Description of the Study, Methods, and Participants


Method: The Interactive Technology Literacy Design
The study was conducted to describe and explain the effects of the ITLC on the emergent literacy knowledge and abilities of 3, 4, and 5-year-old children who demonstrated mild to moderate disabilities. Designed as a rigorous naturalist inquiry, the study incorporated principles from Lincoln and Guba (1985, 1989), Patton (1990) and others (Filstead, 1970; Tesch, 1990). Observations, content analysis of field notes from over 500 hours of observation, videotapes, portfolios of children's drawings and writing samples, teacher and family interviews, as well as pre- and post-test data on an informal emergent literacy and a technology measure were collected on 255 children during a 3 year period.

Preschool classrooms were the unit of measure in the study, which was conducted in 16 preschool classes in 8 west central Illinois communities. Schools were in both rural and small urban communities. Classrooms were classified into four types according to the presence or absence of ITLC and the technology experience of the teachers, ranging from experienced computer users to novice users to non-computer users.
The teachers were committed to the project and participated to the fullest of their ability. They assisted in planning, implementation, and aspects of data collection. The participatory aspect of the study lends credibility to the content and to its practical focus (West & Rhoton, 1992) which was in congruence with 'real world' practice (Dentler, 1984).

Design
Classrooms were originally classified into four types according to the presence or absence of the ITLC and the technology experience of the teachers ranging from those who were beginning to use technology and ITLC (Type I), experienced technology users plus ITLC (Type II), computer use but no ITLC (Type III), and no computer use and no ITLC (Type IV). Type III and IV sites were comparison sites for the ITLC sites. Figure 2 shows the study's design. Type I, II, and III classrooms were studied during the first year. The names of the schools have been changed and may or may not refer to the actual site.

 

Figure 2. Progression of Sites through Phases 1, 2 , and 3

Type I Type II Type III Type IV
Phase 1 1994-95 I.1 Fox Lake II.1 Middlebrook III.1 Medland  
Phase 2 1995-96 I.2 Deer River II.1 Middlebrook III.2 Barretville IV.1 Johnstown
  II.2 Fox Lake    
  II.3 Medland    
Phase 3 1996-97   II.1 Middlebrook III.3 West Marlin I IV.2 Elberton
  II.2 Fox Lake    
  II.3 Medland    
  II.4 Deer River    
  II.5 Barretville    

New classrooms and a Type IV classroom were added in the second and third year. In the year following participation as a Type III classroom, the room became a Type II classroom. This arrangement was made with teachers in return for their initial participation as a comparison site. We originally intended that the Type IV classroom in Year 2 would become a Type I classroom in Year 3; however, the teacher planned to take maternity leave during the year, the administrator was not supportive, and their computer arrived five months later than the principal had promised. Therefore, that location was dropped from the study.

The ITLC was administered by research staff in collaboration with the teacher during a classroom's first year of participation. The second and third year of participation the teachers were responsible for carrying on the ITLC with support and consultation from the research staff. After analysis of first year data, we determined that the presence of the research staff, administering the ITLC, had an immediate positive effect. When teachers were responsible for the ITLC, positive effects were more evident in the third year rather than in the second. Subsequent data analyses took this factor into consideration.

Subjects
Children. Two hundred and fifty-five 3, 4, and 5-year-old children who demonstrated mild to moderate disabilities, the staff who served them, and their families, were studied. Table 1 shows numbers of children involved in the Project by Site and Year. Seven children were dropped from the study because families moved. Twelve children participated across the first 2 years, while 27 participated across the second and third years. Seven children participated for 3 years. These children are identified as 'Repeat Children' in the section on results and discussion. Two participants from an ITLC participating classroom were followed to a comparison classroom when the families moved. Table 2 shows the distribution of children across experimental and comparison treatment groups.

Table 1. Numbers of Children by Site and Year

Year
Fox Lake
Middlebrook
Medland
Deer River
Johnstown
Barretville
West Marlin
Elberton
Grand Total
Year 1
23
25
14
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
62
Year 2
23
24
12
24
26
19
NA
NA
128
Year 3
19
22
11
17
NA
15
15
14
113
Total
53
58
27
35
25
28
15
14
255

Note:Over the three years, 46 children remained in the project more than one year. Two children participated in a Year 1 site and then moved with their families to Johnstown and Barretville where they participated the following years.

