Web-Based Instruction and Learning: Analysis and Needs Assessment Summary
Marianne MCCARTHY <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Barbara GRABOWSKI <email@example.com>
The Pennsylvania State University and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center are working together to analyze, develop, implement, and evaluate instructional materials that enable teachers to use the World Wide Web effectively for teaching science, math, and technology. As part of the NASA Dryden Learning Technologies Project, the first phase in accomplishing this goal was to complete a needs assessment to determine how the Web could be integrated into the classroom. This needs assessment examined existing school infrastructure; science, math, and technology content in the curriculum and on the WWW; and the processes of teaching and learning. The goal of the needs assessment was to develop an understanding of the current state of WWW use in the educational environment to create a vision of how classrooms could be modified or adapted to include the WWW as a resource to enhance teaching and learning. The purpose of this presentation and paper is to summarize the results of this needs assessment.
The needs assessment was conducted in three phases. In the first phase, the school context was analyzed. The second phase consisted of a review of the science, math, and technology content. Phase three consisted of reviewing the processes of teaching and learning, which in combination with the results of the first two phases resulted in the development of Web-Enhanced Learning Environment (WELE) strategies that exemplify the most meaningful ways the WWW can be used in the classroom.
The investigation about school context focused on areas that are critical to integrating and using computer technology to deliver instruction in an educational setting. These included administrative infrastructure, technology infrastructure, and teacher factors.
In the second phase of the assessment, school-appropriate science, math, and technology content areas were explored. The structure of the National Education Standards and school curriculum were studied along with how existing NASA Web-based material might fit within this structure. The areas of study included school curriculum and existing NASA material.
Within the third phase of the needs assessment, the teaching and learning processes were investigated. The investigators reviewed the ways that instruction could be presented most effectively for the teacher and the student. Processes included best practices using the WWW in the classroom, teacher tutorials, and learning theories and teaching practices.
The purpose of the in-depth investigation of each of these eight areas was to identify which dimensions defined the area and further specify the critical factors for using the Web in the classroom. These dimensions and critical factors provided a structure for reporting the results found for each area.
The results of the needs assessment will be reported by the eight areas of investigation: Administrative Infrastructure, Technical Infrastructure, Teacher Factors, Curriculum, Existing NASA Material, Current Best Practices Using the WWW in the Classroom, Teacher Tutorials about the WWW, and Learning Theories and Teaching Practices.
Each area description includes an overall definition of the area, the investigation procedures, key dimensions, and conclusions. Each dimension was subdivided further by specific defining factors that made up that dimension. References and exemplary schools or Web sites which support the data are also provided.
The paper will conclude with a summary of the key trends identified that impact how, and more importantly, if the WWW would be used to support classroom instruction. Understanding each of these eight areas and their relationship to optimal WWW use in the classroom will ultimately aid in the development of instructional strategies and teacher training.
The need to understand the instructional role of the WWW is related not only to its potential power as a learning tool, but also to the fact that this medium is rapidly becoming an integral part of the global economy in which future generations will have to compete. We are obliged as teachers and developers to increase the scientific and technical literacy of the young to prepare them for the future.
The Pennsylvania State University and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center are working together to analyze, develop, implement, and evaluate instructional materials that enable teachers to use the World Wide Web (WWW) effectively for teaching science, mathematics, and technology. As part of the NASA Dryden Learning Technologies Project, the first phase in accomplishing this goal was to complete a needs assessment to determine how the WWW could be integrated into the classroom. A team of researchers conducted an analysis and needs assessment to identify K-12 teacher needs with regard to using the WWW for instruction and to identify the obstacles those teachers face in utilizing NASA's Learning Technologies products in the classroom.
The needs assessment was conducted in three phases. In the first phase, the school context was analyzed. The second phase consisted of a review of the science, math, and technology content. Phase three consisted of reviewing the processes of teaching and learning, which in combination with the results of the first two phases resulted in the development of strategies that exemplify the most meaningful ways the WWW can be used in the classroom. Eight factors along with their defining dimensions were analyzed by searching on- and offline references and resources, conducting on- and offline interviews with school personnel, attending conferences, and reviewing national statistics on technology use in schools.
The investigation about school context focused on areas that are critical to integrating and using computer technology to deliver instruction in an educational setting. These included administrative infrastructure, technology infrastructure, and teacher factors.
