Results and Discussion

The results discussed in this section were demonstrated and documented as patterns across children, classrooms, and sites. The ITLC benefited children's literacy behaviors and other behaviors as well in a number of ways to be discussed in this section. As this report is being written, the results from a second literacy project conducted by Macomb Projects staff are being tabulated. They support the findings of the present investigation. Each section of the ITLC commercial literature-based software, graphics and story-making programs, and HyperStudio--produced differential changes in literacy behaviors.

Software and the ITLC Curriculum
Commercial Software. Commercial software programs, such as the Living Books series, had positive effects on social interaction as children listened to the stories, talked about the graphics, and asked questions about the characters in the stories. Children using the graphics and story-making programs tended to interact while drawing pictures, adding writing that ranged from 'invented typing' to their names and other children's names. Many children used KidDesk as a way to communicate with other children and adults as they 'wrote' notes, made calendars, and entered information into the address book.

Commercial software included Living Books, electronic stories with corresponding hard copy of the story. This software supported concepts of book, print, and story including turning pages from left to right, reading from left to right and top to bottom, words have meaning, and stories have beginning, middle and end. Children using this software tended to be more interactive with classmates, working in pairs or small groups, observing, pointing, making suggestions, and talking about the stories. When other types of commercial software were used, children labeled objects found in the stories, predicted sequences as they navigated through programs, and problem solved together as they worked their way through programs such as Busytown.

Tool Software. Graphic and writing software, such as Kid Pix and parts of KidDesk, were found to support emergent writing and drawing. Children used the graphics and writing programs to print letters and words. When using KidDesk, children had the ability to communicate with others through notes, e-mail, and voice mail. Children accessed these options on a daily basis to 'type' strings of letters with occasional names and words in the middle of the letters or to hear messages from friends, teachers, and family members. Children using these programs were learning that print has meaning, that we can read what we write, and we communicate with letters and words. Children using graphic and writing software did not work in the small groups found during use of literature-based software. They usually worked in pairs or individually as they interacted with the programs.

HyperStudio. HyperStudio was effective in classrooms when the research staff was present and facilitated children in using the program. The HyperStudio component had a high degree of adult and child interaction as children authored stories, by making choices about what to draw, what to say about the story, how the picture should be animated, and what kind of sounds should be included. The ITLC HyperStudio component was more interesting to children as a process than as a product. Children enjoyed the process of creating the stack and often visited the computer center to view their work in progress. However, once the product was finished, many children were ready to move on to the next project or go back to using literature-based software or graphic programs. They would revisit their HyperStudio product occasionally.

During a classroom's second and perhaps third year, teachers' use of HyperStudio was mixed and depended on personal preferences, time, and enthusiasm. Teachers in Deer River, Barretville, and Medland continued its use while those in Fox Lake and Middlebrook did not.

HyperStudio supported children's literacy behaviors as they produced books. When using HyperStudio, children drew pictures that had meaning to them; dictated stories about the picture and/or the experience associated with the picture; and added buttons, sound, and video to enrich the story. Children were involved in the process as they listened and attended to the project and the adult who facilitated the project. Social interactions using HyperStudio tended to be one child and one adult working together to build the stack. Although all children had input into the process, children worked individually when using HyperStudio with another child occasionally observing the process.

HyperStudio was used to produce software that was unique to the activities and 'culture' of specific classrooms. Categories of stacks and examples included directions ("Paper Mache" and "Carving a Pumpkin"); field trips (24 individual field trips and "A Trip to the Vet"); class activities ("Winter," "Puzzles," "My Community," "If I Lived to be 100"); storybooks ("What Do You Hear?" and "My Animal Book"); and sharing information ("All About Me," "A Mouse in My Classroom," "All About Us"). Other titles within the categories included "Three Bears in Preschool," "100 Day," "Mouse Views," "Friends Around the World," "Five Little Pumpkins," and "Classroom Stack."

"Three Bears in Preschool" was developed after children read different versions of the three bears, and produced related stories and plays. The teacher scanned pictures of the bears, chairs, and beds into HyperStudio. Pictures and video were taken as children reenacted the story. These were added to the stack, and then children went back through the story and added text and accompanying storyline sounds.