Table 2. Distribution of Children Across Experimental and Treatment Groups

Age
ITLC + Staff
ITLC Groups
TECH Only
No TECH
 
A
B
C
   
 
Year 1
M
F
M
F
M
F
M
F
M
F
M
F
3
10
3
2
2
-
-
4
15
9
4
0
-
-
5
4
2
4
1
-
-
6
0
0
0
0
-
-
Total
29
14
10
4
-
-

 

Children in the classrooms were classified either as eligible for Early Childhood Special Education or Prekindergarten At-Risk Programs (Pre-K). Both categories were included within classrooms. Guidelines for admittance to the Early Childhood Special Education and Pre-K at-Risk programs meet Illinois state guidelines although eligibility is defined in flexible terms. If, through diagnosis and assessment, a child is classified as Early Childhood Special Education, the child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP). IEPs are written for any physical impairment, including vision and hearing. IEPs can also be written if a child has significant developmental delays. The term 'significant' is defined by the school district. Some school districts classify children as Early Childhood Special Education if the child is in need of speech service, but other school districts do not.

School districts which have state-funded Pre-K programs must develop eligibility criteria and conduct screenings. After criteria have been established, the school district then determines which children are eligible. Criteria can include socio-economic conditions such as having a single parent, having a sibling in special education, having a sibling who has been retained, being a twin, living in a rural area, or having a low income level. Pre-K programs also include speech and motor delays as a part of the criteria if it is not part of the Early Childhood Special Education criteria. Most school districts require the presence of at least two of the established criteria if a child is to qualify for Pre-K.

Preschool Staff. Eight teachers, 24 support staff, and 226 families participated in the study which was conducted in public school settings with all the concomitant problems related to bus schedules, illness of both teachers and children, holidays, snow days, families' moves and problems, lack of space, changing program assistants, and assistants who were indifferent to the goals of the project. The teachers were experienced in early childhood special education with a range of 7 to 21 years in the classroom. All held degrees in either early childhood or special education, agreed to participate, and were recommended by their principals as being effective teachers. Four of the eight teachers held Master's degrees.

Teacher interactions with children occurred in varying degrees. Three teachers (Fox Lake, Barretville, and West Marlin) acted as facilitators for learning and encouraged children to explore, create, and problem solve. Children in these sights directed their own play. Three teachers (Middlebrook, Deer River, Johnstown) exhibited a 'mixed' approach. Although they offered children choices and facilitated their learning during center time, interactions were adult directed during structured activities. The remaining two teachers (Medland and Elberton) directed all of the children's daily activities. Children were not encouraged to question, share, or explore. These two teachers emphasized product rather than process.

Families. Across the experimental groups, families shared similarities not only in terms of education and employment, but also in reading and writing practices. Across classroom types, 75% or more of the 203 families who responded to our Family Literacy Questionnaire indicated that two parents lived in the home. Most parents read some form of book, newspaper, or magazine daily and subscribed to either a local newspaper or an entertainment magazine. Twenty-five to 37% of families subscribed to children's magazines. Most families obtained books to read from stores or through mail order, perhaps due to the geographic location of their communities. Four communities did not have a readily accessible public library. Although many sources were described as being used to obtain books, the technology only group had a higher percentage of families who did not obtain books from any source (15%) and 55% indicated that their children did not request new books or trips to the library. However, more than 60% of the families in the remainder of the groups reported that their children requested new books or trips to the library.

A high percentage of families in the ITLC conditions reported that they had over 100 children's books in their home. The remainder of the families in the technology only or no technology groups had fewer books, with between 11 to 50 children's books. When asked how often a family member reads to a child, across classroom types, 50% or more responded that a family member reads to the child every day. Although more than 50% of the families, across classroom types, reported a regular reading time, the ITLC plus research staff groups had the highest percentage with 72%. Families also reported that most children 'read' (pretended to read) aloud to a family member either every day or frequently, across classroom types, except for the families in the technology only classroom. The families in this group reported that their children never or seldom 'read' aloud.

From 28% to 63% of the mothers had completed high school and some (13% to 43%) had further college or technical school training. In the ITLC plus research staff groups, 41% of the mothers had completed high school and 30% had technical training. In the ITLC only (where teachers implemented the curriculum), only 28% of the mothers completed high school and 43% had some college or technical school. In the no technology group, 63% of the mothers had completed high school and 13% had further training. Whether or not the mothers completed high school did not affect their children's literacy behaviors as much as the children's interaction with the ITLC, particularly when the research staff implemented the curriculum.

Forty-four (44%) percent to 56% of the fathers, across classrooms, had completed high school, while 7% to 19% had completed further college or technical school training. In the ITLC plus research staff groups, 56% of the fathers had completed high school with 14% reporting further training, while 49% of the fathers in the ITLC only group had completed high school with 19% experiencing further training. In the technology only group, 44% of the fathers had completed high school and 7% had further training. In the no technology group, 56% completed high school and 3% had further training.

