MCE Working Papers - 1998

MCE Working Papers for 1998

The Internet and the Collaborative Project in the Teaching and Learning of Modern Languages
Jim Enright, Michael Ryan

This paper investigates the impact of the Internet on the Collaborative Project in the teaching and learning of modern languages. In order to do this a collaborative project between two secondary schools, one in Ireland, the other in Austria was set up and the findings were examined.

The Collaborative Project is recognised as being a very important component in teaching and learning. It can play a major role in the acquisition of a language, particularly if different nationalities and different countries can be involved. The Internet allows such international interaction, and offers the potential for new forms of collaboration.

The investigation is placed in context by tracing the developments in language learning approaches from the audio-lingual, through to the cognitive, communicative and finally the post-communicative approach that is in vogue today. It traces the parallel developments in technological innovations in so far as they relate to language teaching and learning, from the Language Laboratory (which failed), to the introduction of CALL software (about which there are serious doubts), to the advent of the Internet, which seems to have found a niche where language teaching and learning are concerned.

The findings from the study suggest that generally the Internet can play a very significant role in modern language teaching and learning. A major strength of the Internet is that it provides real-life communication with native speakers of the target language and speedy access to up-to-date information from and about the target culture. The Internet allows for teaching and learning to be freed from the boundaries of traditional classrooms.

A Study of the Role of Gender in Group Interaction in Learning with Computers
Maria Diskin, Seán Close

Research indicates that girls are both disadvantaged and disadvantage themselves with regard to IT. In spite of the demand for new skills and the much publicised " skills shortage" the indications are that fewer girls are choosing technology courses. The study described here considers the role of gender in group interaction in a computer supported co-operative learning environment. There are two main aspects to the study. The first involves the analysis of group interaction and dialogue using case studies. The second involves the role of gender in group interaction. The study involved working with 10 year old children from three primary schools in Dublin. The selected children were representative of the middle primary school years. Each of the selected schools were comparable as regards socio-economic grouping and 18 children formed the case studies in 9 dyads, with equal numbers of boy/boy, boy/girl, girl/girl pairings. Distinctive behaviour patterns were observed in each type of pairing, with poor interaction a marked feature of mixed-sex pairs.

An Assessment of the Potential Role of ICT in Art Appreciation for Senior Primary Schools
Aine Uí Eigeartaigh, Paula Carroll

This paper reports on a study that developed an Art Appreciation syllabus for Senior Primary Schools and evaluated the potential rôle of ICT within this syllabus.

All the pupils in the study, undertook an Art Appreciation programme based on a series of themes. Painting sessions and visits to the Hugh Lane Gallery of Modern Art were also incorporated in the syllabus. The pupils were then randomly divided into two groups. One of the groups undertook practical work on images of selected paintings from the gallery, using a range of graphic packages; the other pupils received additional tuition using traditional means. Both groups undertook formal tests on completion of the programme and a statistical analysis was carried out on the results.

Because the packages used were found to be restrictive, a set of specifications for software with extended functionality was drawn up. The augmented software will be evaluated in a future study.

The proposed software could also be used as the basis for the development of a web site for the Hugh Lane Gallery that incorporates AI techniques. This would enable visitors to the site explore themes within Art Appreciation in a flexible and interactive way.

Usability Testing for Screen Design in Educational Websites
Denis Twomey, Larry McNutt

Usage of the World Wide Web has become commonplace in recent years. Many Irish schools have access to it, ranging from one machine used by the teacher for sending and receiving e-mail, or downloading resources for use by teachers or pupils, to schools with Internet access on an entire network. It is clear that there will be further investment in the technology to make access to the Internet faster and cheaper for schools1. This study does not address any of the strategic issues involved in these developments. Instead it looks at the website from the perspective of the child. It attempts to define for the would-be developer those elements that make sites attractive and those that make them unattractive. Armed with this information, the developer - whether a teacher, a professional webmaster, or a child - can then create a site which meets the needs of the target audience.

The Integration of the Internet into Irish Primary Schools
Colm O'Leary, Paula Carroll

The Internet has the potential to revolutionise the future of education. This research investigates how the Internet can affect the way in which children learn. It examines the suitability of the Internet as a resource for pupils and staff in the primary school. Particular attention is focussed on Irish primary schools where this new technology is being integrated into both the school environment and curriculum.

