Mathematics is a subject many loathe, but also one that many love. It is foundational to many science disciplines that dictate day-to-day life, but not many people are diving into it at an early enough age, or they give up learning too soon. It can be an issue with the student; however, the mode of instruction is also crucial for determining a student’s engagement and attitudes towards the subject, and therefore, their academic achievement.
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Teachers each have their own unique style of teaching. Specifically focusing on high school science and mathematics teachers, they each implement their own ideas to build what they believe to be an effective learning environment. However, it is very difficult to facilitate a classroom of more than thirty students and have each individual student’s needs met. For example, one student may be a dominantly auditory learner but has an instructor who primarily teaches using visual aids such as animations or diagrams versus lecturing, which he or she might not employ as much. Visual learners might grasp concepts easier, hence leaving the auditory learner at a disadvantage. However, the use of technology may allow that auditory learner to perform at the same level as the visual learners if different digital tools are used in conjunction with the instructor’s visual aids. Independently, the student can visit websites, like YouTube, Coursera, or Udemy, that offer publicly hosted, and often free, educational videos for anyone to view and for any student to take full advantage of as a learning tool. Access to a different instructor through the internet allows not only the auditory learner but all other learners to find a way towards academic success.
Additionally, students may have trouble with assigned homework problems and just need some help to guide them in the right direction. A Google search can lead them to websites like Khan Academy, Quora, Chegg, which are websites that host answers, explanations, and/or lessons to common concepts found in high school science or mathematics assignments. Khan Academy, in particular, is a popular website that hosts educational lessons on both YouTube and their own website but also allows for members to practice what they’ve learned on their own website through practice problems at no cost to the user. Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, reported in a 2011 TED Talk, that over one million students use his website per month. Due to its popularity, teachers and students alike are recommending the website to each other to promote growth in learning and solidify any gaps in their knowledge for a particular subject.
The use of technology does not only come in the form of videos on educational websites. Technology comes in many different applications such as animated graphics, calculators, problem solvers, mobile applications, computer equipment and much more. These applications of technology allow for more variety, accuracy, and access to learning scientific and mathematical concepts for students looking to further solidify their understanding that traditional teaching methods simply cannot match. Technology has the potential to get more students engaged with the subject material through its applications with video games, interactive quizzes, and flipped classrooms, a relatively new educational model where the purposes of in-class time and out-of-class time are changed by using in-class time for practice problems and assignments, while out-of-class time is used for learning via videos (Esperanza, Fabian, & Toto, 2016).
This study focuses on answering the question: how is technology influencing student learning in high school science and mathematics? This study will present:
- different applications of technology inside and outside the classroom;
- the effectiveness of some common applications of technology;
- student attitudes towards science or mathematics;
- student attitudes towards applications of technology for learning;
- conflicts that arise within certain applications of technology; and
- possible solutions to current conflicts and potential future conflicts.
The researcher hypothesizes that applications of technology can show learning improvement for students in high school science and mathematics courses.
Scholarly research articles can be difficult for young high school students to understand (Gegner, Mackay, & Mayer, 2008, p. 79). Gegner et al. performed an experiment to determine if comprehension aids could assist the understanding of scientific research articles for students in an AP Biology class (2008). Their experiment determined that the comprehension aids group performed better than the control group based on a comprehension test taken a day after the reading and also found that the comprehension aids group enjoyed the reading more (Gegner et al., 2008, p. 87). The positive outcome of their study indicates that the use of comprehension aids in the form of glossary terms, narrated animations, and images are beneficial for students understanding high-level scientific research articles (Gegner et al., 2008, p. 82). The same sort of digital assistance can be translated to other readings that may be more common for high school students such as textbook chapters or scientific articles geared towards younger audiences.
A separate in-class experiment was conducted with high school physics students to determine if a web application made to simulate electrical circuits would prove to help students understand series circuits, parallel circuits, and Ohm’s Law better than students who learned the same subject material traditionally (Gryczka, Klementowicz, Sharrock, & Montclare, 2016). The results of their study showed that before conducting the experiment, both groups were at a similar level of understanding with regards to electrical circuits (Gryczka et al., 2016, p. 177). After the experiment was conducted, a post-test was administered to both groups and the experimental group performed significantly better than the control groups in all tested areas (Gryczka et al., 2016). Due to the post-test results, the researchers concluded an “overall improvement of understanding” of the subject material compared to the control group which did not grasp as much of an understanding as the experimental group (Gryczka et al., 2016, p. 179). Their results show that this certain application of technology in the classroom is effective; however, a 2012 study bring some issues to light regarding this certain application of technology.