"Field Trips," was produced as an on-going project in a classroom where children made monthly field trips to a nearby town to swim, visit the library, visit a university, and play at a park. Photographs were taken of the places the children visited. When children came back to school, they added pictures of their own and text that related stories about the places they visited. The pictures consisted of a variety of products including water colors, computer-generated pictures, and drawings with markers and crayon. The pictures were added to the stack and children then dictated their stories and added text through 'typing' in text boxes. Each child has his or her own stack. At the end of the field trips, the 'books' were printed, bound and taken home as gifts to share with families.

"All About Us: A Classroom Stack," was an informative stack that combined information about classroom activities, children, and families. The stack was a combination of pictures and video taken during classroom activities and pictures sent in by families to share information about each child's family and favorite activities and events at home. Text was added with sound to the pictures to further illustrate the stories. Some family members came into the classroom to add their own voices to the stacks.

HyperStudio stacks from other classrooms. A fourth section of the curriculum, HyperStudio stacks produced by other classrooms, did not support literacy opportunities. We believe that because HyperStudio functioned more successfully as a process, instead of a product, children were not particularly interested in interacting with stacks made in other classrooms. They did not use the computer when the HyperStudio stacks from other classrooms were offered. If not provided a different software choice, children would avoid the computer area and play in a different part of the room until other choices were offered. The stacks from other classrooms did not have enough sound or animation and did not meet the expectations children had of the interesting characteristics of computer software. Children would ask, "What does it do?" or "What does it say?" Although they accept linear stories in picture books, without animation or sound, the same children expect something more when they use a computer. Another factor is that because the programs were designed for the classroom that produced the program, it was 'classroom specific' and not of interest to children who had no part in developing it and who had different experiences.

Software Preferences
Children had definite software preferences. During the first year of the study, some children used the computer only when a particular type of software was available. Children who tended to enjoy writing and drawing activities in the book center also enjoyed using graphics software. Children who did not visit the computer when commercial literature-based software was the only choice, would make their first visit only after a drawing program was installed. For example, two girls stayed in the classroom writing center for most of their free time. They drew pictures and wrote stories, talking back and forth between themselves, paying little or no attention to other activities happening around them. They were not interested in the computer at all. Even during a Family Night when one of the fathers encouraged his daughter to use the computer, she responded that she didn't want to. The day Kid Pix was installed on the computer, the girls went to the writing center, as was their habit when they arrived. They were invited to watch other children drawing with the graphics program. After observing for a few minutes, they went to the sign-up sheet and signed up for a turn. After that first experience with graphic software, the girls became more interested in writing and drawing at the computer and often went to the computer center. In another classroom, a child sometimes observed Living Books software, but did not interact with the computer. When a HyperStudio stack was authored with pictures of the child, activities in the classroom, and photographs of her family, she was often seen at the computer, clicking the mouse and verbalizing while clicking. The same child spent much of her free time walking in circles around the room clutching a torn and ragged book in her hands. When research staff members walked in the door, the girl grabbed their hands and pulled them toward the computer where she pointed at the pictures on the monitor.

Children who used ITLC programs had favorite pages and turned to the page, or entered options to go directly to the page where they then interacted, read, or sang songs from the page. Favorites were Harry and the Haunted House and Just Me and My Mom, programs that contained musical tunes. Children memorized the stories and songs. When they clicked on a paragraph or song, groups of children would recite or sing word for word along with the narrator's voice.

KidDesk was used by ITLC children across classrooms on a daily basis. They often spent several minutes engaged in desktop management with this program as they checked their calendar, sent e-mail, or chose a new desktop to display their program icons. The software gave them the freedom to make choices from their individual desktops, communicate with peers, and access their own desktop tools.

Another favorite was Playskool Puzzles where children could build their own puzzles or put puzzles together to see animation occur. Children worked cooperatively to put the puzzles together and then tried to guess what a puzzle would 'do' after it was completed.

Although HyperStudio was instigated by the research staff and did not originate with a child choice, children seemed to enjoy the process of authoring stories. The stacks, after completion, were printed, bound in book form, and read again by children in the reading center or shared with family members.

Second and third year classrooms implementing the ITLC without research staff direction used the same types of commercial story and graphics software used previously in the classroom. However, during the second year of participation, teachers used commercial story software more than graphics software, in a ratio of 6:1. Children who had been in the program during the previous year would sometimes ask for software they had used before, such as Busytown and Harry and the Haunted House. At the end of the year, one teacher who made a home visit learned that a child had been patiently waiting to use a program recently installed. Although he sat at the computer center and interacted with peers who were using the program, he himself had never controlled the mouse. He asked if he could have his turn to play when summer school started.

