E-learning Behaviors in Middle School

E-learning Behaviors in Middle School

Kathleen Guinee (Northeastern University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0315-8.ch091


E-learning occurs throughout the middle school curriculum. Children use computers and the Internet to learn skills, complete assignments, and deepen their understanding of concepts. Supplementary computer software helps students build literacy skills, while digital texts provide affordances and challenges for comprehension and learning. During Web-based research, students leverage literacy and technical skills to accumulate knowledge. Students can use word processing or multimedia to demonstrate their learning. Simulations help create authentic learning experiences in the content areas and promote the transfer of learned skills. Even with the introduction of new technologies, teacher quality and classroom structure are important for student learning. Home video game and computer use also impacts students’ academic performance. Future research should continue to investigate the impact of e-learning on middle school students’ learning and development.
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Five decades of research about computer use in the classroom has demonstrated that e-learning can be not only engaging for students, but also an effective learning tool (Goldberg, Russell, & Cook, 2003; Ringstaff & Kelley, 2002; Roschelle, Pea, Hoadley, Gordin, & Means, 2000; Vogel et al., 2006). While this research extends beyond educational uses of the Internet, it provides valuable insight to the e-learning experiences of today’s middle school students. First, many educational online environments are derived from earlier computer software. For example, features of online text editors, such as spell check, were inherited from word processing software. In addition, some educational Web sites function as stand-alone units, located on the Internet, but operating like computer software or other non-networked technology (e.g., laser discs). Therefore, reviewing research findings about computer software and educational technology can inform an understanding of similar cyber behaviors. Finally, providing access to the Internet in an educational setting often involves supplying learners with a computer. Given such a resource, educators leverage all aspects of the computer, not just the Internet, as they help their students learn academic and information literacy skills. As a result, examining middle school students’ experiences with both computers and the Internet provides a more complete view of their e-learning behaviors.

Most early attempts at e-learning involved computer assisted instruction, such as drill and practice programs to supplement skill instruction and tutorial programs intended to individualize instruction. For instance, Richard Atkinson and Patrick Suppes are known for their efforts in the mid-1960s to develop tutorial programs for teaching reading and mathematics (Atkinson, 1968).

Around this same time, Seymour Papert and colleagues invented the LOGO programming language (Papert, 1971). Applying Jean Piaget’s constructivist learning theory, Papert believed that teaching children to program computers using a simple language would help them develop mathematical thinking and problem solving skills.

During the 1980s, new technologies enabled the creation of multimedia problem-based e-learning programs. For example, Jan Hawkins helped design the Voyage of the Mimi program to teach students a variety of academic content, such as map skills and knowledge about whales and their habitat (Char & Hawkins, 1987) and John Bransford helped design the Jasper Woodbury Series to teach mathematical problem solving (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992).

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