In the second phase of the assessment, school-appropriate science, math, and technology content areas were explored. The structure of the National Education Standards and school curriculum was studied along with how existing NASA Web-based material might fit within this structure. The areas of study included school curriculum and existing NASA material.
In the third phase of the needs assessment, the teaching and learning processes were investigated. The investigators reviewed the ways that instruction could be presented most effectively for the teacher and the student. The review included best practices using the WWW in the classroom, teacher tutorials, and learning theories and teaching practices.
The purpose of the in-depth investigation of these eight areas was to identify which dimensions defined the area and further specify the critical factors for each of the dimensions. These dimensions and critical factors provided a structure for reporting the results found for each area.
Administrative infrastructure refers to the policies and personnel that facilitate the use of computer technology in the classroom. Policies are those mandated at the Federal, State, District, or Local levels. Personnel include principals, vice principals, school board members, teachers, secretaries, parents, and outside sponsors. Three important dimensions specific to the successful use of the WWW in the classroom emerged: supportive administrators, supportive computer technology and services, and support for teachers.
Supportive administrators. The level of support provided by the administrator in an overall management capacity and in day-to-day activities with teachers and support staff can set the pace for the use of computer technology in the classroom. The schools that were most successful at using computer technology and the WWW in the classroom had administrators who were
Supportive computer technology and services. A key function of the administrative infrastructure is to provide the computer technology necessary for the teacher and to plan for providing access to that technology. Technical support, including equipment maintenance, system administration, and user support, was critical in maintaining ongoing, effective use of the computer. Measures demonstrating supportive computer technology services included
Support for teachers. The extent to which Web-based activities are used in the classroom ultimately rests with the teacher, who must know how to integrate Web resources into the lesson plans. However, administrators must support the use of computer technology for it to become widespread. Effective ways administrators can support teachers include
The most critical administrative infrastructure dimensions impacting the use of computer technology in the classroom are supportive administrators whose budgeting, planning, and leadership skills are crucial to the success of integrating technology in schools. Supportive computer technology and services, including ongoing maintenance and technical support, are also essential.
Technology infrastructure refers to the physical characteristics of the WWW connection to a school. This connection can have different configurations and serve a variety of purposes, including classroom instruction. The dimensions of the technology infrastructure have a major effect on the type of instructional activities that can be performed.
Points of connectivity. A point of connectivity refers to where the WWW connection is used within a school. The two points of connectivity that affect instructional use are location of WWW connections in instructional rooms or noninstructional rooms.
Number of instructional rooms having access to the Internet. The number of rooms that have access to the Internet will affect how widespread its use will be in a school. This dimension is broken down into a sliding scale from no rooms (none) to five or more.
Type of network connection. Since the different types of media available on the WWW are expanding rapidly, the level of connectivity becomes an issue since it refers to the speed of data transfer over the connection. The types of connectivity currently available include modem, slip/PPP, 56Kb, ISDN, T1 lines, and T3 lines.
Existing plan for connection by the year 2000. One encouraging aspect of connectivity is the expanding number of states with plans for connectivity by the year 2000. Given this factor, the potential of schools is assessed against whether or not they have included connectivity in their plans, classified as included or not included.
Technical support. The level of technical support a school has is a key factor in determining how easily a school obtains and maintains connectivity. This dimension is defined by two levels -- low, which indicates low availability of technical support supplying only reactive services when a problem arises, and high, which indicates high availability and proactive system maintenance.
The consensus of the needs assessment team was that the most important technology infrastructure dimensions were points of connectivity and number of instructional rooms having access to the Internet. To increase WWW use in the classroom, points of connectivity must increase from the current 14 percent with connection to the school. The number of instructional rooms with WWW connections also needs to increase from the current 43 percent with only one room connected.
Teacher factors that impact the use of the WWW in classroom instruction include internal, personal characteristics and external characteristics related to what the teacher does. By examining internal characteristics such as attitude, skill, and knowledge, one can influence how (and if) the WWW will be used and the probability of its being used once access is obtained. External factors include classroom and teacher assignments. Seven dimensions were found that categorized the important areas related to how teachers use the WWW in the classroom.
Technical skill. Technical skill refers to the ability of the teacher to use and integrate the WWW in the classroom. Three categories were used to define this skill level: low, medium, and high.