Children who were not engaged in the ITLC, but participated in Type III technology only classrooms did not express software preferences. Two of the classroom sites, Barretville and West Marlin, had limited titles. The West Marlin teacher reported that her children liked McGee, Zoo Explorer, and Bailey's Book House. This software was used the entire year. Teachers who routinely rotated books, activities, and themes, did not rotate software or add software related to classroom interests. In Barretville, the technology was older, and available software tended to require reading and keystrokes to operate. Children used software titled ECH 1 and ECH 2 and needed an adult to help them. In Medland, the teacher had many titles available. Hers was the only one of the three Type III classrooms that used KidDesk. However, she had every software program in her library installed and offered as a choice to the children. With 25 choices, children were overwhelmed and went to the same familiar titles repeatedly.

In ITLC classrooms, children did not prefer software that was located at Level 1 on the Interactivity Chart. This included Discis software and Peanut Butter and Jelly. These programs did not offer opportunities for children to interact with the graphics and words, nor did they offer a wide variety of selection choices. The pictures were static and the story was read to the children.

Some teachers had a difficult time with HyperStudio, not only because they needed to learn the program, but also because it took time to create the stacks. In the first year of the study, teachers in the Fox Lake and Middlebrook sites were encouraged to author HyperStudio stacks, with assistance and actual production from research staff, during a limited time frame (4-5 weeks) because part of the research design was to use the stacks in other classrooms for another section of the curriculum. More time should be taken to learn HyperStudio. In Years 2 and 3, these two sites did not follow through with the HyperStudio stacks. The teachers explained their lack of follow through by saying creating the stacks was too difficult and too time consuming for them. Their learning period may have been too rushed and uncomfortable to gain real mastery.

Teachers in the other three classroom sites where the ITLC was implemented in the second and third years, continued to use HyperStudio to some degree, even after the completion of the study. Their use ranges from learning more about the software to effectively using it in the classroom to author stacks.

Implementing the ITLC
Effective conditions. The research team worked closely with teachers, not only to implement the ITLC, but also to integrate the ITLC into themes already existing in the curriculum, such as Community, Farm, Pets, and Spring. During the first year, the research staff were well acquainted with the software and provided workshop opportunities for teachers to evaluate and use software. Teachers demonstrated their knowledge during the following years when they evaluated and used software independently.

Effective classrooms offered children a literacy-rich environment which included materials for drawing, writing, making books, and reading--in addition to a variety of software. Print was found in many places in the classroom, including commercially-printed poems hung on the walls, stories dictated by children and hand written by teachers on poster paper, children's names, and labels for centers and various objects found in the classroom. Children in these classrooms repeatedly demonstrated a large number and variety of the literacy behaviors of concern to this study.

ITLC staff and teachers facilitated children at the computer by offering choices, modeling behaviors, and redirecting inappropriate behaviors. In Fox Lake, Deer River, and Barretville classrooms, where the ITLC was most effective, adults facilitated children's play, had techniques in place that enabled children to manage their own behaviors, and offered choices that were child-directed. Teachers facilitated 'sign-up' and turns with a sign-up book--a strategy that offered children the opportunity to manage their own turn-taking. Teachers positioned the computer at child-eye level, kept two or more chairs at the computer center, placed the software selections in the computer center for children to make choices, and changed software CD-ROMs when needed. They also changed centers on a regular basis to rotate new materials that matched themes and projects. Rotation included evaluating software and choosing software not only on the quality and interactivity level, but also on the interests and themes that were on-going in the classroom.

Although family involvement workshops were offered by research staff, teachers implemented their own family involvement activities related to the ITLC. Families participated as classroom volunteers, assisted in developing HyperStudio stacks by sending in photographs and visiting the classrooms to add their voices to the stacks, came to ITLC workshops, and served on technology committees to evaluate and purchase software for the classroom.

