Evaluating the Effectiveness
of Technology in the Classroom
by Tammy Barcalow

    In the early 1980s my brother was one of those few students that finished his work quickly and was allowed to use the computer.  As teachers we repeatedly hear, "Don't use computers for a reward," and "Everyone should have the opportunity to use the computers."  We are suppose to be using the computers as educational tools, but are we?  I get frustrated when I see my students figure out a way to play an "educational game" without thinking about what they are doing or when student choose not go to the computer because they "don't want to do math while they play a video game."  In these cases, the technology is not effective.  The students do not learn anything.

    As I have been developing my WebQuest, I have been considering several different aspects of evaluation.  First, although my students are my number one audience, I hope that other classrooms will eventually use my site, therefore, I want my site to be credible.  I have taken in a lot of information over this semester, so now I'm hoping to apply some of it.  To bring credibility to my site, I have tried to link to other credible sites.  I've also included my email address as well as information about myself.  I have also tried make my site more accessible by adding ALT text to my pictures.  (One problem though:  I ask students to classify rocks into logical groups by looking at pictures.  Any idea how to make this more accessible?)

    I want my WebQuest to be a valuable educational tool to supplement my teaching.  Although I plan for my students to learn from the Rock WebQuest.  I do not want the computer to replace my teaching.  (I like teaching the rock chapter too much.)  My WebQuest should be a great motivational activity to precede the chapter and classroom activities.  I am currently adding a web page that highlights the Illinois State Learning Standards that will be covered by the WebQuest.  Tying into the State Standards will not only increase credibility, but will be useful in measuring my students learning.  From the WebQuest site, I found a rubric template for using with standards that I hope to adapt for my project.  I have also collected rubric information from various workshops and books. A Draft Rubric for Evaluating WebQuests is a rubric I can use to evaluate myself and the creation of my WebQuest.

    Recently, I have discovered the National Educational Technology Standards for Students, which gives grade level benchmarks and examples for technology.  I think these standards are also important to look at when we use technology in our classrooms.  These standards do not focus on educational/game software.  Instead they encourage the use of technology that will help in the real world. "Evaluating the Impact of Technology: The Less Simple Answer" by Doug Johnson (provided by Mike Marassa) also points out the importance of using the computer productivity skills in lessons.  Encouraging my students to use the computer based drawing program for their illustrations, a spreadsheet for their graphs, and even the word processor for their geo-journals are ways that I am incorporating these skills.

    Teachers need to take the time to instruct students on the use of the technology so that it useful, not just a waste of time.  Students also need to be given enough worthwhile time on computers to experience their educational value.  Technology based educational games should not be used to replace teaching either.  They should be used in moderation and aligned with education standards.

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