Summary of Professional Articles



Table of Contents


Article 1:  Using Multimedia to Enhance Problem-Based Learning In Elementary School


Article 2:  Technology Skills as a Criterion in Teacher Education


Article 3:  Enhancing Interdisciplinary Instruction in General and Special Education


Article 4:  Encouraging Online Participation


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Article 1

Using Multimedia to Enhance Problem-Based Learning in Elementary School

By Joerg Zumback, Daniel Kumpf, and Sabine C. Koch

University of Heidelberg, Germany


This 2004 article was about a study done on using a multimedia-enhanced (PowerPoint) project-based learning (PBL) activity to determine if there is an increase in an elementary student’s long-term cognitive development when compared to the standard lecture-based learning (LBL).


PBL is a new teaching approach typically used in higher-education classrooms. This approach breaks students into groups who are presented with a problem. Students use schema and research to study the problem, apply strategies, come up with solutions and then analyzing any ramifications, if any. PBL allows students to focus on doing something versus learning about something.


PBL’s have been around since the 60’s and research shows PBL’s lead to better knowledge retention and higher motivation. However, research has also shown PBL’s can result in stress. It was found that this stress was due to a student being unfamiliar with collaborative learning, problem-solving, and self-instruction. The author notes that if PBL began in the lower grades, these stressors would be eliminated. The author also noted that the use of computer technology can further enhance a students learning because of its ability to reach different types of learners within a controlled learning environment.


The study was based in a German elementary school where students had no technology knowledge and have only learned through lecture. Once students went through training on the computers, one group was given a project about badgers, using PowerPoint as the instructional tool, while another group was teacher-led. Assessment measured long-term knowledge, problem-solving, motivation, and intrinsic-learning (did students want to find out more after the unit ended). By using the thumbs up, thumbs down method, the results showed motivation, long-term knowledge, and intrinsic-learning were higher. However, problem-solving showed no significant increase. The authors felt this was due to the low level of the multiple choice questions.


I agree with the authors that there is no reason why PBL’s could not be introduced at earlier stages of education. Just in my own observations I have found children get excited about learning when they are exploring, discussing, and collaborating over a problem. Sounds easy but the stumbling blocks I foresee are convincing classroom teachers to add more to their workload and providing concrete data to administrators that their financial investments would result in substantial returns.



Works Cited:


Zumbach, J., Kumpf, D., Koch, S. (2004). Using Multimedia to Enhance Problem-Based learning in Elementary School. Information Technology in Childhood Education, 25-37. Retrieved March 31, 2006, from H.W. Wilson Education Full Text.

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Article 2

Technology Skills as a Criterion in Teacher Evaluation


Should teachers be evaluated on their technological skills? This was the foundation for David Whale’s paper “Technology Skills as a Criterion on Teacher Evaluation” published in the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 14(1), pages 61-74. Mr. Whale’s research focused on analyzing how many teachers in the Michigan public school system were being evaluated based on their performance when it came to using technology within their classroom curriculum. Surprisingly, only 19% of the school districts include technology skills as a condition within their teacher evaluations. Or, is it really so surprising? Just in my own experience, very few elementary teachers use the technology resources available for them. Thus, it does not surprise me teachers are not being evaluated based on what, when or how much they use technology.


According to the information in this article, it has been found that with the use of technology “there is a positive, significant effect on student outcomes when compared to traditional instruction”. And, it further states that the government estimated over $18 billion was spent for K-12 technology expenditures in 2000. That is a huge chunk of change to not have someone being held accountable. Yearly evaluations and growth plans can be an avenue checking compliance. However, do I feel the burden should be placed solely on the teacher? Not on your life … it should be administrations role to provide the means, technology specialist’s role to advise and specialize, and it should be the teacher’s role to facilitate and create. Therefore, each position should have additional language in their evaluations that recognize and address “learning with technology and learning from technology” (Mr. Whale certainly summed it up well).


I was recently asked from a fellow educator whether I felt teachers would have to become HQT (highly-qualified teachers) in technology. My gut answer was that once technology standards become a part of statewide curriculum frameworks, it should be technology specialists who should assure NETS-T standards are being met and teachers being evaluated on how much and how often they are integrating technology into their lessons.



Works Cited


Whale, D. (2006). Technology Skills as a Criterion in Teacher Evaluation. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 14(1), 61-74. Retrieved April 4, 2006, from H.W. Wilson Education Full Text.

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Article 3


Enhancing Interdisciplinary Instruction in General and Special Education

By J. Emmett Gardner, Cheryl A. Wissick, Windy Schweder, and Loralee Smith Canter


This article is about interdisciplinary thematic units and how technology can enhance these lessons in special and general education. Thematic Units are an effective teaching method that organizes activities around a central topic, idea or theme. The interdisciplinary teaching presents these subjects in extended units so students have enough time to understand the connections that link different disciplines (reading, writing, math, social studies, art, and music). It encourages students to explore, to read many different sources, and to engage in a variety of activities. Students are always planning and thinking more actively. The results are, students comprehending more and feeling confident with their learning. Thematic units can also provide an opportunity for special and general educators to collaborate and choose the strategies necessary to meet individual student needs.


Integrating technology into a thematic unit needs to have a purpose – the need “to achieve specific outcomes”. With the right mixture of technology, learning will be dynamic, active, and effective. For many special education students, it bridges the gap and brings together curriculum areas that were once viewed as being unconnected or unrelated (fragmented). Four general technology areas are discussed in this article: productivity tools, presentation and multimedia, content-themed software, and web-based activities.


