Over the last few weeks, we have had the opportunity to look through data about the learning outcomes of online versus blended learning and in person learning. One of my biggest complaints with the first article was that k-12 wasn’t really represented. There is no doubt that technology is coming into play in our classrooms more each year so it is curious that there isn’t many cohesive inquiries into its benefits.
For my review this week I am looking at the article, Long Term Effects on Technology Enhanced Learning: The Use of Weekly Digital Lessons in Mathematics. In this article the authors, Einari Kurvinen, Erkki Kaila, Mikko-Jussi Laakso, and Tapio Salakoski (2019) explore and compare the impacts of Technology enhanced learning (TEL) on mathematic instruction in primary education over a period of two years using the ViLLE platform, in Finland. However, they also conducted and looked at several short-term studies prior to this one.
The explanation of the study was quite in depth. Kurvinen et al. (2019) began by specifically what they considered to be TEL. They included any software that can be used with computer, tablet, or a smartphone. They did not include utility software such as calculators or word processing systems. They acknowledged that whether adaptive content was present or not was irrelevant in this situation.
Some of the features pointed out by Kurvinrin et al. (2019) are that scaffolding is built into many TEL systems and it allows students to move through content at their own pace. Typically scaffolding within the classroom can take hours to effectively deliver in order to meet all learner needs. In TEL the computer acts as the expert, by scaffolding instruction based on the responses of the student. Another benefit to TEL is that it can transfer content knowledge information back to the teacher without the need for multiple assessments (Kurvinen et al., 2019, p. 52).
Students were divided into two groups the control group and the Treatment group. The control group consisted of three groups of students totaling 40 students (C1, C2, & C3). The control group received traditional math instruction based on national curriculum standards. The typical math lesson is 45 minutes long and paper/pencil based, they may include some electronic component on a nonregular basis. There were two treatment groups (T1 & T2) totaling 42 students. The treatment group received one of their math lessons via ViLLE weekly, ViLLE homework, and completed online assessments, which provided immediate feedback. The treatment group took part in and early study and had demonstrated increased progress and continued to use ViLLE whereas none of the students in the control groups ever used ViLLE. All students received the same number of math lessons (Kurvinen et al., 2019, p. 63).
Finland doesn’t have any freely available assessments available for use, so researched designed their own to measure the skills of the second graders (Kurvinen et al., 2019, p. 63). In order not to give an advantage to the treatment group all assessments were conducted by paper and pencil. Assessments included a fluency test and a performance test. The performance test included skills such as: mental calculations, time telling, ascending and descending sequencing, subtracting across zero, addition and subtraction in columns (no borrowing), addition and subtraction with columns (with borrowing), basic division, addition, subtraction, and multiplication, magnitude and comparing numbers. The fluency assessment consisted of 160 computation question to be completed in three minutes. All students took the assessment in the spring of second grade and it was given by the same research in order to present directions in the same manner and to provide the same level of assistance (Kurvinen et al., 2019, p. 65).
Overall the treatment group performed better on both the performance assessment and the fluency test. Kurvinrn et al (2019) explain that even though the highest score on the assessment came from the control group the range of scores in the treatment groups was smaller indicating more consistent performance from the treatment group. On the fluency assessment, the treatment group score overall 4 points higher than the control group. Not only did they complete more questions but they had a significant smaller number or errors with 4 errors compared to the control groups 13 errors.
I wasn’t completely surprised with the results of this. It appears to tie in strongly with the article from last week and the article review by Catherine about online learning. One of the things that came up in the article as a limitation was that there was no control of the methodologies used by the teachers of the control group (Kurvinen et a, 2019, p. 63)I am curious to know if teaching methods of the in person learning would potentially influence the overall outcome. The ViLLE system that was being used in the study uses a blend of gamification and more traditional style learning with question and answers. I believe that by including the gaming component students were much more excited and engaged in what they were doing. I can see this behavior reflected in my own students. They are always more excited to work on LEXIA then to practice rhyming with me. They consider it a game when it is on the computer. I wonder if the success of integrating more technology into classroom is connected to our society’s acceptance of technology in everyday life or if students naturally are more inclined to learn this way. At first, I pondered the idea they it is because they are actively using it. Then I started reflecting on the previous study that included adult learners, who may not have grown up in a tech rich environment, and they also seemed to be more successful with a blended learning environment. I believe that their fundamental more to it than just that. I am thinking that overall students are able to find something in it that works for them personally. For some it may be the convenience, others the platform, the ability to expand on material that interests them, the instant feedback of some programs, and in some case the excitement of a game.
Kurvinen, E., Kaila, E., Laakso, M.-J., & Salakoski, T. (2020). Long Term Effects on Technology Enhanced Learning: The Use of Weekly Digital Lessons in Mathematics. Informatics in Education, 19(1), 51–75.