Attitude and motivation. Attitude and motivation refer to the mental states that motivate teachers to learn new computer-related skills and to incorporate the WWW into classroom instruction. The teachers' attitude and motivation were rated as positive or negative.
Perception of skills. Perception of skills refers to the teachers' comfort or confidence incorporating computer technology successfully into the classroom regardless of whether they had the technical skill. Teacher perception of skill was classified as low, medium, or high.
Perception of administrative support. Perception of administrative support refers to how the teacher perceives the administration in terms of encouraging the use of computer technology and the WWW in the classroom. Three levels of perceived support were identified: low, medium, or high.
Assignment. Assignment refers to the grade level a teacher is assigned.
Subject area. Subject area refers to whether a teacher teaches multiple subjects or has a specialized content teaching assignment.
Time teaching science and mathematics. Time teaching science and math refers to the percentage of the day the instructor teaches these two subjects; it is categorized into low (up to 20 percent), medium (21 to 40 percent of the day), and high (above 41 percent).
There are two critical teacher-related dimensions in determining the extent to which Web-based materials will be effectively used in the classroom. Technical skills are needed to integrate technology in the classroom and determine when Web-based instruction is more advantageous and efficient than traditional media. Teacher attitude and motivation are also critical for implementing Web-based instruction in the classroom. Even if a teacher has the necessary skills to implement Web-supported instruction, the teacher would still need to possess the motivation to make the effort. A positive attitude may encourage a less technologically capable teacher to acquire the skills needed to implement Web-based activities in the classroom.
Curriculum refers to the overall plan for the delivery of instruction. Curriculum planning consists of two components: the content and the process for its delivery. The WWW provides teachers with new ways to deliver instruction as well as new resources for content. This study identified three broad dimensions of the WWW as a resource for curriculum.
Curriculum guidance. The WWW is a ready reference for National, State, and Local Education Standards and/or frameworks. Four categories were identified for this dimension: National Mathematics and Science Education Standards; mathematics standards which emphasize problem solving, communication, reasoning, and relationships; new science curriculum which emphasizes concepts, theories, ideas, inquiry, and interrelationships; and State Education Standards that provide local interpretation of the National Education Standards.
Curriculum support. The WWW can support a variety of instructional classroom strategies. Four categories of curriculum support were identified:
Curriculum resources. The WWW offers many types of curriculum resources that support classroom teaching. Two categories were identified:
All dimensions assessed in the report are critical to the success of the integration of the WWW in the classroom. The importance of the dimensions may shift as the WWW grows in popularity in the classroom and other learning environments.
Web-based NASA educational materials (NASA Dryden Flight Research Center materials and also Web-based educational materials from other NASA Centers) were reviewed to classify the type of materials that are available to K-12 teachers and their students for their benefit.
Databases included sources of current data that students can manipulate and examine to learn about scientific concepts. These include
Information and resources refer to text, pictures, and staff available to help teachers gain information. The following types of information and resources were found:
Lesson plans are prepared learning activities that can be used in classrooms. They were grouped by grade levels: K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.
Projects refer to ventures between teachers and students and NASA staff or data.
Student activities refer to interactive games and manipulatives provided for student use and were grouped by grade levels: K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.
A tool refers to a software program that can expand one's WWW "surfing" skills and includes search engines and downloading tools.
References and links refer to NASA and non-NASA Web sites that are hyperlinked to NASA sites.
A tutorial refers to a Web-based lesson for teachers or students.
The most critical dimensions are lesson plans because they are written in a style that is easily infused into the curriculum and therefore reach the students quickly; student activities because they also are easily infused into the classroom; and databases because they allow teachers to search large bodies of information to find what they need to supplement their own curriculum.
Incorporating Web-based lessons and activities is one way teachers can utilize computer technology to enhance learning. In reported best practices, teachers are using the WWW to facilitate learning through collaborative activities with individuals inside and outside the classroom. These teachers are challenging students to use the WWW to research content areas that support lesson goals. Students also are using the WWW to create new or manipulate existing data to support lesson objectives.
The goal of this assessment was to identify best practices of Web-based instruction and learning. The research included looking at how the WWW was being used as well as reviewing examples of lessons and sites being accessed. The findings suggest that there are several ways that teachers are using the World Wide Web to enhance the learning environment and implement instructional activities.
