problematic as well when questioning the validity of the results.  Although the school year is not very long, a longitudinal study may serve this research question better.           

RESULTS
            The objective of this project was to improve first grade reading comprehension in the areas of Reflection and Making Connections by enhancing students learning through technology integration.  The classrooms involved in the study were two first grade classrooms, both with a heterogeneous makeup.   In order to achieve the desired results, teacher knowledge of computer technology and various programs used by the school were essential. 
A school based assessment program called the Developmental Reading Assessment 2 (DRA2) is the fundamental assessment tool for reading in the district.  This assessment is given in the fall of each year and again in the spring.  Benchmarks are based on the grade level and time of year.  This assessment measures many components of reading and understanding however, at the first grade level, the two subtests for reflection and making connections have been continually below grade expectations.

DRA 2 REFLECTION SUBTEST
            Before full technology integration, classroom A’s averages for the school year 2007-08 in fall and spring under the Reflection Subtest were 1.75 in the spring to 2.8 in the fall.  For the 2008-09 school year, averages under the Reflection Subtest were 1.3 in the spring and 2.8 in the fall.  For the 2009-10 school year, averages under the Reflection Subtest were 0.7 in the spring to 2.6 in the fall.  After full technology integration, classroom A’s averages under the Reflection Subtest was 1.06 in the fall and 3.4 in the spring (Fig. 1).
Classroom B averages for the year 2007-08 under the Reflection Subtest was 2.3 in the fall and 2.6 in the spring.  For the year 2008-09 the averages under the Reflection Subtest was 1.1 in the fall and 3 in the fall.  For the year 2009-10 the averages under the Reflection Subtest was 1.5 in the fall and 2.8 in the spring.  Averages for classroom B for the 2010-11 school year under the Reflection Subtest was .94 in the fall and 2.8 in the spring (Fig.1).
In the area of Reflection as scored by the DRA2, the highest growth from fall to spring as well as the greatest average growth total comes in classroom A’s 2010-11 school year  (Fig.1).   This supports the hypothesis that technology integration helps in the area of Reflection as shown by the DRA2 test results.
           


FIGURE 1. Fall and Spring DRA2 Classroom Averages in the Reflection Subtest

DRA2 MAKING CONNECTIONS SUBTEST
Before full technology integration, classroom A’s averages for Making Connections Subtest for the school year 2007-08 was 1.75 in the fall and 2.7 in the spring (Fig 2).  For the 2008-09-school year the averages for the Making Connections Subtest was 1.3 in the fall and 2.7 in the spring (Fig2).  In the school year 2009-10 the averages for the Making Connections Subtest was .8 in the fall and 2.5 in the spring (Fig 2).  After full technology integration the averages for classroom A under the Making Connections Subtest was 1.2 in the fall and 3 in the spring (Fig 2).
Classroom B averages for the Making Connections Subtest for 2007-08 was 2.5 in the fall and 2.8 in the spring (Fig 2).  In the school year 2008-09 averages for the Making Connections Subtest was 0.8 in the fall and 3.40 in the spring (Fig 2).  For the school year 2009-10 the averages for the Making Connections Subtest was 1.70 in the fall ad 3.8 in the spring (Fig 2).  And in the year 2010-11 the averages for classroom B under the Making Connections Subtest was 2.40 in the fall and 2.30 in the spring (Fig 2).
The highest growth from fall to spring as well as the highest total score is for the school year 2008-09 in classroom B (Fig 2).  Classroom A’s single greatest growth as well as its single highest average in was during the 2010-11 school year (Fig 2) supporting the hypothesis that technology integration did impact this classroom and students.
FIGURE 2. Fall and Spring DRA2 Classroom Averages in the Making Connections Subtest
 
CHECKLISTS
            The checklists were done in classroom A to record classroom participation and correct responses.  In the Small group setting, all students made a response for both Reflection and Making Connections.  For the eight times the small groups met and were tallied on Reflection, there were 2 times that a limited response was given, 42 times that a satisfactory response was given and 47 times that an excellent response was given (Fig 3).
FIGURE 3. Small group Reflection 


For the eight times the small groups met and were tallied on Making Connections, there were 4 times that a limited connection was made, 36 times that a satisfactory connection was make and 53 times that an excellent connection was made (Fig 4).


FIGURE 4. Small group Making Connections


            For the eight times the whole group met and were tallied on Reflections, there were 25 times a limited response was given, 7 times a satisfactory response was given and 57 times an excellent response was given (Fig5).

FIGURE 5. Whole Group Reflection

For the eight times the whole group met and were tallied on Making Connections, there were 28 times a limited connection was made, 42 times a satisfactory connection was made and 89 times an excellent connection was given (Fig 6).


FIGURE 6. Whole Group Making Connections


All checklists show a growth in satisfactory and excellent responses.  This growth indicates support of the hypothesis that technology integration will help with comprehension in the areas of reflection and making connections.
Test results implicate that full integration of technology throughout a first grade curriculum may improve reading comprehension scores in the areas of Reflection and Making connections as shown in the DRA2.  Checklist results implicate that student’s response to text in small and group settings in the areas of Reflection and Making Connections is enhanced.  It is suggested that more quantitative research is needed to corroborate this hypothesis. 


