Findings of Research Study on Effectiveness of a
Comprehensive Technology System Demonstrate Benefits for Children and Teachers
by Patricia Hutinger, Robert Rippey, and Joyce Johanson
The Early Childhoood Comprehensive Technology System (Project
ECCTS) was funded by the U.S. Department of Education to study the effects
of a comprehensive technology system which included staff training, technology
assessment, integration of technology into the curriculum, and transition
practices which included technology. Research was conducted at the Just
Kids Early Childhood Learning Center in Middle Island, New York. Macomb
Projects' technology staff provided training and technical support to the
Just Kids1 on-site Technology Team.
The major findings of Project ECCTS point to positive benefits
to children, to increased technology skills among teachers, to the efficacy
of an on-site Tech Team, and to conditions that promoted maintenance of the
system after the funding cycle was completed. A summary of findings is presented
Findings Related to Teachers:
- If technology integration is to succeed, teaching staff must be involved
in planned, on-going, hands-on training by expert trainers who understand
the potential of technology, the needs of children, and the positive elements
of adult learning. To develop an independent, knowledgeable Tech Team at Just
Kids, the Macomb Projects team provided training in a variety of areas: training
strategies, troubleshooting, technical problem solving, software evaluation
and selection, adaptive devices, and curriculum integration. As a result,
the Tech Team facilitated increased use of computers in the classrooms; provided
greater access to computers, adaptive peripherals, and software; and decreased
- Although the Tech Team initiated on-site training activities, continuity
in technology activities and integration into the regular education curriculum
were strengthened when teachers requested assistance and received timely and
helpful Tech Team responses.
- Clear roles and expectations guided the functions of the on-site Tech Team,
a condition which led to effective curricular and continuous technical support
- Teachers report that the well-equipped resource center, housing a well-stocked
library of current software, contributed to regular technology use.
- Interviews and observations showed that teachers, parents, and administrators
were more likely to use computers if they were taught to use useful adult
productivity software such as word processing, data bases, and spreadsheets,
in addition to software applications for children.
- Interviews, observations, transactional evaluations, and simple purposeful
discussion assisted trainers to keep in touch with the feelings of participants
as they learned and used technology applications. Trainers' attention to learners'
perceptions led to effective use of what is learned. Regular feedback and
encouragement about the progress and the results of the innovative new technology
project contributed to teacher satisfaction and technology implementation.
Findings Related to Implementation and Maintenance
of the System:
- Implementing and maintaining a technology system within a school is more
likely to occur when the program begins on a small scale involving teachers
who agree to participate. Teachers' acceptance of technology tends to lead
toward maintenance of a technology system.
- Interviews and observations indicated that teachers were more likely to
adopt changes when they saw benefits to children and had an opportunity to
first observe others using the features of the innovation. Expansion into
other classrooms is more likely as positive interactions occur among personnel
who see the benefits of technology and as the program maintains flexibility.
- The on-site Tech Team united the pieces of the comprehensive system and
ensured its successful implementation.
- Implementation and maintenance is more likely to occur when the technology
system does not conflict radically from existing values, systems, or codes
of behavior and when it has strong administrative support.
Findings Related to Children:
- Across classes, children, time, and range of disabilities, when teachers
integrated appropriate computer software and adaptations into the early childhood
curriculum and set up accessible computer centers in the classroom, children
demonstrated social skills, including sharing and turn taking; communication;
attention; emergent literacy; fine motor skills; visual-motor skills (tracking);
self confidence and greater self-esteem.
- In ten classroom activities observed, computer use was most often followed
by desirable behaviors (e.g., sharing, communicating, turn taking) and least
likely to be followed by aggression
- Attention spans of one group displaying mild to moderate disabilities increased
from less than 3 minutes to more than 15 minutes when using interactive commercial
- Children with behavior problems, those diagnosed as autistic, and those
who did not talk to adults exhibited fewer negative behaviors during computer
time, interacted socially more often, and were more communicative.
- Children made progress in all developmental areas, including social-emotional,
fine motor, communication, cognition, gross motor, and self help, according
to their Brigance scores and observational field notes. For example, in Year
3 Brigance scores on Socialization for 16 children who had participated in
the study for 2 years, showed gains of 1.84 months per month instead of the
0.77 month progress they had made prior to computer use. Their social-emotional
growth rate more than doubled in comparison to their pre-ECCTS years. Teacher
interviews stressed this growth of social skills associated with computer
use as well as its positive impact as a tool for teaching sharing.
- When technology is used to support learning, children achieve success,
increase self esteem, and demonstrate knowledge and skills across a variety
of developmental domains. Some children become recognized as classroom 'computer
experts' who can help others navigate through software and gain in the process.
- Computers and accompanying software, when employed according to the ECCTS
model, are very efficient, when compared to other classroom activities, in
promoting (a) attending, (b) cause and effect reasoning, (c) communication,
(d) emergent literacy, (e) engagement, (f) sharing, and (g) socialization.
Children's behavior sometimes revealed that they possessed unsuspected skills
- When two or more children used the computer together, they employed language
and demonstrated positive social skills. Some children diagnosed as Multiple
Sensory Disorder (MSD) or Pervasive Developmental Delays (PDD) began to socialize
and talk in the computer environment.
The benefits of assistive computer technology for children with
disabilities have been demonstrated in practice and in the literature for more
than 18 years. However, if administrators and teachers are to ensure that children
engage in the most appropriate technology experiences, then curricular applications
alone are insufficient. Findings from Project ECCTS demonstrated the efectiveness
of a comprehensive system. Technology assessment, curriculum integration, and
transition elements must be present, in addition to a staff development strategy
focusing on equipment use and software integration into daily educational experiences
in a variety of content areas.