Productivity tools (writing, spreadsheets and charts, and databases) can create impressive products and when considering using them, it is important to think in terms of how they function to improve learning. Writing tools can enhance the writing process however simply typing a report in a word processing program is a weak strategy. They suggest getting creative and using a variety of activities (check out the article for a variety of activities to use). Writing can often be difficult for someone so they suggest using assistive technology such as word prediction, text-to-speech, and writing organizers. Spreadsheets and charts demonstrate mathematical concepts and help support problem-solving skills, whereas databases help to organize and sort information into meaningful categories. Students are able to change information and make informed decisions through investigation and content manipulation.


Presentation and Multimedia tools provide students, who do not communicate well in written form, the opportunity to succeed. By integrating textual and pictorial information as a means of conveying information, students are creating and presenting reports that make sense for them. It allows for creativity and adds a novelty into the traditional lesson. The article suggests using Microsoft PowerPoint and HyperStudio 6.


When deciding to use contextual-theme software, the fundamental goal is to be sure the software matches a unit’s theme and functions in a way that supports students’ needs. The article has a table of software they recommended based on individual content/skill areas.


The final technology area is Web-based Activities. There are numerous educational-related sites teachers can access ( for thematic topics and lessons. Teachers can also create their own activities by providing a list of links or have students individually search when participating in inquire-based activities. Searching can be overwhelming and frustrating, so the article recommends using student-friendly search engines and online encyclopedias (,,, and When students are learning about a predefined topic, preexisting Web resources gives students the structure they need to complete the learning activity. Hotlists (collections of hyperlinks) and scrapbooks (collections of photos, videos, or drawings) can be effective for students locating specific information. Lastly, WebQuests are the most popular form of a web-based activity. They consist of highly structured activities that center on web-based learning.


Integrating technology is certainly a valuable tool when it comes to interdisciplinary instruction. If general education curriculum sets the theme and special education creates the instructional strategies when developing technology-enhanced thematic units, students will be “equipped with powerful tools used for lifelong learning”.



Works Cited

Gardner, J., Wissick, C., Schweder, W. (2003, May/June). Enhancing Interdisciplinary Instruction in General and Special Education. Remedial and Special Education, 24(3), 161-72. Retrieved April 10, 2006, from H. W. Wilson Education Full Text.

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Article 4


Encouraging Online Participation

By Wing Lam, Universitas 21 Global, Singapore


I thought this article was timely since some of our class is spent online and probably many of us will find ourselves facilitating online classes. Online discussion forums can take away the apprehension and pressure students often have when contributing in live-class discussions. However, one of the problems often encountered in online discussions is the lack of student participation. Since 2003, Wing Lam, a professor at the Universitas 21 Global in Singapore, has been experimenting with tips for teachers that would motivate and encouraged students to participate. He discovered that higher levels of student participation were achieved when the discussion forums are actively planned, managed and facilitated by the instructor.


When forcing students into participating, i.e., grading on the number of postings, the results are lots of “low-quality” postings. Therefore, the author provides strategies facilitators can use that would ensure a high level of “high-quality” student participation.


Start with creating a sense of community by having a “get-to-know-you” forum. Have students post introductory messages with their names, jobs, work experiences, interests, etc… And have an socialization area that is designated for students to get together and chat.


In the Discussion Forum:

·        Use assignments to generate discussions. An example would be to give a reading assignment, ask open-ended questions, and have students write a 150-200 word response.

·        Assign students or a team of students to lead a discussion.

·        Use role play by posing a problem and ask students to play out particular roles. Role-playing is a great way of including students who are normally sitting outside of a discussion.

·        Use a For-and-Against exercise where students take a “for or against” stand on a particular issue.

·        Use trigger questions that will either kick off a discussion or spark a dwindling discussion.

·        Carefully choose the discussion topics so they will align with the assignments. The useful discussions that will be held will help students understand the benefits of their assignments.


As the facilitator:

·        Set your expectations and ground rules for online discussions early.

·        Develop facilitation skills by kicking off discussions, encouraging students to get involved, highlight key learning points, keeping the discussions on tract, and summarizing & closing a discussion.

·        Keep the discussion well-organized by creating separate discussion topics and breaking large topics into sub-topics.

·        Become the “Guide-on-the-side”. A facilitator should refrain from posting answers, stating if answers are right or wrong, posting too much, or sharing their ideas or opinions.

·        Show a presence. Log in at least once every two days and make at least 5 postings. Personalize your postings by including student names into the discussion threads and be sure to congratulate those who make significant contributions to postings.

·        Assess the quantity and quality of online participation by monitoring a student’s activity and how they introduce new ideas, provide contributions that no-one else makes, and how their opinions are result of their personal work experiences.

·        Restrict e-mail to private conversations. If a conversation could benefit the entire class, have students post it to a discussion forum.


Although these guidelines were specifically created for online classes, many of these can be transferred and used in the classroom, which often lack student participation. Discussion threads, whether in-person or on-line, can stimulate and enhance student learning. We learn so much from the perspective of others! Just like in Prof. Fogarty’s class, if there wasn’t any student participation, I wouldn’t have learned as much as I have.




Works Cited:


Lam, Wing. (2004, Winter). Encouraging Online Participation. Journal of Information Systems Education, 15(4), 345-8. Retrieved 11 May 2006, from H.W. Wilson Education Full Text.

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