Technology to Deliver Curriculum
Technology in the field of education is a growing phenomenon and educational communities are struggling with the pedagogy, delivery, assessment and accountability and as well there is a sizable community of users and learners who remain deeply dissatisfied with the cost and performance of currently available learning options. Our educational community’s strategic plan is currently under revision not only to keep up with the technological demands of a global society, but to synergize cost effectiveness and quality instruction that reflects a changing curriculum. With this in mind, this work will evaluate online learning and the use of Microsoft PowerPoint in the classroom.
EXAMINATION OF ONLINE INSTRUCTION
The work of Barnett and Aagaard (2005) entitled: “Online Vs. Face-to-Face Instruction: Similarities, Differences, and Efficacy” states that advances in technology have resulted in “an explosion of online university programs. Online programs compete for students that were once served primarily in traditional, face-to-face university programs. Given the additional options students have when choosing degree programs, faculty members are often encouraged by the university administration to change courses that heretofore had been face-to-face in an online setting.” (p.5) Because of these changes in the delivery of instruction there is a need “to examine instructional practices, evaluate their applicability and effectiveness, and determine their impact on student learning.” (Barnett and Aagaard, 2005, p.5) Barnett and Aagaard (2005) report having analyzed fours courses that were taught in both the online and traditional classroom format. Those courses were: (1) research for the instructional leader; (2) school finance; (3) superintendent practicum; and (4) school law. Factors compared across the delivery formats were those of: (1) instructional strategies; (2) actual student achievement; and (3) student perceptions of the efficacy of each format.
There have been many studies to compare the various aspects of traditional instruction vs. online teaching “exploring the advantages/disadvantages of both delivery methods. These studies suggest advantages may be found in either approach depending on the objectives and the methods used to accomplish those objectives.” (Barnett and Aagaard, 2005, p.6) It is reported that a “recent meta-analysis of such studies concluded the skill of the instructor and the types of activities in which students are involved are more of a predictor of student success than is the medium that is used to deliver the instruction.” (Barnett and Aagaard, 2005, p.7) The traditional instructional strategies are stated to be of the nature that can be modified for online courses. The example provided is that “class discussion involving twenty or more students in a face-to-face setting can become thought-provoking and insightful. When those same twenty students are involved in an online synchronous discussion, however, it may become unwieldy and confusing. Communication cues such as body language and tone of voice that are often obvious in a face-to-face setting are all but nonexistent in online synchronous discussions.” (Barnett and Aagaard, 2005, p.8)
The findings in the study conducted by Barnett and Aagaard state that since some student “prefer verbal instruction, while other students learn best through written instruction, and still others prefer a more active, kinesthetic approach, the challenge of incorporating various learning styles into an online setting needs additional attention.” (Barnett and Aagaard, 2005, p.27) Additionally stated by Barnett and Aagaard is that as the influence of technology “continues to increase, on-going examination of this resource and how it might be used most effectively in the preparation of educational administrators is essential.” (2005, p. 27) As educational leadership courses “move more and more to an online setting, requiring aspiring leaders to interact with people in a positive, helpful way, judging the effectiveness of those interactions, and offering suggestions for growth will be critical.” (Barnett and Aagaard, 2005, p. 27)
II. TECHNOLOGICAL TOOLS FOR VIRTUAL CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION
The work of Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron (2007) entitled: “Selecting a Virtual Classroom System: Elluminate Live vs. Macromedia Breeze (Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional)” states that “tools and technology that can be implemented to enhance teaching and learning from a distance continue to evolve. With this rapid evolution, continuous assessment in necessary to ensure optimal connections take place among students, instructors and educational content in effective, online learning communities.” (p.1) Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron (2007) state that distance learning courses “are proliferating in higher education. The National Educational Statistics Center reported in 2004-2005 that about 88% of 2-year and 86% of 4-year postsecondary institutions offered distance education courses. Research in distance learning continually emphasizes the importance of interaction for effective teaching.” (p.1) It is further related that studies have indicated that “interactions between students and instructors as well as student-to-student interactions enhance education at a distance by improving attitudes, encouraging earlier completion of coursework, improving performance on tests, allowing deep and meaningful learning opportunities, increasing retention rates, and building learning communities.” (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1) Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron (2007) state that research conducted previously on the need for interaction in distance learning has resulted in important guidelines for instructors which include those as follows: (1) Learners require significant support and guidance to make the most of their distance learning experiences. This support can be achieved through a combination of student-instructor and student-student interactions; (2) Learners need to be part of the learning process to feel involved and comfortable. Social presence for both the instructor and the student is important; (3) Learners benefit significantly from learning in small groups that provide support and encouragement, as well as foster the feeling that if help is needed, it is readily available. This builds a learning community based on shared responsibility with individual efforts; and (4) Learners are motivated through frequent, structured contact with the instructor. Instructors often play the role of facilitator; in synchronous environments scaffolding and structure is very important for success. (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1)
Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron (2007) state that advantages to online synchronous learning include those listed as follows: (1) Motivation – synchronous systems provide motivation for distance learners to keep up with their peers; (2) Telepresence – real time interaction fosters development of group cohesion and a sense of community; (3) Good feedback – synchronous systems provide quick feedback and support consensus and decision-making in group activities; and (4) Pacing – synchronous events encourage discipline in learning and help students prioritize their studies. (p.1)Similarities between online synchronous learning and the physical classroom are stated to include that each of these: (1) allow for immediate feedback; (2) include interactions with instructor and peers; and (3) include guided exercise to motivate and increase student learning. (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1)
Synchronous systems allow for the instructor to make assessment of the level of knowledge of students and for course material to be tailored appropriately. Furthermore, the “inclusion of a scheduled time adds the perception (or reality) that the instructor and classmates are providing external motivation and are encouraging the student’s participation, which can result in higher retention and completion rates.” (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1) Challenges of online synchronous learning include the primary challenge of the need for students and instructors alike to be “comfortable with the technology and environment.” (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1) Also stated as a challenge is the scheduling inconvenience and real time participation which “can present additional drawbacks for distance learners as students and instructors must arrange schedules to participate at specific times and locations with Internet access. In addition, the use of video, audio, or large image files can increase the problems caused by limited bandwidth.”(Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1) Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron (2007) state that “even with these disadvantages, synchronous technologies can add value to teaching and learning models, either as a supplement or replacement for face-to-face asynchronous learning.” (p.1)
Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron (2007) additionally relate that “Web and video conferencing technology is becoming more sophisticated with each passing day.” (p.1) While web and video conferencing technology are generally utilized by corporations in conducting virtual meetings, these systems “can also be ideal tools for distance learning in the academic environments.” (p.1) Finkelstein (2006) is stated in the work of Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron to define the phrase “virtual classroom systems (VCS)” through listing typical features which include those as follows: (1) real-time voice and visual contact between all participants, (2) shared whiteboard, (3) integrated area for the projection of slides or other visuals, (4) capacity for text-based interaction, including side conversations or note-passing, (5) means for learners to indicate that they have questions or are confused, and (6) tools for assessing current moods, opinions, and comprehension as well as for soliciting questions or feedback, and the ability to gauge virtual body language, or a sense of how engaged learners are in the activity at hand. (p.58 in: Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1)
Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron (2007) state that there are “few studies that assess the pedagogical aspects of a VCS as the initial step in evaluation of the system’s capabilities. The trend has been to look at products from the technical or business perspective, and once decisions have been made, migrate to examining the ability to meet the pedagogical needs.” (p.1) It is reported that a study was conducted in what was a “â€¦small pilot studyâ€¦at a large research university, the initial facilitation team reviewed several synchronous software products available on the market to determine if each met general. After eliminating from further analysis those that did not meet the criteria, the remaining products were reviewed from an administrative perspective.” (p.1) Stated as being particularly important were “â€¦compatibility with existing infrastructure for proper support and integration.” (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1) Two systems which were evaluated “for usability and ability to enhance online teaching” were those of Elluminate Live and HorizonLive.” (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1) The study was reported to have been conducted through interviews and focus groups. Primary goals that were expressed by faculty included those of: (1) providing clearer instruction on difficult concepts, (2) allowing students time to practice these concepts while the instructor was immediately available for feedback, (3) pushing content from websites for immediate discussion and problem solving, (4) allowing small groups to interact in real time to solve problems and work on projects, (5) focusing students on the content and guiding them through it in an efficient manner, (6) growing a learning community, (7) encouraging debate and discussion in a natural manner with voice rather than reading text, and (8) assessing the status of students’ content knowledge and understanding through questions and inflection of voice. (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1)
Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron (2007) relate that following having obtained instructional goals from the faculty members who participated in the study “a list of desired features was generated” and included three primary categories: (1) communication channels; (2) content presentation and interaction; and (3) logistics. (p.1) Stated as questions that served to guide the examination of data in this study were the questions as follows: (1) How easy was the system to use? (Usability); (2) How well did the system meet the students’ and instructors’ needs technically? (Technical needs for instruction); (3) How did the system help instructors and students meet the educational goals they wanted/needed to accomplish in the live sessions? (Instructional needs); and (4) How would the system integrate into an existing infrastructure? (Compatibility)” (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1) The following table lists the product features and functionality of the Macromedia Breeze and Elluminate Live V.