The research methodology comprises of two elements: An observational study and a survey by postal questionnaire of primary schools connected to the Internet. The observational study involves a group of primary school pupils to evaluate the ease at which they can use the Internet in a classroom setting to retrieve information. The aptness of retrieved information to primary school children is considered. A survey evaluates the level of integration that the Internet has had in connected primary schools, and provides details of the location and number of computers connected to the Internet. It investigates the levels of access to the Internet by pupils and staff for various purposes. Teacher opinions as to the value of the Internet are examined in addition to hindering factors that prevent usage. As Ireland prepares for the implementation of the Schools IT 2000 initiative, which proposes to install and connect a computer to the Internet in every school in the country, this research provides timely results, conclusions and recommendations that would enhance the effectiveness of this historical initiative.

Enhancing Museum Visits Through Multimedia
Emily Banville, Paula Carroll

Computers are playing an increasing role in education. They are being used more and more in all areas of the curriculum. In the teaching of history they may be used in a variety of ways. One such way is to use a multimedia program with children, before bringing them on a museum visit, with the aim of enriching their visit and enhancing their appreciation of the artefacts in the museum. A multimedia programme is developed and implemented with a group of 11 to 12 year olds. This implementation is then evaluated by making comparisons between this group and a control group who are both brought on museum visits.

Using the Word Processor as a Pedagogical Tool in Junior Certificate English.
Maureen Mullery, Michael Ryan

This dissertation assesses the impact of using the word processor as a tool in the teaching of English writing to Pre-Junior Certificate English students. Not all things in the teaching of English lend themselves to being taught by a word processor. Creative writing seemed to be the most obvious because it was accessible to both qualitative and quantitative assessment. The assessment criteria were a mixture of the Department of Education guidelines for Examiners at the Certificate examinations and those which had been devised especially for this study. The reasons why creative writing was chosen were that spelling, punctuation, capitalisation and grammatical errors would manifest themselves in greater quantity than in any other kind of writing. These kinds of mistakes could them be quantified in terms of marks and included as part of the Presentation segment of the marks. Length of text, while not consciously ascribed marks, is a factor in the overall mark; it is also quantifiable and allows us to make comparisons between the students, as does marks for spelling, punctuation etc.

In order to accomplish this objective the class consisted of (i) a Control group - using the traditional methods of writing, viz. pen and paper and (ii) an Experimental group who, for a part of the study, used the word processor for their Creative writing activities. The format of the lessons was: Discussion, Question and Answer, Brainstorming for ideas, grouping ideas into paragraphs/topics, producing a first Draft, Marking by teacher, Revising and Rewriting. All the students were being taught to write more effectively and it was hoped that the word processor would assist this process for the Treatment group. The hypothesis was that the word processing group would get better marks than those achieved by the hand-writing group. They would be more motivated not only to write better but also to write longer texts. It was thought they would get better marks for spelling and that their vocabulary would be improved as a result of having access to a Thesaurus. The theory was that this would show itself in the improved quality of their written work.

An Exploratory Study of the Relationship Between Computer Usage and the Development of Self-Esteem in a Chosen Sample of Seven and Eight Year Old Children.
Eileen Ward, Tony Moynihan

This exploratory study sought to investigate if computers could be used as an agent of change to enhance the self-esteem of children. Literature is reviewed under a number of headings.

Can the Use of a Computer Simulation Game Enhance Mechanical Reasoning Ability: an exploratory study.
Joan Ward, Paula Carroll

This This exploratory study sought to discover if transition year students interacting with the computer simulation game "The Incredible Machine" could enhance their mechanical reasoning abilities. Related research suggests many educational benefits of computer simulation games. Students worked as groups of 3 or 4 in a collaborative environment. The study followed the structure of a pre-test/post-test control group design. Mechanical reasoning ability was measured using the Differential Aptitude Test for Guidance. An analysis of pre-test and post-test results revealed no significant improvement between the experimental group and the control group. However interesting gender differences were discovered. Significant differences in favour of male participants were discovered in the t-test analysis of both pre-test raw scores and post-test raw scores. No significant difference in the amount of improvement made by males and females in the experimental group was revealed. Observation, together with student feedback provided some evidence of differing pattern of mouse usage, reactions to the game, interactional styles, and strategies used by the groups. Recommendations for further research studies are made.