The majority of parents' occupations (from 24% to 54%) fell into the unskilled category. Most parents were employed. Only 1% to 6% of the fathers were unemployed. Twenty-two percent (22%) to 33% of the mothers were not employed outside the home.

Classrooms
All eight sites housing 16 preschool classrooms were located within public school buildings in rural or small city settings. Figure 2 showed the progression of sites and treatment groups across the 3 years of the study. Three sites, Medland, West Marlin, and Elberton, were housed in buildings that contained early childhood classrooms exclusively. Although all the classrooms housed children from age three to five with mild to moderately severe disabilities, variations occurred in facilities, teachers' approaches, and daily activities.

Two of the eight sites, Johnstown and Elberton, did not use technology; therefore, a computer center did not exist. Of the remaining six classroom sites, three were control or comparison sites for one year (Medland, Barretville, and West Marlin). Two of these three sites (Medland and West Marlin) limited children's time at the computer for five to ten minutes, and children's turns were managed by the teacher. During the ITLC implementation, four of the six sites--Fox Lake, Middlebrook, Deer River, and Barretville--consistently provided a child-directed environment at the computer. Children directed their own turn taking and turn length, made program choices, and changed CD-ROMs. In these classrooms, the computer center became "just" another center. Adult direction was observed more frequently in the other two sites. Turn taking and length were directed by the teacher at various times. However, these teachers did provide software choices for the children.

Classroom environments in six out of eight sites--Fox Lake, Middlebrook, Deer River, Johnstown, Barretville, and West Marlin--were developmentally appropriate and had defined centers, space for children to move freely, ample toys and materials, and displays of children's work. Middlebrook's room size was small, causing the centers to be less defined and more crowded. (Note: Names of sites have been changed in this report.)

In contrast to these six sites, the remaining two sites, Medland and Elberton, provided the children with few materials and toys. Tables, chairs, and teacher desks dominated the classroom environment. While two or three centers were available to the children, very few materials and supplies were accessible. The Medland site was decorated around themes related to holidays, and children's work consisted of ditto pages. The Elberton site did not display decorations or children's work. However, these two sites had large spaces and windows.

All sites provided center time or free play with time periods ranging from 20 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Medland and Elberton had greater teacher-directed interactions during free play periods. In these sites, the centers were not a free choice. Selected activities were planned then completed by each child. The other six sites provided materials and equipment for child-directed play. The materials for the different centers were changed according to theme units in three of the eight sites. The others occasionally rotated materials and supplies.

Five sites--Deer River, Johnstown, Barretville, West Marlin, and Fox Lake--integrated small groups into their daily activities. Four of the five used small groups during center time or free play. In Deer River, Johnstown, and Medland, children were required to complete teacher-directed activities before they could participate in the centers. Fox Lake's small group activities were not daily events but were used periodically for craft activities. Barretville's small group time was separate from center time. Activities were adult facilitated rather than adult directed.

Circle time was a part of each day's schedule in seven of the eight sites, with the exception of Middlebrook. All circle time activities were similar in content. Content included calendar, weather, helpers, singing, fingerplays, and/or sharing. Storytime occurred during circle time in each of the classrooms. Middlebrook had a daily circle time during Year 1; however, during Years 2 and 3, Middlebrook's circle time was scheduled sporadically.

Children's involvement in the circle time activities differed from site to site. During circle time in one classroom, children could respond freely, share ideas, and give suggestions. In another classroom, children were expected to give appropriate responses or recite phrases. For example, when doing a calendar activity, children were to respond, "Today is Wednesday, November 2." In other classrooms, children could say, "Wednesday."

The presence of materials to promote literacy varied across classrooms. Over one hundred books were available for the children in six out of eight sites, the exceptions being Medland and Elberton. Books were rotated around themes with selected titles displayed and a comfortable area was available in each classroom for children to explore books. Neither Medland nor Elberton made books available to the children. After Medland implemented the ITLC during Year 2, the teacher began to provide a small number of books for children's use during Year 3. No writing materials were accessible to the children nor was a writing center in evidence in either Medland or Elberton. The remaining six teachers provided an ample supply of paper and writing tools for children's exploration and an area that was designated for writing.

Outdoor and gym time for children's physical activities was available in all but two sites. Medland and Deer River, provided only gym time. Children in Medland went to the gym daily. The Deer River classroom's gym time was scheduled twice a week for half an hour with the physical education teacher.

Procedures
Research staff were assigned to each Type I, II, and III site on a staggered schedule for periods of 2 weeks to a month during the site's first year in the study. Two researchers went to a site. One person rotated to another site in 2 weeks while the other remained for an additional 2 weeks, and a third rotated in to remain for a month. The rotation controlled for individual researcher characteristics as each element of the ITLC was administered and provided a degree of continuity in each site. Researchers spent four times a week from a half day to a full day in the first year sites.

