Teacher and Staff

Teacher and Staff Reports of Changes in Children's Literacy Behaviors over Time
When children participated in an ITLC activity for a year, teachers and classroom staff reported a change in language, social interaction, and ability to attend. Comments included:
The computer provides a lot of good language models when reading the stories for the children. The children are also using a lot of language while at the computer. Also, we see that the children are typing their messages and printing them out at the computer. These are their own stories or poems and sometimes the children keep them and sometimes give them to a friend. The children are also sending messages over the telephone (on KidDesk) for another friend, so they are using language in that way.

Many, many of the boys and girls who do not really care to use the book center because it is not lively enough or because they have attention difficulties love the Living Books...they like to watch it read to them; they click on individual words to hear them spoken. They take the actual storybook and follow along as the computer reads. They turn the pages with the computer.

They are making books of several pages in length, illustrating, and dictating words to it. It is a story that makes sense and has sequence. They like to hook the pages together so it turns the pages like the computer. They have drawn arrows at the bottoms of the pages like the computer.

As the computer highlights the words on the page, [the children] are hearing the stories at the same time they are seeing the page. They are learning left to right progression of the words and reading top to bottom. The children are understanding that the words they hear are printed on the screen.

In the classrooms where the ITLC was in effect for more than a year, teachers found that children were more cooperative and helpful. In a classroom that had two computers, instead of isolating children, the two machines offered children the opportunity to share their skills and facilitate children at the computer next to them as they helped each other take out a CD-ROM or navigate through programs. Teachers found that children socialized more at the computer than in some areas of the room and found more verbalization in this area than in many other centers. Children used different words when they used the computers in the ITLC. Teachers reported differences in speech patterns at the computer as children used words related to technology and the software programs. Children also used books differently. For example, one teacher said that before the computer came in, the children really did not go to the book center as much as they did after the ITLC was in use. Children were also writing more as they accessed e-mail in KidDesk, printed out calendars for family members, and 'typed' notes to peers and family members.

Skills Teachers and Staff Need to Implement the ITLC
Internal motivation to implement the ITLC is an overriding necessary condition. Beyond that, teachers and staff must possess knowledge and skills related to emerging literacy and creating a conducive environment to foster literacy behaviors in young children. They need to be able to use computer equipment and software with emergent literacy activities. Knowing how to evaluate and install children's software programs as well as where to buy and how to receive support from companies is important. Since KidDesk, a desktop environment that fosters independence in young children, was used so successfully in the curriculum, teachers need to understand the importance of the program and how to install and set it up so KidDesk meets individual children's needs in the classroom. If individualized software is to be produced by classrooms, teachers should understand how to use HyperStudio. Acquiring the skills and knowledge to troubleshoot basic technical problems is necessary. This may range from a loose printer or mouse cable to the steps to take if a CD-ROM is not working.

During the study, the most effective path for the acquisition of these skills included workshops and ongoing curricular and technical support. Members of the research staff also pointed out children's behaviors to teachers, so they could focus on emergent literacy and technology benefits for the children. Then teachers and staff understood and were able to document the children's behaviors. Not only did this foster awareness, it also influenced teachers and staff to share positive benefits with others including families, other teachers, therapists and administrative personnel. Training teachers to use adult productivity applications not only benefited correspondence between families and the classroom, but also increased the teachers' and classroom staffs' skills and comfort level with the technology. Adult use included producing newsletters, calendars, databases, progress reports, and letters.

Effective Teaching Strategies
Effective strategies to carry out the ITLC include the adults in a classroom taking the role of a facilitator when children use the ITLC. Adults need to offer children choices, model their own enjoyment of the computer and its use, and redirect any negative behavior. Setting up the environment with KidDesk and appropriate software choices that integrate classroom activities into the computer center is necessary in carrying out the ITLC. Ensuring that the environment is literacy rich and stocked with books, writing tools, song charts, puppets and flannel boards extends the technology activities into other areas and allows children to take what they are doing and learning at the computer center and extend the learning into other areas. After using My First Incredible Amazing Dictionary with a teacher-made 'hard copy,' a child printed out and bound her own dictionary of animals. The materials to complete the task were located in the writing center of the classroom and were 'everyday' materials that could be used by the children.

Ensuring that the technology is 'chosen' by the children and not advocated by the adult as a tool to be used by all children is important when administering the ITLC. In the first year of the research study, an adult in a classroom directed a child to sign up for the computer and continued to ensure that the child signed up. Videotape footage, field notes and observations of the incident showed fear in the child's face and continuing observations over many days showed that the child was reluctant to use the computer. It was not until the next year and this adult was gone that the child become an avid user of the computer center.

On the other hand, many observations, videotapes, and field notes have documented that when children are offered software choices and activities that are of interest, they use the technology. An example is a child whose interest was fire, fire trucks, and fire fighters. The technology had been implemented in the classroom for some time before Busytown was introduced. An activity in the program includes a simulation of preparing for a fire by dressing and climbing onto the fire truck before driving down roads to the fire and putting the fire out. The child was playing in the nearby play center with a fire hose when he heard the word 'fire' come from the computer center. The child jumped up, yelling "Fire," and raced for the computer center where he observed the fire activity.

Using a 'sign-up' book and facilitating its use was an important strategy. The 'sign-up' book was found to reduce stress in the technology center and offer children control over the process. Children understood that by drawing or signing their name, they would have a turn at the computer. Another important strategy was providing new activities that integrated a classroom project or theme with the ITLC and ensuring that the technology was tied in. Teachers evaluated and changed the software but still allowed a variety of software to be used.