Implementing technology in the classroom is not always a plausible option. High schools can have up to thousands of students, and costs are a limiting factor. In an ideal world, all students would have reliable access to modern technologies, such as up-to-date computers or fast and secure internet. According to a 2012 study, in reality, students living in urban settings may have difficulties with technology in terms of their school’s budget, access to computers, or apprehension when using the technology due to being unfamiliar with them (Osler, Hollowell, & Nichols, 2012). School policies vary, and access to technologies during the day may seem like a distraction worth omitting entirely.
Based on Kates, Wu, and Coryn’s meta-analysis, they found that, overall, mobile phone use has a negative effect on educational outcomes because of how much of a role it play in daily life (2012). Kates et al. were also aware of this, reporting not being surprised with their results due to the prevalence of mobile phones in people’s lives today, especially students’ (Kates et al., 2012, p. 111). Although mobile phone use is not a direct application of technology for the purpose of helping students learn, it is still a form of technology that plays a significant role on students’ lives. From social media’s uprising, to all forms of entertainment being accessible on a mobile device, the potential for distraction is common and can negatively impact the academic performance of students.
Even with these realistic limitations of technology, there are benefits of technology when used outside the classroom. For example, “flipping the classroom” is a relatively new educational model where the purposes of in-class time and out-of-class time are flipped (Esperanza et al., 2016). Typically, teachers use in-class time to present information in a “one-size-fits-all lecture,” (Khan, 2011) and assign practice problems for homework. Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, had partnered with the Los Altos, California school district to help flip fifth- and seventh-grade classrooms with his business’ website. Dedicating out-of-class time to learning the material through Khan Academy’s videos, and dedicating in-class time to exercising the newly learned material, technology has been able to “humanize the classroom” by offering teachers more one-on-one time with their students and personally helping anyone in need without sacrificing time to lecture (Khan, 2011).
The experiment conducted was a trial run for formally flipping one fifth-grade and one seventh-grade classroom. After a short period of time, the teachers had noticed something interesting with the ‘slow’ and ‘gifted’ students (Khan, 2011). Viewing them as two separate groups, the gifted students had learned the material quicker than the slow students; however, since all the students were left to learn at their own pace, those same slow students would struggle with a concept, learn it slowly, but once they achieved mastery, they began picking up momentum and caught up to the gifted students (Khan, 2011). Even with this impressive result, the sample size is too small to come to any firm conclusions of a flipped classroom on a national, or even global, scale.
Another research case study regarding flipped classrooms had analyzed additional areas as well. With a group of 91 high school students, a flipped classroom model was shown to be beneficial in terms of academic performance (Esperanza, Fabian, & Toto, 2016). Pre-test results for both their control group and experimental group were almost identical; however, the experimental group scored significantly higher on the post-test and also reported “positive attitudes towards mathematics” and “positive perceptions about the usefulness of the flipped classroom model” (Esperanza et al., 2016).
Contrarily, a flipped classroom model is not the only way to incorporate a major application of technology within learning. For example, two researchers analyzed the effects of two different modes of instruction for fourth-grade students: “Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI)” and “Traditional Instruction (TI)” (Pilli & Aksu, 2013). Gegner et al. also kept their experiment inside the classroom with their study regarding the effects of comprehension aids for reading scientific research articles(2008). Rather than flipping the classroom and testing the use of technology outside the classroom, both groups of researchers dedicated the in-class time to performing their experiments (Gegner et al., 2008; Pilli & Aksu, 2013). Many other studies regarding the use of technology have been conducted to determine the effects of direct use of technology inside the classroom. Both groups of researchers had concluded that computer-assisted instruction in the form of games and comprehension aids are both effective methods of implementing technology inside the classroom.
The participants of this method included students from Ridgefield Park Jr.-Sr. High School located in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey in Mr. Josephe Zakhary’s Scholars Algebra II, Honors Algebra II, and AP Calculus AB classes. These students were chosen due to Mr. Zakhary being a former teacher of the researcher of this paper, and his willingness to allow his students to be surveyed.
Mr. Zakhary was first contacted through WhatsApp messenger, where the researcher asked him if he was willing to let his students be surveyed for the purposes of this study. Mr. Zakhary was agreeable and was later contacted via cell phone, where an explanation of the purpose of this paper was given by the researcher. The survey was hosted on Google Forms (see Appendix A for a list of the questions). The URL was sent to Mr. Zakhary via e-mail, and he later uploaded the URL to Genesis, the learning management system used by Ridgefield Park Jr.-Sr. High School, for his students to visit and give their responses. Data from the survey was parsed using the Python 3.7 programming language.
During the phone call with Mr. Zakhary, he uploaded the URL to Genesis with a message stating completion of the survey would result in extra credit. To ensure each participant was given extra credit, the students were first asked to give their initials and the class period which they met with Mr. Zakhary for class. The use of initials still kept the identity of the participants hidden from the researcher, but the class period allowed for Mr. Zakhary to identify the students from each class period to let the participants earn the extra credit they deserved.
