Technology and Active Learning in the Literature or Composition Classroom

full name / name of organization: 
Charles A.S. Ernst/College English Association
contact email: 

Kelly Bockmon
CSU Stanislaus
October 11, 2010
Re: Technology and Active Learning in the Literature or Composition Classroom

The use of technology in class rooms can be expensive but has been proven to increase student participation and success in written composition. Lowther, Ross, and Morrison (2001) suggested that providing 5th and 6th grade students with laptop computers produced better behavior, a better classroom environment, and greater achievement in writing. DerMovsesian (2001) found that the use of a computer program increased student interaction by 60 - 70% and Russell and Haney (2000) stated testing in paper-pencil form may yield misleading capabilities of students who regularly use computers. They found that students who could type 20 words per minute or more raised test scores by 22% using technology.
Since expense is an issue for schools, one alternative to the high cost of a fully-loaded computer is the portable writing device. One of the most commonly used devices is the Alphasmart. The Alphasmart is battery operated, which allows students to use them at their desks and it has basic word processing and keyboarding functions. Students can learn how to type or compose an essay and can easily use spell check or a thesaurus application which gives them added technology at their disposal. If the use of this device improves the academic achievement of students, then school administrators may wish to purchase and implement them. Russell, Bebell, Cowan, and Corbelli (2002) stated that teaching and learning changes when students have full access to Alphasmart and students increased their usage of the technological devices when they were made available to them.
Our presentation is based on a quantitative study conducted during the 2009-2010 school year of fifty-eight sixth grade students enrolled in a medium sized elementary school in Central California. The school enrolls a total of 582 students. The sample population received 140 - 210 minutes of writing instruction every six weeks of core instruction with additional support when needed. For our study, the students were administered 4 writing assignments which included persuasive and fictional narratives. Each prompt was similar between the pencil and paper essay and the Alphasmart essay. The prompts were taken from the adopted curriculum. The students produced two writing samples per category, using pencil and paper for two and using Alphasmart for the other two. Each assignment was graded with a rubric scoring system by graders who were trained by the school district to ensure inter-rater reliability. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of the portable writing device as an instructional tool to improve student interest in the subject as well as improve their composition skills. Not only did using the Alphasmart portable writing devise capture the student's attention, the students showed an overall improvement on their scores.
We will present our information on a poster-board display that will show our complete study including our methodology and statistical analysis. We will have handouts as well.