Encouraging family involvement with the ITLC was accomplished through awareness activities including newsletters and notes, workshops focusing on knowing software and more adult applications, inviting family members into the classroom to facilitate the technology environment, or sharing the technology during open house.

Inviting input from and sharing progress with the speech therapists secured their participation and cooperation as speech therapists noted changes in communication behaviors. As a result of including speech therapists in the information feedback loop, they noticed that the computer gave children a reason to communicate. Speech therapists discovered the computer as a useful tool for language development and, as a result, requested that the schools provide a computer for speech therapy. Four of the six schools provided the computers.

Ineffective strategies for using the ITLC included adults using the computer themselves during center time instead of offering children the choice to use it, adults directing instead of facilitating at the technology center, and adults not providing the computer as a choice. Rotating children's turns without considering the child's engaged learning and activities that were taking place led to negative results (e.g., children not sharing, children not communicating with each other, children pushing). Offering unnecessary help without allowing children the opportunity to explore and solve their own problems also produced negative results. Often when student teachers arrived in classrooms, they had a negative impact on the technology center as they directed children's actions and took over at the computer center without allowing children the opportunity to share their own knowledge and skills with the new adult.

Problems Classroom Teachers and Staff Encounter
Classroom teachers and staff overcame various problems as they integrated computers and implemented the ITLC. Some problems were specific to the technology. For example, classrooms had technical difficulties with printing. The majority of the schools in the study did not have a Technology Coordinator on staff, and teachers were on their own until the research staff could come out to work with them. If a school district did have a "technology expert" on staff, that person was not inclined to recognize the importance of technology in the lower grades and most often stayed in the higher grades.

Teachers needed to be comfortable enough with the technology to work their way through the programs, and often teachers needed to learn "the little things" to solve their problems. For instance, one teacher brought a CD-ROM back to the ITLC staff, telling us that it was broken. When the CD-ROM was examined, it had something sticky on it. After cleaning, the CD-ROM worked fine. At times more difficult technical problems occurred.

Not every attempt to tackle technology met with failure. One teacher successfully upgraded memory for her computer. With the ITLC staff help, she ordered the memory. The teacher asked the computer person in the high school to help her, but was told she would need to wait awhile. So, a research staff member talked the teacher through the process and she installed the memory. When the computer person finally came to install the memory, the teacher said that she had already put it in. The computer person responded that the ITLC staff had put it in for her, and the teacher smiled and said, "No, I put the memory in." Not only had the teacher upgraded her own computer, but she was proud of her accomplishment.

Other problems were specific to the ITLC. Taking turns was difficult for young children. This problem was recognized in the first few days of installing the computers. The "sign-up" sheet was incorporated into the ITLC soon after computers were placed into the classroom. The sign-up sheet, in terms of management issues, was a success and yielded rewards as children managed their own turns and wrote their names for a purpose. In addition the change over time as children worked through the concepts of print was observed

HyperStudio required an adult's presence and skill to author the stacks. The program also takes time to learn. Once teachers have mastered the process, using the program becomes easier, but teachers still expressed concern over the time required to plan and create HyperStudio stacks. When teachers understood the potential of the classroom-specific stacks, and were able to understand and use HyperStudio, some continued on their own to use the program to some degree.

Differences in Teaching Styles Among Staff
Results from the Teacher Learning Style Checklist revealed that on the self evaluation, each teacher reported a high score, ranging from 93 - 99%. These results are consistent with self- evaluation trends noted by Hook and Rosenshine (1979), whose research showed that teachers tend to evaluate themselves higher than independent external evaluators rate them.

Four Research Associates used the Teacher Learning Style Checklist to evaluate the teachers. An average of those scores resulted in lower percentages compared to teachers' self-evaluation scores. All sites with the exception of Medland scored an average of 79-92%. Mean 'yes' scores, from highest to lowest, were Fox Lake, 92%; Deer River, 86%; Barretville, 80%; Johnstown, 80%; Middlebrook, 79%; and Medland, 42%. The scores agreed with the rank order achived among observations and videotape segments taken in the classroom. Observations and videotape segments taken during the third year of the study continued to document the consistency of the scores from the second year. Observations and videotape segments from Medland taken in Year 3 revealed the classroom, staff, and family interactions improved. Documentation of this classroom after the study reveals a marked improvement in the classroom as Medland continues to implement the ITLC.

Differences between teachers and staff in Type I and II classrooms. The differences between teachers who were new to technology and those who were experienced technology users was not a significant variable. The first year of the study, the research staff were responsible for implementing the ITLC in both Types I and II classrooms. Not until the second year did Type II teachers implement the ITLC on their own.

Initially, as classroom teachers and staff moved into their second year and positioned themselves to manage the ITLC, they had a difficult time making it work. An increase in directive adult behaviors at the computer center was documented. The adults changed the CD-ROMs for children who were new to the classrooms. This situation was different from prior opportunities presented by the research staff when all children had the opportunity to manage the center and change CD-ROMs as needed. The directive behavior continued in the Middlebrook classroom until the teacher was comfortable with the new children's use of technology.

Positive changes included teachers' use of technology to produce newsletters for families and family involvement activities that included technology. Classrooms continued to use the computer to publish books. Moreover, books were present and used in the technology center.

Classrooms purchased and used their own equipment, such as complete computer systems (CPU, monitor, and printer). Six teachers went further than this and purchased peripherals such as digital cameras and scanners to allow children's pictures and activities to be incorporated into HyperStudio applications.