102 responses were recorded. The sample size included 42.2% tenth grade students (Sophomores), 33.3% eleventh grade students (Juniors), and 24.5% twelfth grade students (Seniors). No ninth grade students (Freshmen) were included in the results of this study. For the purpose of this paper, the results are an aggregate of all the responses and are not separated by grade level.
Participants were asked to report applications of technology they have used in the past or are currently using in their science or mathematics classes. 97.1% reported visualization tools, 90.2% reported video chats for the purpose of studying, 75.5% reported the internet, 56.9% reported calculators or problem solvers, 54.9% reported live interactive quizzes, 36.3% reported digital whiteboards. The high statistics for visualization tools and video chats for the purpose of studying are due to the fact that Mr. Zakhary encourages the use of graphing calculators in his class to all his students and also offers study sessions for his students at night when he is available through Google Hangouts. However, the next highest reported application of technology the students used was the Internet (75.5%).
With the rapid advancements of technology as a whole, it is clear that technology is improving in areas where it needs to. There comes limitations with the tools used, and the participants of this study were asked to provide what limitations of technology they believed to currently exist. The responses were open ended; however, many answers were the same or similar. Some of the limitations listed in descending frequency are a lack of resources—access to internet, power, budget, blacklisted websites, or time—technical difficulties, eliminating socialization, lack of instructions for the technology, no step-by-step solution, possible inaccuracies, and difficulty. Another common response was no perceived limitations at 15 occurences (14.7%).
FUTURE/WANTED APPLICATIONS PARAGRAPH GOES HERE
This high usage of the Internet as a learning tool was anticipated, and various questions were asked about experiences with online educational videos which follow a similar style of: a screen recording of a digital whiteboard with narration over the recording explaining the concept while running through examples. Of the surveyed students, 86.3% reported using these educational videos for help with science, mathematics, or both, and 13.7% have not used online videos for neither science nor mathematics.
When asked up to how many years the videos have been used for help with science and mathematics, a discrepancy arose as only 11.8% reported never using the videos which does not match the previous statistic. The rest of the data showed that 16.7% have used these videos in the last year, 29.4% within the last 2 years, 21.6% within the last 3 years, 8.8% within the last 4 years, and 11.8% for more than 4 years.
Frequency of usage of applications of technology was also measured by asking about how many days in the last 30 days was an application of technology used. Half (50.0%) of the respondents have used an application 0-5 times in the last 30 days 31.4% reported 6-10 uses, 14.7% reported 10-20 uses, and 3.9% reported 21-30 uses.
There are various reasons why the videos could be used as a learning tool. The visuals could be appealing or even the voice or narration of a certain instructor may be appealing too. Results show that 65.7% of students like the examples or practice problems found in the videos, 62.7% like the visuals, 61.8% like the narration, 50.0% like the liberty of being able to use the video whenever they want, and 11.8% do not use the videos at all. Among these options, the participants were also given the opportunity to add additional features that they liked about the videos and one liked the conciseness while the other liked the access to easier methods of solving a certain type of problem.
Overall, each person learns differently and the effectiveness of technology for the purpose of learning science or mathematics concepts can vary based on who is being asked. A Likert scale was used to survey the students and ask how strongly they believed applications of technology are effective learning tools for themselves. The participants responded that 32.4% found applications of technology as a very effective learning tool, 45.1% found them fairly effective, 7.8% could not tell, 2.9% found them ineffective, and 11.8% found them very ineffective.
It was initially hypothesized that applications of technology can show learning improvement for students in high school science and mathematics courses. Although in the case of this study a trend was seen that supported this hypothesis, 7.8% could not tell if it was effective, and 14.7% found them fairly or very ineffective. This still leaves the hypothesis supported by 77.5% of the participants.
The rise of the digital age is prevalent in everyday society.
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Out of the 102 students who participated in this survey, the school they all attend is a considerable factor in the outcomes of their responses. The location of and the socioeconomic status of the students that attend Ridgefield Park Jr.-Sr. High School can dictate the school’s budget for technology, the current applications of technology being used, or general access to technology (Osler et al., 2012).
The students surveyed were all in one of Mr. Zakhary’s five mathematics classes, and although they have taken or are currently taking a science course, their responses may be subconsciously focused on solely applications of technology for assisting with mathematics. The students also had an incentive to complete the survey due to the extra credit Mr. Zakhary offered, and the simplicity of the survey could have led the participants to hastily fill out the survey and receive extra credit with little effort put into their responses.
Since the students’ attitudes towards technology in education were not determined, it is uncertain how much each participant knows about this subject. Some students may know little about technology in education, while some may be invested and use it daily.