DISCUSSION
            As evidenced by the projects results, using technology as an enhancement tool in the classroom may be a viable tool in elevating student’s comprehension scores in the areas of Reflection and Making Connections.  Using the first two months to teach the necessary skills to use classroom computers tools and programs was a great way to manage student’s time and involvement in this study.  Knowing the reading levels and the needs of individual students before they were immersed in the study was very beneficial.  This researcher would recommend enlisting the help of other teachers and resources in the school to help make this time go more fluidly as well as to preview some of the sites or virtual field trips used by the students.  This researcher would also suggest implementing one-to-one computers/laptops if possible but that a group of six should be the smallest group with the ability to use technology at the same time.  Pairing up students who are more proficient at technology with those that are not deems itself helpful as well.
            In the subtest scores for Reflection, it is evident that technology may have been an important influence.  The study shows that the highest growth and the highest score for Reflection, from the fall of 2007 through the spring of 2011, was after the implementation of technology.  Although the average only increased by 0.6 it was the first time in those years that students scores averaged over emerging reader level.  This researcher would suggest that after each virtual field trip, the students have at least a 20 minute time block to discuss with each other concepts such as what they thought was important and why, what they found was the most interesting and why, and what they thought before they went on the field trip and what they think now and why.  Those thoughts should be reported out to whole the whole class so that modeling, by the teacher, takes place around the “why” of each question.  Teaching to support what you say is the key to mastering reflection and field trips are a great way to get the conversation flowing.
            In the subtest scores for Making Connections, the highest average and highest growth was done in classroom B in the year 2008-09.  Although that score does not validate the hypothesis that technology impacts reading in the area of Making Connections, the researcher finds it necessary to point out that there may be a limitation of the reliability of having that test done by two different teachers.  Responses can be subjective which certainly may cause a bias.  When looking at the data from fall to spring in the year 2007-08 for classroom B, the point average gain was 0.3 and 0.95 for classroom A.  The average point gain for the following two years in classroom B was 2.6 and 2.1 consecutively.  These scores are a reflection of the time that the classroom B teacher began administering the DRA2 to any students.  Classroom A averages for those two years were 1.4 and 1.7 consecutively.  For the year 2010-11 the tests were administered by the same teacher, and the scores are more in keeping with what the district had been seeing as a whole for first grade testing.  A recommendation by the researcher, for the consistency of testing is to have grade level training in the administering of the DRA2.  This researcher would also suggest that team level teachers get together and go over the text that is used in their curriculum and list the specific points, of as many books as they can, that relate to making a connection to the world.  This is often perceived as a higher level of reflection but actually goes beyond the student’s world into another’s.  It is a very difficult concept and is best taught cohesively throughout the grade levels.  Having benchmarks available make that process easier of the teacher and student.  
            Other researchers who have looked at the area of technology and reading comprehension have found that the acquisition and use of technology has significantly increased the motivation for reading as shown in pre and post tests of students.  There have also been some studies that suggest that technology use has made an important impact on the vocabulary of the students as seen through running records and achievement testing.  This researcher found that student motivation for all subject areas was increased when students were able to interact with technology.  Pairing students is a great way to motivate, teach cooperation skills and share learning especially if seated together on a computer. 
This researcher found that through virtual field trips, students were able to link new learning to prior knowledge. There were more authentic connections to the world and what students knew or thought they knew.  Student’s enthusiasm became more evident and because of technology, they were able to access that wonder and knowledge at almost any time of the day.  This researcher also found that linking the virtual field trips that the students had been on along with other videos that were related to that topic, onto the class web page resulted in more parent involvement then seen in the past.  More studies could be done on the topic of technology and its effect on parent involvement.
Today’s classroom and teachers need to be able to use and feel comfortable with technology.  It is thought that all jobs of the future will all involve technology.  Some will have technology embedded deeply in what they do, and others will use it as the means to connect to what they need in order to do.  A recommendation from this researcher is to create professional learning communities in schools and in their communities so that the best possible learning is available to the students. 
It is difficult to keep up with such a fast paced world.  Another recommendation from this researcher would be to use technology to reach out to other professionals, not just in your communities, but also around the world.  Not only would this help teachers teach, but also it would allow experts on various subjects to share their expertise and knowledge with our students.  It is impossible to know everything about everything so it is wise to utilize what we have and know to help students grow.     
There are unanswered questions as to the part technology plays in this finding.  Is it possible that the use of technology will replace actual field trips and help students to broaden their knowledge base through the Internet?  The possibilities of where and when a student can access this information needed is unlimited when it comes to technology.  It is suggested that more studies be done on the topic of technology and its effect on reading comprehension so that we can help students potential for higher reflection and deeper level thinking.




Appendix 1.  Reflection and Making Connections Rubric for small group
Rubric for Using Reflection








Rubric for Making Connections

 









Appendix 2.  Rubric Checklist for small group

1
Limited Contribution
2
Satisfactory Contribution
3
Excellent Contribution



GROUP
INITIALS
REFLECTION
MAKING CONNECTIONS
BOOK:
ONE
A.P.


K.C.


E.F.



TWO
B.C.


K.E.


C.C.


Cy.C.


E.A.



THREE
J.W.


J.N.


J.H.



L.L.
R.F.


C.B.


C.D.


BOOK:
ONE
A.P.


K.C.


E.F.



TWO
B.C.


K.E.


C.C.


Cy.C


E.A.



THREE
J.W.


J.N.


J.H.



L.L.
R.F.


C.B.


C.D.








Appendix 3.  Checklist for whole group



GROUP
INITIALS
REFLECTION
MAKING CONNECTIONS
BOOK:
ONE
A.P.


K.C.


E.F.



TWO
B.C.


K.E.


C.C.


Cy.C.


E.A.



THREE
J.W.


J.N.


J.H.



L.L.
R.F.


C.B.


C.D.


WHOLE GROUP DISCUSSIONS:
                       
           
1
Limited or no Contribution

2
Satisfactory Contribution
3
Excellent Contribution



















References


Rief, S. F., & Heimburge, J. A. (2007). How to reach and teach all children through balanced literacy User friendly strategies, tools, activities, and ready-to-use materials. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.




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