The Design, Development and Evaluation of Online In-Service Education
Michael Galligan, Larry McNutt

Society on a global scale is undergoing an "Information Revolution". Much as the Industrial Revolution transformed society in the 18th Century so the Information Revolution is transforming society today. An "Information Society" is emerging, where access to information will form the basis of economic power. Countries must either embrace this revolution or else economically, be left behind.

The Internet is very much the public face of this information revolution. The Internet was developed in the 1960's in the United States, but remained primarily confined to the U.S. military and the universities until the early 1990's when it became commercially available to the public at large. Since then its growth has been exponential with over one hundred million people now connected and the number still rising.

Ireland has in many ways been quick to embrace this revolution. Ireland has encouraged the development of the high technology sector within the economy. Telecom Eireann invested heavily during the 1980's and 1990's to create a modern and sophisticated telecommunications network. Foreign computer and telecommunications firms have been successfully attracted to these shores, and the indigenous industries have flourished. Information technology industries have played a major part in the recent economic development and job creation in the country.

Ireland in other ways has been slow to embrace this revolution. The country currently has a major shortage of skilled computer, electronic and electrical technicians. The Government has recently announced an investment of £250 million to try and rectify this position. Investment in Information Technology, (IT) has been lacking in education at both at primary level and secondary level. The new telecommunications have not been as quickly exploited as has occurred in other countries, partially due to the high cost of communication here.

A Comparison of Teaching Reading using a Multimedia Approach with a Conventional Approach
Larry Shiel, Seán Close

The study focused on the use of information technology based tools in the teaching of reading. The theories of learning to read and methodologies of teaching reading were outlined. The function of memory in learning to read was considered.

A brief history of the impact of audiovisual technology on learning followed. Finally, recent research in the area of multimedia and CD-ROM technology as it applies to the teaching and learning of reading was reviewed.

The empirical study compared a standard method of teaching reading using a hardcopy version of a book and workbook with a method based on using an interactive CD-ROM book and a teacher-developed interactive workbook, to determine which method might provide the greater improvement in sight vocabulary and comprehension, among six and seven year old remedial pupils. The degree of improvement in the two groups of pupils was assessed using tests in an experimental pretest-posttest design, together with unstructured observations of the control and experimental groups and continuous assessment of both groups using worksheet exercises.

Results indicated a slight improvement in the experimental group's performance over that of the control group. However, from a teaching perspective, the real benefit of the information technology approach lay in the increased levels of motivation and enthusiasm, engendered by the use of the technology, in the pupils.

Computer Simulation of the Mandatory Experiments in Leaving Certificate Chemistry with particular reference to Special Needs Students
Camille King, Michael Ryan

This paper investigates the use of interactive computer simulation of chemistry practicals as an alternative to the actual 'wet' chemistry practicals on the Leaving Certificate Syllabus, with particular reference to the support of special need's students. This approach is of particular significance for these students, as for safety and other reasons it may not be practicable to have them carry out the actual experiments.

The paper reviews the role of actual laboratory work in the Leaving Certificate Chemistry syllabus. It examines both the quality and quantity of the laboratory simulation software resources available. The paper reveals a scarcity of suitable software packages and found that those available were lacking in sound pedagogical rationale.

Even with imperfections the difference between the chemistry laboratory practicals and chemistry laboratory simulations is statistically not significant. Despite the limitations of packages, the simulation is clearly useful and potentially of significant benefit to special need's students who are excluded from doing the actual experiment. Finally, this paper puts forward guidelines for the future development of chemistry laboratory simulation resources.

Supporting On-Line Assessment in a Virtual Classroom Environment for the Junior Certificate Geography Syllabus.
Eddie Guilmartin, Larry McNutt

Assessment of knowledge is a crucial part of the learning process. Tests have a strong influence on students and must challenge the objectives of the lesson. The administration of these tests, if user friendly to student and teacher, will reduce the anxiety of the educational partners. Computer Aided Assessment (CAA) provides the opportunity to implement an efficient and purposeful testing mechanism.

The research seeks to address the development beyond the 'standard' elements of Information and Communication Technology and to explore an alternative method in which educators may acquire and utilise the enormous information resource of the Internet.

The comparison to the computer based element of the study was a revision textbook specifically produced to address the short answer questions from the geography syllabus. The print was transferred to digital format and presented as an innovative Web site, a novel method of assessment within Irish Education. The use of multiple choice, 'fill-in-the-blank', matching and text input question styles are examined in relation to their use.