Figure 1 – Comparison rubric for synchronous systems — desired features
Y = The product has this feature.
N = This feature is not available in this product.
Desired Features & Functionality
Macromedia Breeze V 5
Elluminate Live V 6.5
Voice Chat (VOIP)
Content Presentation and Interaction
Guided Web Browsing
Polling and Quizzing
Multimedia Presentation (i.e. Flash)
Hand Raising/Simple Feedback
Record and Playback (voice, text, and screen)
Cross Platform (Windows and Mac)
Source: (Schullo, Hilbelink, Venable, and Barron, 2007, p.1)
The work of Hutchens (nd) entitled: “Effective Uses of Technology-Assisted Instruction: An Investigation of Student Performance, Attendance and Satisfaction” states that the “usability of technology has put a new spin on education, redefining the role of educators and reshaping classroom learning experiences.” (p.1) The result is the creation of “multimedia classroom presentations, web-enhanced courses, online courses and distance learning.” (Hutchens, nd, p.1) Research that investigates the effectiveness of technology-assisted instruction “has resulted in mixed findings.” (Hutchens, nd, p.1)
The work of Ali and Elfessi (2004) entitled: “Examining Students Performance and Attitudes Towards the Use of Information Technology in a Virtual and Conventional Setting” states that there has been “widespread application of the Internet as an instructional tool and medium of communication because of its potential to facilitate and improve learning.” (p.1) Hoffman (2002) states findings that “web-based learning courses enable students to more effectively understand course content.” (in Ali and Elfessi, 2004, p.1) Hoffman is stated to have attributed “the significance of Web-based learning to better collaborative learning environment provided by the Web, increased learning resources, and convenience.” (in Ali and Elfessi, 2004, p.1) The work of Bento and Bento (2000) relates that the Internet’s potential for the facilitation of communication and research has provided encouragement to educators for utilization of the Internet in the creation of new learning environments. Additionally, the work of Mioduser, Nachmias, Lahav and Oven (2000) hold that the communication tools of the Internet including email, conferencing and Internet Relay Chat has enabled communication between teachers and students to be easily accomplished in real and delayed time and that the Internet’s “unique capabilities of information generation, transmission and publishing make it an important instructional tool.” (in Ali and Elfessi, 2004, p.2) The work of Vrasidas and McIssac (2000) relates that learning online has great variation in regards to audience, content, goals and pedagogical practices. In order that online learning be effective with this variation considered it is necessary that online learning be “available on demand, supportive of self-paced learning, be in combination with high-quality tutor support in the distance learning environment, facilitate collaboration and interaction and be instead of teacher-directed learning be learner-centered. (Michau et al., 2001, in Ali and Elfessi, 2004, p.3)
III. EXAMINATION OF THE USE OF MS POWERPOINT IN CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION
The use of Microsoft PowerPoint in the classroom is examined as well in this report and it is found that MS PowerPoint can be used in the classroom in the creation of “interactive presentations containing text, art, animation, and audio and video elements.” (Starr, 2000, p.1) In fact, Microsoft PowerPoint works well in the classroom in the following ways: (1) presentation of information or instruction to an entire class; (2) Creation of graphically enhanced information and instructions for the learning centers; (3) Creation of tutorials, reviews, or quizzes for individual students; and (4) Displays student work and curriculum materials or accompany teacher presentations at parents open houses or technology fairs. (Starr, 2000, p.1) It is possible to set the PowerPoint presentation to run automatically during open house or technology fairs and other such events to provide a slide show of activities or events that have occurred in the classroom for the benefit of parents.