Use of the WWW during instruction. This dimension focused on how teachers used the WWW in their lessons. The WWW may be used as the sole delivery mechanism for the lesson or it may be used as a collaboration tool to share experiment results with other students completing experiments offline. Four categories were found that exemplified this dimension:
Interactivity with the World Wide Web. This dimension focused on how the students used the WWW. For example, students use the WWW as a research tool to find information, data, or graphics; as a tool to communicate with others; or as a tool to manipulate and report data. Five categories were found that exemplified this dimension:
Types of World Wide Web sites. Types of WWW sites refer to the potential function of the site in the classroom. Sites can be classified into three categories:
Informational sites primarily present data, explanations, examples, images, and content. Instructional sites organize and sequence information into lesson plans. Learning sites engage the learner in cognitive processing and interactive investigation of content.
Origination of sites. The origination of sites refers to who created the Web site. This is important to teachers and students when there is a concern about content accuracy and quality of the Web site. Web sites can be created by
The most critical dimensions in this investigation are use of technology during instruction and interactivity with the World Wide Web. Where there were unsuccessful first attempts at using the WWW, teachers changed how technology was used or the type of interaction students had with the WWW.
Teacher tutorials help teachers make use of WWW resources in a classroom setting. The tutorials in this needs assessment focused on skills related to both instructional and technical issues. To use the WWW in the classroom, teachers need varying degrees of technical proficiency combined with strategies and skills relating to designing instruction and writing lesson plans.
Teacher tutorials were classified into two dimensions. The teacher's level of proficiency in either dimension affects his or her ability to use the WWW for instruction.
WWW producer. Producer refers to tutorials that teach teachers to create and publish content for WWW delivery. The WWW producer tutorials were subdivided into two categories: high producer tutorial, that is, one that teaches how to create content, manage WWW pages, write code, use multiple media types, create interactive sites that require less internal initiative; and low producer tutorial, that is, one that teaches how to produce single media pages and create passive, noninteractive pages that require more internal initiative.
WWW integrator. Integrator refers to tutorials that teach teachers how to enhance their classroom instruction with the resources of the WWW. Two types of WWW integrator exemplify this dimension. The first is the high integrator tutorial, that is, one that teaches how to identify resources, use e-mail, facilitate communication, moderate discussion groups, design and foster interactions, and use multiple media sources. The second is the low integrator tutorial, that is, one that teaches how to use a single or few WWW resources or how to use the Web for demonstration rather than engage learners interactively.
The most critical dimension is WWW integrator because successful use of the WWW is determined by a teacher's ability to incorporate, or integrate, the WWW into the existing classroom curriculum. While some tutorials are directed toward the development of Web-based materials, it is more critical to teach teachers how to become integrators of the WWW rather than producers of Web-based material.
In developing materials to help teachers better utilize NASA's Web-based materials, several theories of learning were considered. In this section, the dimensions represent broad perspectives of the learning process. The levels represent different theories that fall under each perspective and are followed by a description of each theory and how it may be applied in the classroom.
For several reasons, designers should consider theories of learning when they are creating Web-based learning environments. Learning and instructional theories help us accomplish the goal of creating a match between instructional methodology and the content to be taught. There are different teaching and learning styles. The more versatile the materials and strategies offered, the more likely the materials will be integrated into the classroom.
Behavioral perspectives. Behavioral perspectives refer to the learning processes in terms of changes in observable behaviors. Changes in behavior are attributed to the pairing of stimuli and responses with positive or negative reinforcement. Two theories that exemplify this dimension are operant conditioning and applied behavioral analysis.
Cognitive perspectives. Cognitive perspectives refer to the structures and processes involved in thinking and how these structures and processes are learned and developed over time. Four theories that illustrate this dimension are constructivism, generative learning, concept learning, and problem solving.
Motivational perspectives. Motivational perspectives refer to factors that influence a learner's desire and ability to learn, such as level of task difficulty, attribution of success to oneself or others, and expectation of success. Four theories that exemplify this dimension include flow theory, attribution theory, achievement goal theory, and expectancy theory.
Sociocognitive perspectives. Sociocognitive perspectives refer to the effects of social characteristics such as age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity on cognitive processes and learning. Two theories that exemplify this dimension include social development and cooperative learning.
Developmental theories. Developmental theories refer to learning in terms of how changes during childhood affect the learning process. Two theories that exemplify this dimension include stage theories and nonstage theories.
