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Results From My Year-Long U.S. History Tech Experiment

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As some readers might remember, Holly Coyle (my exceptional student teacher) and I taught two United States History classes with English Language Learners this year — one entirely in the computer lab, and the other — for all practical purposes — entirely out of the computer lab (but using what  –in my mind at least — is a very engaging curriculum).

We did assessments and evaluations at the beginning of the year, at mid-year and at the end of the year.  You can read more about this — and download the actual assessments — at my post Mid-Year Results Of My “Experiment”. Two of the assessments tested basic knowledge of U.S. History (admittedly, pretty low on Bloom’s Taxonomy) and the third was a student evaluation of the class.

In January,  the results showed that student achievement gains were about equal, though students in the technology-oriented class seemed more engaged and interested in U.S. History.

The two June assessments that tested U.S. History knowledge on a basic level were, like they were in the ones we gave in January, just about the same in both classes.

The one where students evaluated the class itself — if they liked it, if it made them want to study more US History, etc — was a bit of a surprise.  As I wrote earlier in January, even though both classes evaluated it positively, the zero period class was more engaged.  In the year-end one, again both classes evaluated it positively, but this time the non-tech class was much more engaged.  The only place where the tech class evaluated it more positively was that they clearly felt like they developed more computer skills — which was to be expected.

I’m not surprised that the knowledge level is similar, but I am surprised that the non-tech class felt that they liked it more and got more out of it.  The fact that the tech class took place an hour before regular school began, and that students repeatedly complained about having to getting-up early, might have some effect on the difference, but the amount of difference really was pretty striking, so it’s unlikely to have been the only factor (by the way, all students voluntarily chose to take the early class).

In retrospect, I would have done two things differently:

1) I wish we had given a straight pre-and post-assessment on English comprehension.  Based on the data from our family literacy home computer project, I would have expected that those in the computer lab would have had a greater increase in understanding English, though I might very well have been proven wrong.

2) I would have put more time into figuring-out how the tech class could have connected more with our International Sister Classes. We started out strong in that regard — for example, students were corresponding with an EFL class in Spain to learn how the Spanish Conquest of the New World was taught in that country — but ended up succumbing to the impulse of having to “cover the curriculum” and those connections fell by the wayside. I suspect with a little more strategic planning on my part that kind of cooperation could have been integrated.

Feedback is welcome.  Again, you can download the assessments by going to my January post.

If you’d like to see the actual raw data, let me know in the comments section and I’ll email it to you or, if there’s enough interest, I’ll include the link to download it on a future post.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

4 Comments

  1. That is fascinating that they would find that the tech class was not as engaged as the other class by the end of the year. In my class that does not use technology every day (due to limited resources) they always seem engaged when we do web based activities. I would wonder if there is some happy medium of a mixture of traditional classroom and technology based that is the most positive mix for students. I do think that perhaps every day using the computers might lose some novelty by the end of the school year.
    You mentioned that you would have liked to have assessed the learning of the students as far as their level of English comprehension. I would think that students would have gained more if they had greater access to the computer and were able to complete more writing activities in the classroom.
    Will you continue to deliver the class in the contrasting ways again this coming school year? If so will you make any changes to the structure based on your student comments and feeback on the evaluations?

  2. You make a good point (that I had not considered) about the implications of using the computer everyday.

    I won’t be doing it again next year. The only way it worked to have access to the computer lab regularly was to teach the class before school. I, like the students, am tired of coming to school so early! :)

    Larry

  3. My students use computers (in pairs) a great deal of the time. My classroom has 18 eMacs in it. When we don’t use the computers for a few days, they will always ask, “When are we using the computers again?” I have allowed this practice to continue even during some of the tests. Almost without exception, the kids who take the test with their partner do better than those who take it by themselves. I can see that they are discussing the questions and trying to determine what the best answer is.

  4. You make a good point and the results will be useful for all the tech teachers as they can know what their students mind are made of.This will be an important result for all of them.

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