The work of Keefe and Willett (2004) entitled: “Points-of-View: PowerPoint in the Classroom, A Case for PowerPoint as a Faculty Authoring System” states “The three most compelling arguments for the use of PowerPoint in the classroom are its suitability as a powerful and easily learned authoring system for course material; its ubiquitous availability to students, courtesy of the free Microsoft PowerPoint viewer; and its capability of coexisting with an overall course management environment.” (p.1) Additionally stated is “PowerPoint also provides a means of mapping and directing the course of a classroom discussion on a topic, rather than just a means of presenting the materials.” (Keefe, and Willett, 2004, p.1) Keefe and Willett also stated of PowerPoint: “PowerPoint has evolved over the past 10 years to the point where it has many desirable features as a course-authoring system. PowerPoint was the second most popular tool for creating computer-based training applications, cited by 48% of 3,500 training professionals in a 2003 study conducted by Bersin & Associates.” (2004, p.1) The work of Tomei and Balmert states that an interactive lesson is characterized by the following: (1) Is a visually-based, behavior-oriented teaching strategy appropriate for learners of all ages who benefit from the concrete learning experiences that graphic presentations offer; (2) Contains self-paced instructional content appropriate for students who learn best when instructed at their own pace, or who need the benefits provided by remedial instruction outside the classroom; (3) Offers specific, logical, systematic lessons that foster individualized instruction and sequential learning; and (4) Is student-initiated and student-controlled learning that places a good deal of the responsibility for mastering the material directly in the hands of the learner; and (5) Embraces all phases of the Mastery Learning instructional technique. It suggests alternatives for presenting the initial mastery objectives, corrective instruction, and enrichment activities. (2000, p.1)
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
This work has reviewed the use of technology for instruction and the use of Microsoft PowerPoint in the classroom. Technology use for instruction is unavoidable in today’s world where online instruction is gaining increasing importance as many students prefer this form of instruction and this form of instruction allows individuals to further their education from home. The use of Microsoft PowerPoint in the classroom has many uses and is user-friendly and after being tested by many teachers has been found to be a great source for the provision of classroom instruction as well as having other various uses.
Barnett, D. And Aagaard, L. (2005) Online Vs. Face-to-Face Instruction: Similarities, Differences and Efficacy. Occasional Research Paper, No. 10. February 2005. Morehead State University. Online available at: http://irapp.moreheadstate.edu/cerl/pdf/cerl_10.pdf.
Finkelstein, J. (2006). Learning in real time. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Hutchens, Scott A. (nd) Effective Uses of Technology-Assisted Instruction: An Investigation of Student Performance, Attendance and Satisfaction. Online available at: http://www.celt.lsu.edu/cfd/THE/Eproc04/Hutchens2.pdf
Hofman, D.W. (2002). Internet-based distance education learning in higher education. TechDirections, 62(1), 28-32.
Bento, R., & Bento, A. (2000). Using the Web to extend and support classroom learning. College Student Journal, 34(4), 603-608.
Mioduser, D., Nachmias, R., Lahav, O., & Oven, A. (2000). Web-based learning environments: Current pedagogical and technological state. Journal Research on Computing in Education, 33(1), 55-77.
Ali, Ahmed and Elfessi, Abdulaziz (2004) Examining Students Performance and Attitudes Toward the Use of Information Technology in a Virtual and Conventional Setting. The Journal of Interactive Online Learning. Vol. 2, No.3 Winter 2004. Online available at: http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/PDF/2.3.5.pdf
Michau, F., Gentil, S., & Barrault, M. (2001). Expected benefits of Web-based learning for engineering education: Examples in control engineering. European Journal of Engineering Education, 26(2), 151-169
Vrasidas, C., & McIsaac, M.S. (2000). Principles of pedagogy and evaluation for Webbased learning. Educational Media International, 37(2), 105-112
Star, Linda (2000) PowerPoint — Creating Classroom Presentations. Education World. Online available at: http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech013.shtml
Keefe, DD and Willett, JD (2004) Points-of-View: PowerPoint in the Classroom: A Case for PowerPoint as a Faculty Authoring System. Cell Biol Educ 3(3): [HIDDEN] . American Society for Cell Biology. Online available at: http://www.lifescied.org/cgi/content/full/3/3/156
Tomei, Lawrence and Balmert, Margaret (2000) Creating and Interactive PowerPoint Lesson for the Classroom. T.H.E. Journal August 2000. Online available at: http://www.thejournal.com/articles/14916_1
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