The order of each section of the ITLC was varied during each site's first year of participation. During the second year of participation, classrooms that had previously implemented the ITLC with research staff, but now implemented the ITLC on their own, offered all sections of software together. This change was made after teachers and children requested free access to the different types of software. The first year an ITLC classroom entered the study, the research staff modeled implementation of the ITLC while the teachers and staff observed and assisted but were not responsible for conducting activities.

During the second and third years, when a site moved into the Type II category and additional classrooms were added to the study, visits to the classroom decreased to once a week. Researchers rotated every three weeks in the second year. In the third year, visits to classrooms in the Type II category decreased to twice a month because researchers and auditor alike agreed that data collection had reached redundancy. The research staff continued to collect information through observations, field notes, and videotapes. If new information was collected on any visit, the frequency of the visits would increase to collect the new information. However, new information was not found, and observation checks continued to support earlier findings. Comparison sites were visited two to three times a month. Video cameras were used to document classroom observations. Table 3 displays the number of observations made according to experimental treatment over a 3 year period.

 

Table 3. Number of Observations by Days According to Experimental Treatment Over a Three-Year Period

Research Year
Site
Technology + ITLC + Staff
Technology + ITLC
Technology Only
No Technology
Fox Lake
70
--
--
--
Middlebrook
75
--
--
--
Medland
--
--
22
--
Total Year 1
145
22
Year 2
Fox Lake
--
29
--
--
Middlebrook
--
24.5
--
--
Medland
88
--
--
--
Deer River
95
--
--
--
Johnston
--
--
--
17
Barretville
--
--
18
--
Year 2 Total
183
53.5
18
17
Year 3
Fox Lake
--
18
--
--
Middlebrook
--
17.5
--
--
Medland
--
12
--
--
Deer River
--
14.5
--
--
Johnston
--
--
--
--
Barretville
57
--
--
--
West Marlin
--
--
15
--
Elberton
--
--
8
Year 3 Total
57
62
15
8
Grand Total
385
115.5
55
25

The research team convened weekly to discuss data collection activities and the information gathered during the week. They reviewed videotapes, discussed progress of individual children, shared anecdotes, solved problems when necessary, and planned data collection questions for the following week. On site, staff videotaped activities and took field notes on AlphaSmart Pro keyboards. When staff returned to the research office, the field notes were downloaded into a word processing program on office computers. Videotapes were compared to field notes as part of the triangulation process and provided a method to check interpretations and maintain the integrity of the data over time. Questions that arose from field notes, video tapes, and staff meetings were discussed with teachers and staff as part of the member checking process. After each site visit, research members recorded memos as part of their field notes or in separate journal entries. The information in the memos was discussed regularly in staff meetings and in separate meetings with the coordinator of the research team as each member explored aspects of the inquiry that might otherwise have remained only implicit in the inquirer's mind. The purpose of the debriefing sessions with the coordinator was to probe biases, explore meanings, and clarify interpretations.

As part of the data collection process, families were interviewed both formally and informally. During site visits, the research team worked closely with classroom teachers to arrange family interviews. The family interviews were conducted in homes or at school, depending on the preference of the family and their work schedule. Research staff talked to family members visiting the classroom, during open houses, and at scheduled family events.

At the beginning of each year, a family literacy questionnaire, Reading, Writing, and Computers, was sent home with each child to be filled out and returned. The questionnaire recorded information about the reading and writing behaviors of the child and family and gathered general information about the family. At the end of the year, a simpler form, Kids and Computers, was sent to families along with a videotape recording their child's progress from the beginning of the year to the end of the year while involved with the ITLC. The form, which gathered information about changes observed in children, was packaged with markers and drawing paper so parents could encourage children to draw and talk about what they liked best about the computer. The completed papers and the videotapes were returned to the classroom teacher and collected by the research team.

All project teachers, support staff, and administrators were invited to the campus of Western Illinois University once each year for a presentation of preliminary results, to share information and gain feedback. The presentations incorporated pictures, video, and software programs used and created in the classroom. The event produced successful information exchanges among the research staff, teachers, and administrators. Workshops conducted regularly on campus again provided feedback as teachers discussed, with the research staff and other teachers, what was taking place in their classrooms with technology use. At the end of each year, a half day was set aside for the research staff to meet with the ITLC teachers as a group for a member checking meeting. Data from the previous year was summarized and problems and issues that arose over the year were discussed.