The administration of testing the lesson material was performed through the Web site. The system development between the Web browser and server based on forms written in Hypertext Mark-up Language and availing of the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications - Common Gateway Interface access, allows for answered tests to be submitted for correction. The response from the server is a page from the submitted answers available to the teachers for assessment.

The associated research sets out to correlate geography test results which were carried out in contrasting modes of 'pen and paper' and Web site. A total of fifty eight students were tested and the matching of students with equal reading ages realised a sample population of twenty.

Quantitative results were realised and correlated from the computer aided and the written tests of the project and the previous formal house test of the summer. The Computer Aided Assessment (CAA) method of testing showed significantly higher achievements in grades and percentages for students than those using the traditional 'pen and paper' method. These results were mirrored in the responses from the quantitative assessments, where a positive attitude to CAA was encountered.

Application for cross curricular implementation is documented in relation to its application to the Junior Certificate Examination. The paper concludes with the implications of on-line assessment for the participants in the educational environment within the virtual classroom.

The Challenge of Educating for the Digital Age in the Context of the Recruitment Needs of the Multimedia Industry
Joan Gallagher, Larry McNutt

This paper investigates the recruitment needs of the multimedia industry in Ireland and endeavours to answer the question of whether its needs are being met by the Third Level Sector. Both primary and secondary research was carried out. The primary research involved two studies.

The first study explored the recruitment needs of the multimedia industry and also sought the industries' opinions of how the educational system is responding to its needs. Data which highlighted issues relevant to the education system was analysed.

The second study involved the evaluation of a new multimedia course at certificate level developed at Senior College Dunlaoghaire. The evaluation was done by a selection of the companies involved in the first study. The results of this study outline in detail the companies evaluation of the multimedia course and highlights the key issues for the design and implementation of a multimedia course.

The secondary research involved a review of both the multimedia industry and the actions taken by the Government and the educational sector to address the skills shortage of the multimedia industry.

Spreadsheets in Primary School Mathematics: concept formation, problem solving and motivation
Pat Irving, Seán Close

This study looks at using computer spreadsheets in the teaching of mathematics in the upper primary school, specifically in the areas of Percent and Simple Interest. The particular research questions focused on the effect of spreadsheets on concept formation, children's problem-solving skills and motivation. The subjects were 35 pupils in fifth standard. A series of lessons was given over a four week period. The children were monitored and their work was assessed. The finding of the study suggest that whereas spreadsheets may be a suitable learning tool for children of average and above average ability, less capable children have difficulties understanding and using a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets were found to help motivate and stimulate children. Exercises using spreadsheets were found to enhance many pupils' understanding of the concepts of Percent and Simple Interest. The problem-solving skills the children developed for use with the spreadsheet were found to have limitations when the children attempted to solve problems without the help of a spreadsheet.

Addressing Disadvantage: an analysis of Tramlines, a computer training project in Ballymun
Helen Massey, Donal Leader

This project attempts to identify whether and to what extent a commercial computer certification course can improve life and career prospects for groups or individuals who are educationally or socially disadvantaged.

The investigation focuses on Tramlines, a two-year computer-training course designed and operated by the Ballymun Job Centre. The research involves qualitative analysis of the perceptions of those involved in the project. The main survey instrument was a semi-structured interview, supported by a follow-up questionnaire. The opinions of all the groups involved in the course - trainees, trainers and management were sought.

The report concludes that there is evidence that participants on the course feel that their career prospects have improved directly as a result of the experiences and qualifications they gained during the two years of the project. There is evidence to suggest that the training methodology used and the environment fostered on the project seem to have been as important as the actual computer training offered in bringing about these improvements.

A Study of Authoring Tools in a Process Method Learning Environment
Catherine Mulhern, Sean Close

The Pedagogic Objective of this study is to find a context for the use of multimedia tools within a process approach to the primary school curriculum. The focus is on the activities of pupils, as they articulate and present ideas through drama in education, in project work and in electronic form. The activities involve the pupils in a process of knowledge construction or in a process method of learning. In this setting the computer is used as a tool which is adjusted to fit in with on-going activities and with pupil and teacher goals.

