The effects of a digital learning environment on the work flow of students and teacher in a language-based learning difference science classroom

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


Students at Middlebridge High School typically have challenges sorting and organizing their work in binders as well as completing multistep tasks. In other words, their executive functioning ability is often impaired. When attempting to complete something like a lab, or even something as simple as a small homework assignment, some of the assignment can easily go missing in the shuffle of the school day. Technology can often be sold as a 'silver bullet' to solve many of these issues. But, how well can technology really help these students? Is the current state of technology in education robust enough to handle the day-to-day issues of a pupil who is susceptible to misplacing parts, or the whole of, an assignment? Students in a chemistry class were cycled through four phases where they alternately used completely digital methods of managing a workflow to complete homework and lab assignments, and analog methods such as traditional paper with a writing implement and a physical binder organization system. As these phases were cycled through, data was collected to see how well they kept track of artifacts (items of school work) and how efficiently they completed their work. Some of the technology solutions employed were Google Drive, Google Classroom, Google Docs, GoodReader, and DocHub. In addition, the effect of these technology solutions were measured for the teacher. For these students, it turned out that technology hindered more than it helped. Some of the technology was very frustrating to use by the students, since a single bug in the software, or one user-unfriendly feature, could stop a student working in his or her tracks. Students kept track of assignments less efficiently when using digital methods of work management, evidenced by longer times of retrieval to find assignments and a lower completion rate of assignments. However, there were some promising results for the teacher's use of these digital methods. Some of the methods made it easier and faster for the teacher to grade and return work for students. The technology solutions utilized seemed immature and too fragmented for efficient use by students, seemingly turning a workflow into a 'workslow.'




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