The Interactive Technology Literacy Curriculum
The ITLC provides a framework organized to assist young children to develop emergent reading and writing. ITLC activities were designed to promote literacy development at the computer center as well as in other areas of the environment and other curricula areas. In addition to strategies to acquire and develop language pleasantly, productively, and appropriately, the ITLC highlights the importance of children's home cultures and builds upon uses of language and literacy through existing home experiences.

Macintosh Performa 636 computers with internal CD-ROM drives, 14" - 15" monitors, and color inkjet printers were used. A description at the beginning of each activity explained the links between the software and children's learning. Three types of software were used in the version of the curriculum now available: (1) interactive commercial software which can be used to extend literacy concepts and behaviors including the Living Books series such as Just Grandma and Me, Harry and the Haunted House, and Stellaluna; (2) commercially available graphics and story-making software such as Kid Pix 2, EA*Kids Art Center, and Stanley's Sticker Stories; and (3) HyperStudio, an authoring program used by teachers and children to develop their own software based on meaningful experiences such as a favorite story, a description of the children and their classroom, art work, a field trip to the veterinarian's office, and information and photographs of children's families.

A fourth type of software, HyperStudio stacks produced by other classrooms, was tested during the study with mixed results. Software was highly personal to the particular classroom where it was produced. Although the children who participated in making the stack went back to it over time, generally children in other classrooms were not interested in others' productions. Success of these stacks depended on the nature of the content and the interest of the teacher or researcher. The content and production techniques for the stacks elicited more interest in the children who were actually making the stacks than in other viewers in distant classrooms.

Criteria were designed to analyze commercial software in terms of five levels of interactivity. Figure 3 lists software in each of the levels. Software used initially by the research staff was also evaluated on the basis of two more different types of evaluation methods; a checklist regarding overall quality and appropriateness for the age group, while the other was based on instructional design, technical characteristics, and ease of use. The qualitative evaluation checklist contained statements such as, "The software encourages active involvement," and "The child controls the process." The second examined instructional design, educational value, and usability. Sample items included, "Rate and levels of difficulty can be adjusted for users;" "Program moves from level to level;" and "Graphics, sound, and color are utilized."

Figure 3. Software Levels of Interactivity

Level 1
Description
Minimal choices, Specific path, Fixed response, No control of text, Very limited control of sound (on/off), No control of graphics
Examples
Animal Tales, Camp Frog Hollow, Circletime Tales, Claws for Alarm, Eensy and Friends, Five Green and Speckled Frogs, Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, My Favorite Monster, New Frog and Fly, Rosie's Walk, Storytime Tales
Level 2
Description
Multiple choices, Predictable path, Varied responses, No control of text, Very limited control of sound (on/off), No control of graphics
Examples
Arthur's Birthday, Arthur's Reading Race, The Backyard, Bailey's Book House, Berenstain Bears Get in A Fight, Berenstain Bears in the Dark, Dr. Suess's ABC, Franklin Learns Math, Harry and the Haunted House, Jump Start Toddlers, Just Grandma and Me, Just Me and My Dad, Little Monster at School, McGee Series, The Playroom, Preschool Success Starter, Sheila Rae the Brave, Stellaluna, Tortoise and the Hare
Level 3
Description
Multiple choices, Moderate control of path, Varied response, No control of text, Very limited sound (on/off), No control of graphics
Examples
A to Zap, ArtSpace, Busytown, Cat in the Hat, Darby the Dragon, Green Eggs and Ham, Gregory and the Hot Air Balloon, How Things Work in Busytown, Just Grandma and Me 2.0, Just Me and My Mom, Let's Explore the Farm, Let's Explore the Airport, My First Amazing World Explorer, My First Incredible, Amazing Dictionary, Putt Putt Joins the Parade, Putt Putt Goes to the Moon, Ruff's Bone, Sammy's Science House
Level 4
Description
Multiple choices, Total control of path, Varied Responses, Total control of text, Limited control of sound, Limited control of graphic
Examples
Amazing Animals, Amazing Writing Machine, Big Job, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, ClarisWorks for Kids, Crayola Art Studio, EA*Kids Art Center, Explore-A-Story Series, Gryphon Bricks, Kid Pix Studio, Kid Works 2, Kid's World, Playskool Puzzles, Stanley's Sticker Stories, Stone Soup, Storybook Weaver, Thinkin' Things Collection, Tonka Construction
Level 5
Description
Choices limited by child, Control of path, Responses limited by child, Control of text, Control of sound and effects, Control of graphics, Integrated content
Examples
Blocks in Motion, Hyperstudio, Kid Desk Family Edition, Logo

After undergoing systematic evaluation, selected software was based on a theme, event, or project that was occurring within the classrooms (e.g., How Things Work in Busytown was used in a classroom to support a "farming and grain" theme). Children were offered four to five choices of software titles, and the choices were rotated on a regular basis. Many titles in the Living Books Series, including Harry and the Haunted House, Stellaluna, Just Me and My Dad, and Just Grandma and Me were used and enjoyed by children.