Ineffective Conditions. Conditions that were not effective in promoting the ITLC included directive behavior on the part of the teachers. Such behavior did not facilitate children's learning. Instead, children were told what do to and not allowed to make their own choices. Sometimes children were not allowed to use the computer as punishment for a negative behavior not associated with the computer (e.g., a child who had not listened and had misbehaved in the gym early that morning before school was not allowed to use the computer during class time). Sometimes children were allowed timed turns, from 5 to 15 minutes long; then the child was told that his or her turn was over and it was time for the next child. Despite the fact that children are seldom limited to 5 minutes when engaged in other preschool activities such as blocks, drawing, puzzles, or playhouse activities, Middlebrook continued the time limits for computer use. When questioned about this practice, the teacher said that because the technology benefited the children, she wanted all to have a turn. Her motives, while well-intentioned, resulted in children's negative behaviors.

The data showed that when teachers limited computer time and turns, children exhibited hostile behaviors and communicated less. The behavior was first observed in technology only classrooms where teachers forced turn taking and limited the time the children could use the computer. The same behaviors were later observed in an ITLC classroom when a teacher began implementing forced turn taking and time limits. Children forced to take short turns were concerned about not being able to accomplish their chosen activity. The computer area in that classroom changed from a place of social interaction and communication to an area of isolation and hostility. Children were protective of their time; did not want to share their space at the computer even with an on-looker; did not take time to communicate, share ideas with others, or call attention to an interesting picture or animation; and sometimes even pushed or shoved another child out of the way. These behaviors were in direct contrast to those observed prior to re-institution of time limits and in ITLC classrooms where children managed their own turns and times on the computer.

When ITLC teachers used ITLC on their own in the second and third years, in Fox Lake and Middlebrook, aides and sometimes teachers directed children's use of the computer and offered unnecessary help. For instance, they told children what to do in the program instead of offering the opportunity to explore and find out on their own. This was a common practice with student teachers and assistants. Sometimes the computers were not turned on nor were they offered as a choice to all children. Conditions viewed as ineffective were also found in classrooms that were not implementing the ITLC (Type III).

Off-computer Activities That Promote Literacy
Two off-computer activities that demonstrated literacy behaviors included sign-up sheets and books on which the Living Books software was based. Both practices were used to some degree in all ITLC classrooms when the research staff were not involved; however, data showed that classrooms new to technology continued to use the sign-up book more consistently while classrooms that were not new to technology were not as consistent after the initial year of participation. Sign-Up Sheet. One off-computer activity that effectively promoted emergent writing behaviors was use of a sign-up sheet. At the beginning of the first year, managing children's turns at the computer in the ITLC classrooms was difficult and confusing. Children gathered around the computer asking for turns, so staff wrote names down on a sheet, and before long children were 'writing' their own names on the paper. Names were in the form of scribbles and mock writing. Nevertheless, children recognized their own names and began to recognize others' marks.

Researchers then bound several sheets of blank paper together into a sign-up booklet, dating each page. Children wrote their own names when they were ready for a turn. Clearly, children were writing for a purpose. Not only were they learning to write their own names, but they were also sequencing (who was next?), reading other children's names, understanding the concepts of print, and interacting socially as they discussed where their names were on the list in relation to others. Children began to move their names from the middle of the page up to the top and over to the left side as time went by. The sign-up sheet was used in all ITLC classrooms. The sign-up sheet was kept near the computer, a new page for each day. A writing tool was placed nearby. The sign-up sheets also became a good problem solving tool and, as one teacher said, "The children begin to understand if they sign up twice, they can have two turns on the computer." The children's names take on different forms as they move from scribbling to emergent letters to recognizable letters. Figure 6 shows examples of these changes.

Figure 6. Samples of Children's Handwriting


The progression of handwriting samples was analyzed using dated sign-up sheets. Because sign up was not a requirement for using the computer, not all 255 children in the study had samples. Children were grouped according to the number of years they participated in the study. Samples were scored based on the amount of improvement from the beginning of participation to the end, using seven stages of emergent writing shown in Figure 7: scribbling, mock handwriting, mock letters, conventional letters, invented spelling, approximated spelling, and conventional spelling. Children who improved four, five, or six stages scored ++. Children who made a more moderate improvement of two or three stages over time scored +. Children who declined by one stage, made no change, or progressed one stage scored 0. Children who declined two or three stages scored - . No child declined more than three stages.