Alongside these limitations, there are generally some disadvantages that a survey might face. Dishonesty, mischosen answers, empty responses, and misunderstandings are some of the many disadvantages that come with conducting surveys (Debois, 2016). Also, a misunderstanding was found in one of the short-answer questions. Many students had based their short answers off of previous selections found in a multiple selection question, rather than giving a wider variety of their own ideas.
- Bano, M., Zowghi, D., Kearney, M., Schuck, S., & Aubusson, P. (2018). Mobile learning for science and mathematics school education: A systematic review of empirical evidence. Computers & Education, 121, 30-58. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2018.02.006
- Debois, S. (2016, March 16). 9 Advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires. Retrieved from https://surveyanyplace.com/questionnaire-pros-and-cons/
- Esperanza, P., Fabian, K., & Toto, C. (2016). Flipped classroom model: Effects on performance, attitudes and perceptions in high school algebra. In K. Verbert, M. Sharples, & T. Klobučar (Eds.), Adaptive and Adaptable Learning (pp. 85-97). New York, NY: Springer.
- Gegner, J. A., Mackay, D. H., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). Computer-supported aids to making sense of scientific articles: Cognitive, motivational, and attitudinal effects. Educational Technology Research and Development, 57(1), 79-97. doi:10.1007/s11423-008-9088-3
- Gryczka, P., Klementowicz, E., Sharrock, C., & Montclare, J. (2016). Interactive online physics labs increase high school students’ interest. Journal of Technology and Science Education, 6(3), 166-187. doi:10.3926/jotse.191
- Kates, A. W., Wu, H., & Coryn, C. L. (2018). The effects of mobile phone use on academic performance: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 127, 107-112. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2018.08.012
- Khan, S. (2011, April). Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education
- Osler, J. E., Hollowell, G. P., & Nichols, S. M. (2012). Technology engineering in science education: Where instructional challenges interface nonconforming productivity to increase retention, enhance transfer, and maximize student learning. Journal of Educational Technology, 9(2), 31-39.
- Pilli, O., & Aksu, M. (2013). The effects of computer-assisted instruction on the achievement, attitudes and retention of fourth grade mathematics students in North Cyprus. Computers & Education, 62, 62-71. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.010
- Appendix A
Applications of Technology in Education
- Enter your initials
- What grade are you in?
Definition of “Application of Technology”
In this survey, you can treat the meaning of an “Application of Technology” to be: a digital learning tool, used inside or outside the classroom by either the teacher or student, where it is used to help the student understand certain concepts.
In the case of this study, the certain concepts pertain to science/math only. Please base your answers off of your experiences within these subject areas.
Please, select the applications you or your teachers have used or are currently using.
- Internet (YouTube, Khan Academy, etc.)
- Visualization Tools (Graphing Calculator, Computer Diagrams or Animations, etc)
- Calculator or Problem Solver (Wolfram Alpha, Symbolab, Photomath, etc.)
- Live Interactive Quizzes (Kahoot, Google Classroom Quiz, etc.)
- Digital Whiteboards (SMART Boards, Projection of a Drawing Application, Drawing Tablets, etc.)
- Video group chats for the purpose of studying (Google Hangouts, Skype, etc., with a way of screen sharing digital whiteboards)
- None of the above
- What are some of the limitations the current applications of technology have? (Lists or short phrases are acceptable answers!)
- What are some applications of technology that you wish to use in the future, perhaps in later years of high school or college? (Lists or short phrases are acceptable answers!)
Online Educational Videos
Khan Academy has educational videos hosted on their website which all have a similar style: a screen recording of a digital whiteboard, with narration over the recording explaining the concept while running through examples. However, Khan Academy isn’t the only website that offers these kinds of videos. Many people upload their own videos of similar style (digital whiteboard + narration) on websites like YouTube.
Base your following answers off of your experiences with educational videos of this style. (This means if you use other sources besides Khan Academy, include those experiences as well!)
Which subjects have you resorted to these videos for help?
- Neither / Other Subjects
Up to how many years have you used these videos for help with science/math?
- Haven’t used
- 1 years
- 2 years
- 3 years
- 4 years
- More than 4 years
- If you use these videos as a learning tool, what do you like about them?
- The visuals (Colors, Organization, Diagrams, etc.)
- The narration (May explain concepts better than your current teacher in school)
- The liberty of being able to use the videos whenever
- The examples / practice problems
- Do not use
- About how many days in the last 30 days have you used an application of technology to help you with science/math? (Include ALL applications, not just Khan Academy)
- 0-5 days
- 6-10 days
- 10-20 days
- 21-31 days
- How strongly do you believe applications of technology are effective learning tools for yourself in science/math?
- Very ineffective
- Can’t tell
- Very effective
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