Classroom Management
Classroom management methods were designed to integrate literacy activities during group time and free choice. KidDesk was used to manage computer desktops in order to give children the opportunity to access applications on their own. Running KidDesk automatically provides maximum hard disk protection while allowing children independent access. Teachers can customize KidDesk for individual children through the adult options.

Management strategies included appropriate placement of the technology center, facilitating children's independent management (to the extent possible) of the computer center, and supporting groups of computer users in order to promote socialization, oral language, and turn taking. Sign-up sheets were used to encourage turn-taking and independent use of the computer. Each child was expected to make a distinguishable mark that identified him or her. They were not expected to write their names in manuscript format. Sign-up sheets were dated and served as part of the data collection.

Software titles that supported both literacy and the classroom curriculum were selected through careful review, described above. Software titles appealed to the wide range of abilities in a class, provided for differences in children's learning styles, and supported activities in the reading center, other areas of the classroom, and at home.

Site Staff Development
Each year three formal training sessions were held for teachers and program staff (program assistants and speech therapists) in Type I and II classrooms. Sessions were scheduled in late August, late January, and early May. Workshops were designed for teachers with basic to expert knowledge of technology. Specifically, separate inservices for site teachers in each Type classroom, organized according to the teachers' needs, were conducted at WIU in August. One inservice was held to prepare teachers in the Year 1 Types I and II sites for Phase 2 of the research. Another inservice was conducted for the teacher from the Year 1 Type III site. Since this site was an observation site during Year 1, the inservice prepared the teacher and aides to implement the ITLC in the second year. The Year 2 Type III and IV sites did not have formal inservice training. Instead, informational meetings were conducted in each classroom with the teachers and aides to explain their roles and to outline procedures. A full day inservice date was scheduled for late Spring for teachers in the Type I and II sites where technology training was continued. Workshop topics included Getting to Know Your Hardware, KidDesk, Evaluating Software, HyperStudio, and ClarisWorks. The following workshops consisted of hands-on training, where participants were in front of a computer. Getting to Know Your Hardware included information on installing software, using a scanner, using a QuickCam, navigating the desktop, troubleshooting printer problems, and properly shutting down the computer. KidDesk, a desktop management program, was the focus of one training session.

Teachers were given an overview of software features and then given time to explore the accessories. During training sessions on evaluating children's software, discussions were held about literacy activities that complemented the software programs, thereby creating curriculum activity ideas that teachers could take back and use in their classroom. Appropriate and inappropriate software titles were reviewed with teachers and staff, giving them the opportunity to discuss positive and negative features of software programs.

HyperStudio workshops were designed to give teachers an overview of the program, to explain basic components, to provide hands-on practice of procedures, and to evaluate stacks for effectiveness. Teachers were encouraged to work with children to create stacks which were based on interests of the class. Training on ClarisWorks was done to give teachers the basics of word processing, data bases, and spread sheets. ClarisWorks was the application of choice because it came already installed on the Macintosh computers used. Teachers received hands-on experience creating newsletters, mailing lists, and records for each child.

Training also occurred in an on-going, informal process, often accomplished when research staff were at the sites. Researchers worked informally with teachers and support staff on a one-to-one basis during lunch, breaks, and after school at the staff's request. They answered general questions, demonstrated software and computer use, discussed child progress, and provided other information or computer expertise as needed. The informal sessions lasted from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on teacher needs. Research staff were available on Fridays for any teacher who requested additional services. Technical assistance was available by phone anytime.

Family Participation
Initially parents were informed about the Project and their children's activities by letter or meetings. Permission forms for participation, videotaping, and information release were secured and are on file for all children in every participating classroom. Families were offered several ways to participate in the project. Awareness activities were informational in nature. Newsletters and notes about the importance of emergent literacy and activities to try were sent home. Family Night literacy sessions and classroom activities were incorporated so families could observe and/or work with children. Family members enjoyed leaving e-mail and voice mail messages on KidDesk for their child. Families were invited into the classrooms to work with the technology. Videotapes documenting children's use of the ITLC were also provided for families. They also participated in evaluation activities.

Assessment Materials
Figure 4 lists and describes the array of research instruments used in the study. Data came from observations, videotapes, field notes, interviews with teachers and families, checklists, and samples of children's writing.