No one perspective of learning theory will contribute more than the others to the successful implementation of the WWW in the classroom. To successfully meet the needs of teachers and students, the Web-based strategy needs to be varied, appropriate for the learners involved, and result in a more effective learning environment and increased student performance due to a more hands-on, minds-on approach to learning.
The WWW is making a global economic impact on our lives and schools are critical to the process of preparing children for that world. The purpose of conducting this needs assessment was to gain a better understanding of the school context, school content and WWW resources, and current learning theory and teaching practice so that appropriate teaching and learning strategies for Web-based instruction and learning could be developed. The overall findings from this analysis are reported in these three areas from the perspective of the customer, the teachers who ultimately have the responsibility of deciding what happens in their classrooms.
Three interrelated areas of school context exist: administration, technology, and teachers. For the WWW to be integrated into a school successfully, all of these areas must be addressed and resolved.
The inclusion of Web-based instruction and learning in schools can be accomplished by preparing teachers for the eventuality that they will one day have Internet access. This preparation should help teachers determine how the WWW can be used within their own classroom configuration so that its use is seamless in their instruction rather than being used solely as a "big-time event." It should also prepare teachers to address slow modem speeds and understand that the most dazzling sites may not be the most educationally effective. Teachers need exposure to the different types of Web resources that are available for classroom use and training in efficient search strategies. Instruction exists that teaches teachers how to develop WWW materials. Since fewer materials are available which assist teachers on how to integrate the variety of WWW resources in the classroom, development efforts should be here. When students or teachers have the inclination to learn how to create content for the WWW, they should be encouraged to do so; however, this should not be the only way the WWW is promoted for classroom use. Administrators need to be proactive by budgeting for technical support and including it as part of the technical plan for the school rather than placing this responsibility onto the teacher by default.
The second area of investigation examined the link between school curriculum and existing WWW resources. The National Education Standards were used as a guide to science and mathematics curricula. The WWW was then examined to determine the breadth of resources available to teachers and students.
Web-enhanced lessons can help teachers meet the changing curriculum standards by bringing problems anchored in reality to learners. Any material that is put on the WWW for school use should be tied to the National Education Standards and to state and local education standards whenever possible.
By using a variety of Web resources and integrating rather than producing resources, it becomes feasible to incorporate the WWW in the classroom without it being experienced as an additional responsibility in an already overloaded schedule. The variety of existing materials offers the most flexible strategies for WWW use.
In this area of the investigation, contemporary perceptions about how children learn were examined, along with general classroom teaching practices. Classroom uses of the WWW were studied to determine demonstrated strategies that were school-tested. Existing teacher training about WWW use in classroom was assessed. This analysis has revealed several conditions that should be considered when developing Web-based or Web-enhanced classroom strategies and training for teachers.
Classroom strategies for using the WWW should take into account the shift from a teacher-centered to a learner-centered environment in which the children become active generators of knowledge rather than passive recipients of information. Interactivity on the WWW is not limited to interaction between the learner and the computer information; rather, that interaction can be expanded to the creation of learning partners with the global Web environment. The WWW offers the classroom a global rather than a local view of information, jobs, science, mathematics, and technology. Anchoring local classrooms to real-life activities through the WWW is one model of its use in the classroom. Using the WWW in the classroom does not always have to mean elaborate or extensive use. Using simple resources of the WWW to expand those that are available locally is another possible use in the classroom. Strategies for using the WWW in the classroom should apply the most prevalent and effective learning strategies currently used by teachers and not be limited to only one approach.
Teachers need to learn how to manage the WWW in their classrooms in a manner that does not take a great deal of additional time. Rather, the integration needs to be seamless in the normal planning activities required of teachers.
Classroom strategies of WWW use need to be developed that exemplify good teaching practice, are simple to use, and incorporate the variety of WWW resources that provide access to people and information. Training on the use of these strategies needs to include efficient WWW search methods to lessen the time required to find relevant material for lessons.
Administrators need to advocate and plan for WWW use and provide teachers with appropriate access, technical support, training, and time for training with this new classroom resource.
WWW developers need to fit their material into classroom teaching models that consider access, type of Web resources, and teaching and learning styles and specify several options for teachers to use their materials given the realities of the classroom environment, content, and teaching practice. The goal for developers should be to create material that provides the most flexibility and adaptability to the teachers who use their products.
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