Figure 7. Stages of Children's Writing

Scribbling: Children's first exploration with writing can occur before age two. In this stage, random marks or "scribbles" often occur on a page with drawings.
Mock Handwriting: Children in this stage produce line of wavy scribbles as they imitate adult cursive writing. Their writing often appears on a page with drawings. Children often return to this stage, even after they are capable of writing conventional letters.
Mock Letters: In this stage, children make letter-like shapes that resemble conventional alphabet letters. Mock letters appear spontaneously around children's drawings, as well as in their writing attempts.
Conventional Letters: As children's mock letters become more and more conventional, real letters of the alphabet begin to appear. The first letters written are typically the letters in the child's name. Children often create "strings" of letters across a page and "read" them as a sentence or series of sentences.
Invented Spelling: Once children are fairly comfortable in writing conventional letters, they begin to cluster letters together to make word forms. These words do not look or sound like "real" words. Children at this stage often ask, "What did I write?"
Approximated (Phonetic) Spellings: In this stage, children attempt to spell words based on their growing awareness of letters and sounds and on their memory of words they have seen repeatedly. The words are generally written with a capital letter or a combination of capital and lower-case letters. Children move from spelling words by writing the beginning consonant letter to writing both the beginning and final letters, to writing words with beginning, middle, and final letter sounds.
Conventional Spellings: Children's approximated spellings gradually become more and more conventional. The child's own name is usually written first, followed by words such as mom, dad, and love.

The change in handwriting supported the stages of emergent writing without the direct instruction used in many special education classrooms. Table 4 demonstrates that 51.5% of those participating two or more years advanced four to six stages and that 36.4% of the children made gains of two to three stages, while only 12.1% made minimal or no gains. One might argue that the gains were the result of maturation; however, the fact that differences between ITLC and non-ITLC children in gains on the ILA increased with age points instead to the impact of the emergent literacy curriculum, integrated with technology.

Table 4. Changes in Children's Handwriting Over Time

1 Year
2 Years**

*22 of the children that scored 0 started at stage 7 and ended at stage 7. An additional 4 children scored 0, moving from stage 6 to stage 7. **5 of the children were in the study for 3 years.

When children participated in the ITLC one year, 22.3% improved four to six stages while 25% of the children improved to three stages. It is important to note that 40% of the 55 children who made no gains began with stage 7 (conventional spelling), the ceiling, and could not make gains. A small percentage (7.3%) of the 55 children scoring 0 moved from approximated spellings to conventional spellings. Of the 112 children participating in the study for one year, only 3.6% declined by two or three stages.

One explanation for the decline is that children, like adults, write differently at different times, sometimes making their marks with painstaking care and at other times scribbling just to get a mark on the paper. Barclay (1990) points out that children often return to the mock handwriting stage even after they are capable of writing conventional letters. Perhaps children were more interested in putting marks down on the sign up sheet to hold their place than in making recognizable marks, or perhaps disabilities exerted increasing influence on children's abilities.

Two related studies demonstrated similar findings for sign-up sheets results (Godt, Hutinger, Robinson, & Schneider, 1998; Hutinger & Rippey, 1997). A literacy and technology demonstration project at Macomb Projects found that the practice of using the sign-up sheet (i.e., using a literacy behavior in an authentic situation) led to children becoming more skillful at both writing their names and also "reading" each others' names or marks. A collaborative research study conducted by Macomb Projects and Just Kids, a Long Island preschool, found similar data and provides an interesting check of children's progress in writing their signatures. Random pairs of children's signatures were taken from the computer sign-up sheets, with one signature gathered from the beginning of the year, another at the end. Fifteen of the signature pairs were then distributed to seven literacy experts. No information about dates was given. The experts were asked to identify which signature came from the beginning of the year and which came from the end. Experts accurately identified, on average, 75% of the final signatures. This was a clear sign of general recognition of improvement in the quality of the children's writing over the course of the year, stimulated by the computer sign-up sheet, since there were few opportunities otherwise for writing in the classroom.

Living Books
The second off-computer activity that was effective in promoting literacy was use of the hard-copy of Living Books and books related to software themes. Children using the Living Books series would pull the hard copy of the book over to the computer area where they would then sit in pairs or small groups to look at, point to the pictures, read along, and make choices and comparisons between the book and the program. When children used the books on which the Living Books software is based, they were beginning to understand the relationship that the book has to the story, that pictures and books have meaning, that pages turn from the left to the right, the connection between turning the page on the screen and in the book to finding particular pages.