Figure 4. Summary of Research Instruments

Research Instrument
Description
Teacher
Child
Family
Teaching Style Checklist
A checklist designed to record teaching styles and developmentally appropriate practices. Researchers completed a checklist for each teacher. This same checklist was given to teachers for self evaluation. The checklist was completed in Year 2 and Year 3.
X
Teacher Literacy Questionnaire
Teachers completed the form at the beginning of each research year. The form reflected competencies in emerging literacy and descriptions of the classroom literacy environment.
X
Teacher Interviews
Interview questions focused on the benefit of the ITLC for children. Teachers were asked to comment on the positive effects as well as any concerns regarding the ITLC. Interviews were conducted each year.
X
Training
Training sessions were conducted with teachers and support staff. Workshop evaluations were completed by participants to provide feedback.
X
Site Descriptions
Researchers contributed a description of each site participating in the study. Descriptions were combined and summarized for each site.
X
Networking Minutes/Information from Networking
Networking opportunities for teachers, administrators, and support staff were provided each year.
X
Video Tapes
Researchers videotaped each classroom observation of children participating in the ITLC. Video focused on children at the computer.
X
X
Interesting Incident Reports
Teacher and/or support staff recorded interesting incidents involving literacy and computer behaviors.
X
Field Notes
Teacher and/or support staff recorded interesting incidents involving literacy and computer behaviors. X Field Notes Extensive field notes were taken at each classroom visit by researchers. Field notes recorded information, number of children present, adults present, software being used, other activities available, classroom atmosphere, and peculiar circumstances. The majority of the field notes consisted of recording literacy behaviors at the computer. Notes were made regarding literacy behaviors outside of the computer center as well.
X
X
Memos
Reflections regarding observations and occurrences in the classroom were recorded by researchers. Researchers expressed impressions and interruptions of activities and behaviors observed.
X
X
Sign Up Books/Sheets
Sign Up books/sheets were collected from each classroom.
X
Informal Literacy Assessment (ILA)
A twelve (12) question checklist used to assess children's emergent literacy behaviors at the beginning and end of each research year.
X
Behavior Interaction Tool (BIT)
Checklist to determine children's interactions at the computer and their technology literacy at the beginning and end of each research year.
X
Children's Drawing and Writing Samples
Samples from each classroom were collected.
X
Kids and Computers Evaluation Form
A two-part evaluation was sent home with children toward the end of each school year. Four questions asked parents to evaluate the impact of hte research study on literacy. A one-question page, "What do you like best about the computer?" was included for child feedback. The child responded with drawings, writings, and/or dictation.
X
X
Family Literacy Questionnaire (FLQ)
The questionnaire was completed and returned by families at the beginning of each year. Its intent was to evaluate the home literacy environment.
X
X
Family Interviews
Once a year, formal interviews were conducted with at least two families at each site. Parents were asked questions to reflect on the literacy environment of the home. Questions regarding changes in children's literacy and computer behaviors were asked. Informal interviews were conducted throughout the year during school events and when family members visited classrooms.
X
X
Expert Panel Meetings
Minutes from Expert Panel meetings conducted three times a year were transcribed for information.
X
X

Child.
Pre-post measures included the Informal Literacy Assessment (ILA) measure, Clay's Concept about Print Test, and the Behavior Interaction Tool (BIT). The measures were selected or developed at the study's onset, tested in the University Preschool Center, and revised. Then an Expert Panel evaluated the instruments before use in the study and suggestions for revisions were incorporated into the instruments.

The BIT, originally developed as a checklist to collect relevant data on children engaged in computer intervention activities, was revised to record only positive behaviors found at the computer center. It allowed for children's behaviors to be recorded with a peer(s), an adult, and while using the computer alone. All BIT observations were recorded over a 2 to 3-day period.

The ILA instrument itself was not changed from the original version. However, the way it was administered was changed from a pull out, isolated test in the school library or classroom to a more relaxed and appropriate testing situation in the classroom during center time. This allowed the research staff to observe and record children's more natural literacy behaviors within the context of the everyday environment. The ILA was devised using elements of existing preschool literacy measures by Dyson (1982), Katims (1991), Strickland (1990), Sulzby (1986, 1988), and Teale & Sulzby (1986).

Clays' Concept about Print Test is a standardized test used in evaluating children's knowledge of print. However, it proved to be geared to older children and inappropriate for the ITLC study's sample of children. Its use was discontinued after the first year.

Teachers used "interesting incident reports," written on 4 by 6 inch cards, to record incidents or children's behaviors of interest to the study during Years 2 and 3. The cards were dated and collected weekly by research staff. The incident reports were part of the agenda at weekly staff meetings. Questions that arose were discussed and noted for follow-up during subsequent visits. Information taken from incident reports was entered into the database.

