Does this research finding apply
to my classroom, school, or district?
Studies are conducted in the real world with real people, but if
the schools studied differ significantly from your school, the findings
may not apply. One of the most important first steps in reviewing
research involves understanding the unique characteristics of the
teachers, or students
studied. Knowing how researchers selected the participants for a
study will help you understand how the research findings apply to
your school or district. In addition, you should pay careful attention
to the level of supports that were available to implement the technology
program in the study. Will these same supports be available to your
For more information on how the process of selecting students or
schools for a study can affect the interpretation of a study's findings,
see sample selection.
Computer Reading Fun's implementation
in 1997-98 contributed to substantial gains in the performance
of 1,300 students in 20 schools in grades three through
six on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program
(TCAP) exams. The achievement gap between economically
advantaged and disadvantaged students narrowed substantially.
Of the participating schools, all had been low achievers
on standardized reading tests before they participated
in Computer Reading Fun.
The teachers in this district
received eight hours of training to use Computer Reading
Fun, and involved students in the program an average
of two hours per week through the year. All teachers
administered Computer Reading Fun in their classrooms,
which had an average of three newer computers per classroom.
Districts. Does your district have
the same mission and commitment to educational technology initiatives
as the district in the study? Are there any other reforms in place
(e.g., new curricula, school organization, student assessments)
within the district featured in the study that may enhance the results
one might normally expect from investing in this software initiative?
Consider technology infrastructure requirements as well as the level
of support provided for teacher training and instructional materials.
Also consider the costs to implement the program in ways similar
to the district in the study. Could your district replicate the
technology implementation depicted in the study?
Schools. Does your school or district
have the same level of resources as those of the educators in the
study? Consider the computer technology requirements as well as
the level of support provided for teacher training and instructional
materials. Will you be able to commit the time and resources that
it may take for you to reach the same level of gains in student
performance as the schools in the study? Now consider the costs
to implement the program in a similar way to schools in the study.
Can your school afford a comparable level of implementation? Do
you have the resources to replicate the technology implementation
depicted in the study?
Teachers. How were the teachers selected?
Were teachers with particular skills, pedagogical approaches, or
subject specialties included or excluded? How proficient were the
teachers in using computers and incorporating technology into their
classroom instruction? What types and levels of professional development
did the teachers receive in the use of technology? How proficient
were the teachers in using other types of educational software in
their classes? How different are the teachers in the study from
the ones that will be using the software in your school?
Students. How were the students
selected? Were students with particular characteristics (e.g., intellectual
capability, ethnicity, language skills, parental education) included
or excluded? Did certain types of students drop out of the study
and, if so, how many(differential
sample attrition)? How proficient
were the students in using computers and how often did they use
computers in other classes? Were these students the types of students
who might use computers in the home on a regular basis? How different
are the students in the study from those students who will be using
the software in your school? Is the software appropriate for the
skill level and experience of the students in your school? There
can be substantial differences in the uses of technology with different
types of students.