Conas Teicneolaíocht an Eolais a Fhí san Siollabas Staidéar Gnó don Teastas Sóisearach
Máire Ní Lighil, Mícheál Ó hÉigeartaigh

Is achoimre é an páipéar seo ar iniúchadh a rinneadh ar an bhféidearthacht chun Teicneolaíocht an Eolais a fhí san siollabas Staidéar Gnó don Teastas Sóisearach. Déantar léirmheas ar na pacáistí bogearraí atá ar fáil chun a n-oiriúntacht don siollabas Staidéar Gnó a scrúdú. Cuireadh i bhfeidhm scéim phíolóta le daltaí Staidéir Gnó sa chéad bhliain i scoil lánghaelach chomhoideachasúil agus Teicneolaíocht an Eolais á fhí go praiticiúil san siollabas Staidéar Gnó, agus déantar ainilís staitistiúil ar thorthaí an scéim phíolóta sa pháipéar. Ar deireadh, leagtar síos roinnt moltaí a d'eascair as an taighde a rinneadh.

An Tidirlíon mar Áis Mhúinteoireachta Breise i Múineadh an Teastais Shóisearaigh agus Staideár á Dhéanamh ar Tubaistí Nádúrtha sa Tíreolaíocht le Béim ar Leith ar Bholcáin
Eoin MacGearailt, Micheál Ó hÉigeartaigh

Cuireann an páipéar seo síos ar obair thaighde a rinneadh ar an Idirlíon mar áis bhreise mhúinteoireachta i ranganna tíreolaíochta i meanscoil chomhoideachasúil lánghaelach. Rinneadh comparáid sa taighde idir na modhanna traidisiúnta teagaisc agus an ríomhaire mar áis nua-aimseartha teagaisc i dtimpeallacht ranga. Cuireadh béim sa tionscnamh seo ar "fhoghlaim ghníomhacht" atá bunaithe ar theoiric Howard Gardner. Rinneadh forbairt ar scileanna difriúla na ndaltaí trí na scileanna ríomhaireachta agus na scileanna idirphearsanta a nascadh le gnáthscileanna traidisiúnta tíreolaíochta agus déanadh anailís staitisticiúil ar torthaí an taighde sin.

Problem-Solving Through LogoWriter Project Work
Mike Harrington, Séan Close

As new information and technology emerge in society, the need to teach students critical thinking skills and independent problem-solving skills is dramatically increasing. Since computer education has become part of the school curriculum educators have suggested that the computer be utilised to teach thinking skills.

Logo, having been initially developed to enhance mathematical development and independent-thinking skills seemed an appropriate medium by which to explore these possibilities through cross-curricular project work.

For this study LogoWriter was introduced as a learning tool. Specific problem-solving steps were provided, such as decomposition, planning, detecting errors and debugging. With this framework the pupils, working in groups, undertook a variety of cross-curricular projects

LogoWriter provided for the independent, open-ended and creative use of non-linear Hyperlinked presentations. The dynamic unleashed by this experience has extended beyond computer programming and the projects themselves. Their confidence to tackle a variety of problems arises from the appreciation that seemingly difficult problems can be overcome through the application of the same problem-solving strategies as applied in this study. This experience has developed independent thinkers and creative problem-solvers.

Pupil/teacher and pupil/pupil relationships have also been affected. The pupils have improved their skills of listening and co-operation. Teacher is viewed as a partner rather than as a resource in the learning process

Collaborative learning and computing in the Irish secondary education system
Tom Casey, Rory O'Connor

This paper focuses on collaborative learning, outlining theories of collaboration in education, and attempting to justify its value to an under-funded Irish education system. Descriptions of three computer supported collaborative learning environments are given, including one implemented on the World Wide Web. The WISDEN environment is examined in detail, considering areas such as courseware provided, the Course Management System and the embedded Course Constructor. A student experiment is performed, both to evaluate the appropriateness of the courseware and the suitability of the working environment for the target users. Results are analysed, and an attempt is made to assess whether the system might be suitable, either in present or modified form, for use in the future in the Irish secondary education system.

The Effectiveness of the Use of Software on Math and English Learning at Junior Primary Level
Colette Fitzgerald, Heather Ruskin

The study reported on in this paper examined the effectiveness of the use of software on Mathematics and English learning at junior primary level. Traditional teaching methods were continued throughout the period of the study for all pupils involved. Computer use did not replace, rather it enhanced, these traditional methods. One group of pupils used a software package linked to the content of the English curriculum while the second group used software supporting the mathematics curriculum. Both groups undertook the same teacher designed tests before and after the period of the study. Pre and post test scores were compared for both groups. Other learning, incidental to the use of technology was observed and reported on.

The Effect of Computer based learning on Spatial Intelligence of First Year Second Level Students
Richard Duff