Teachers
The Teacher Learning Styles Checklist was used in the second year to record behaviors of teachers in the study. The checklist was adapted for our purposes from Missouri's Standard and Procedures for Voluntary Accreditation of Early Childhood Education Programs. The checklist contains 86 statements with yes, no, and not observed responses along with space for remarks and examples. The Teacher Learning Styles Checklist was used to provide a triangulation method for observations and videotape as the Research Associates recorded teacher behaviors in the classroom. The checklist was filled out by each teacher and each ITLC Research Associate. The Research Associates' scores were recorded and averaged. The scores recorded on the checklist supported observations, videotape sessions, and reports during staff meetings.

The instrument evaluates the teacher's and staff members' interactions with children, developmentally appropriate curriculum practices, the physical elements of the classroom, and family involvement. Sample statements on the checklist include:

Results are provided in the section of this report titled Differences in Teaching Styles Among Staff.

Families
The Family Literacy Questionnaire (FLQ) and Kids and Computers Evaluation were two instruments used with families. The FLQ, which was completed and returned by families at the beginning of each year, was designed to evaluate the literacy environment of the home. The questions were developed to reflect literacy activities of both parents and children while at home. Sample items on the questionnaire include:

The FLQ also asked parents to provide information about their education and current occupation.

At the end of each year, a two part evaluation, the Kids and Computers Evaluation, was sent home. The survey contained four questions which evaluated the impact of the research study on the child's literacy behaviors. The evaluation asked for parents to respond to the following questions:

A one-question page, "What do you like best about the computer?" was included to gather children's reflections about the computer. Children responded with drawings, writings, and/or dictation.

Family interviews were used to gather information from parents about their children and literacy. Once a year, formal interviews were conducted with at least two families from each site. Parents were asked questions to reflect on the literacy environment of the home, changes in children's literacy behaviors, and observations regarding computer interactions. Informal interviews occurred throughout the year from contact with parents during school events, classroom visits, and chance meetings outside of the classroom.

The Project's Expert Panel also contained a family component. One parent served on the Expert Panel, which convened three times a year. Her input and perspective provided valuable information not only to Project staff but also to the university faculty, teachers, and other professionals who served as Panel members.

Data Analysis
Both qualitative and quantitative data analyses occurred, according to the nature of the data. Because of the sheer amount of data collected and the importance of the information to the field, further analyses on selected variables continue. Data triangulation was accomplished as comparisons were made among family and teacher interviews, incident reports, videotapes, field notes, questionnaires, test scores, and IEPs. The research team maintained reflective journals to document the evolution of the study's emerging design.

First year data analysis showed similar behaviors in children across ITLC classrooms-- whether or not the teachers were experienced technology users. The research staff actually carrying out the ITLC within classrooms was determined to be an important factor in the effectiveness of the treatment. Therefore, for purposes of data analysis, the ITLC classroom types were divided in order to look at effects in more detail as shown in Figure 5. Type I included classrooms where the research staff implemented the ITLC. Type II included second and third year Type I classrooms divided into (A) teachers new to technology and (B) experienced technology users. ITLC (C) included classrooms that participated in the ITLC for three years and implemented the ITLC for two years on their own. Type III remained as classrooms where technology was used without the ITLC and Type IV did not use technology.

Figure 5. Types of Classrooms Divided to Examine the Effects of the ITLC

Year
ITLC+Staff
ITLC A
ITLC B
ITLC C
Technology Only
No Technology
1
Fox Lake
Medland
Middlebrook
2
Deer River
Fox Lake
Middlebrook
Barretville
Johnstown
Medland
3
Barretville
Deer River
Medland
Fox Lake
West Marlin
Elberton
Middlebrook

A coding system was developed using the research questions as a basis. Observation instruments were developed and tested at the beginning of the study. After initial site visits, the instruments were revised and included in a binder with lined paper, notebooks, calendar, and daily logs along with a suggested format for field notes. Observable behaviors were revised to include the following:

Fourth Dimension, a dimensional database, was used to categorize and link data. Unlike a traditional flat database, the dimensional element allows working with files interchangeably within the database by linking transcribed field notes with the codes entered into the database. It functioned as expected in terms of the intended purpose.

Trends or patterns in the data were determined by the entire group of researchers reviewing data contained in each code. Not only research staff observed these behaviors that comprised trends, but teachers and parents reported similar observations and perceptions. The research staff identified coded behaviors that occurred repeatedly, across classrooms and across children, at different times, then discussed their findings and came to consensus within the group. Identifying trends was a time consuming, tedious process, based on all the data entered into the coding system.