Your school can expect outcomes similar to those realized at Just Kids Early Childhood Learning Center in Middle Island, NY, where the original ECCTS project was implemented.
Outcomes for Children, Families, and Staff
Results of ECCTS implementation point to positive outcomes for children and families, to increased technology skills among teachers, to the efficacy of an on-site Tech Team, and to conditions that promoted maintenance of the system. During an interview, the school's chief administrator remarked,
Another administrator summarized ECCTS,
Patterns of behavior across data sources, as shown in Figure 1, show positive outcomes for young children across a wide range of disabilities, when teachers integrate appropriate computer software and adaptations into the early childhood curriculum and set up accessible computer centers in the classroom. When technology was used to support learning, children achieved success (i.e., they were able to accomplish an activity, to do something). This finding was supported across observational data, "Teacher Incident Reports," parent interviews, and in reports from Just Kids' administrators and Macomb Projects' staff.
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. Analysis of Brigance scores was conducted for the 15 children who participated in the study for 2 years. Their progress was examined for Years 2 and 3 and is shown in Table 1. Results demonstrate that the average rate of progress from birth to the end of Year 2 was .52 months per month. This level of development was consistent across six sub-scales relevant to ECCTS: communication (.44), cognitive (.46), social-emotional (.49), fine motor (.52), self-help (.53), and gross motor (.68). This group progressed at half the rate of the children who were used to standardize the Brigance. In contrast to the Year 2 results, these children's Year 3 Brigance scores demonstrate an average rate of progress of 1.81 months per month. This level of development was consistent across communication (2.05), cognitive (2.27), social-emotional (1.93), fine motor (1.72), self help (1.58), and gross motor (1.22) sub-scales. Furthermore, after 2 years participation in ECCTS, 14 of the 15 children doubled their per month gain. Six of the children had Brigance scores that exceeded their chronological age for the first time in their lives.
Field notes show how one child, Deon, (note: children's names have been changed) who demonstrated severe behavior problems, was moved into a classroom where the teacher integrated the computer into the curriculum. The field notes document how his behavior progressed and how he behaves at the computer.
Phone interviews with families and teachers supported the observational data patterns showing that children's learning progress improved as a result of ECCTS. During phone interviews of 13 parents whose children were in the project during Year 3 and who agreed to be interviewed, parents were questioned concerning improvements they had observed in their children since beginning ECCTS. See Table 2. Results demonstrate that all parents saw improvements in their children across a variety of areas. Interviews conducted with 14 Year 3 classroom teachers yielded similar results. Table 2 also indicates that 100% of the teachers interviewed saw improvements in the children.
Children using a computer stayed focused and repeated an activity for relatively long periods of time. Records of observations show that children's attention spans increased from less than 3 minutes to more than 15 minutes when using interactive software. The Occupational Therapist echoed teachers' reports, explaining, "The kids are immediately attached to it [the computer] and their attention span is greater for the computer. I've had children who were not able to sit or attend to anything for very long, but they are grasped by the graphics of the computer, the screen, and the sound effects."
Children with behavior problems, those diagnosed as having autistic-like tendencies, and those who did not talk to adults exhibited fewer negative behaviors during computer time, interacted socially more often, and were more communicative. Observations sometimes revealed that children possessed unsuspected skills and abilities. Some children diagnosed as Multiple Systems Disorder (MSD) or Pervasive Developmental Delays (PDD) began to socialize and talk in the computer environment. One learned to read using literacy-based software, including the Living Books series. The Tech Team leader reported the following,
Some children became recognized as classroom ‘computer experts1 who helped others navigate through software. In one of the rooms, Shaniece was the computer expert. Her teacher reported on the child's expertise,
Findings from observations, the ensuing Activity Result Matrices, teacher competencies, teacher interviews, parent interviews, the BIT, the Brigance, and Macomb Projects Staff Interviews demonstrated that computers and accompanying software, when employed according to the ECCTS model, were very efficient, compared to other classroom activities, in promoting (a) attending, (b) cause and effect reasoning, (c) emergent literacy, and (d) engagement. Children increased in social skills, including sharing and turn taking, communication, attention, and self confidence. They demonstrated increased fine motor skills and visual-motor skills (tracking).
The Director of Educational Programs at Just Kids aptly summarized the benefits of computer use: "...children not only learned how to socialize with one another with their use of the computer but how to negotiate whose turn it was, signing in for the computer [and] problem solving when someone jumped their turn...[The computer] enhances socialization skills. That's something that I never thought would be possible."
Just Kids offered a number of opportunities to families through both Macomb Projects and Tech Team activities. Training included workshops, which were not well-attended (sometimes due to weather, sometimes for a variety of other reasons including distance and parents working) and one-on-one consultation. Resource materials included a library of materials to check out and regular newsletters containing news about ECTTS activities. A few families sought advice from the Tech Team regarding the purchase of computers and software for the home and about their children's transition and technology access. Some families--five in Year 1, seven in Year 2, and four in Year --had computers at home.
During representative interviews, as shown in Table 2, families reported seeing a number of positive outcomes as a result of their children's use of computers and software. Parents sometimes relayed information about equipment and software to the new school. However, during the 3 years, formal and informal policies within school districts required that Just Kids' staff not recommend equipment and applications for children's use when they moved into public school placements.
As a result of ECCTS training, the multiple data sources shown in Figure 2 revealed that teachers acquired knowledge, skill, and comfort related to using computers, software, and adaptive devices and integrating software into the curriculum. Evidence was found across teacher interviews, competencies, IEP evaluations, and in samples of work from the teachers. The ECCTS data showed that teachers, parents, and administrators were more likely to use computers when they were taught to use adult productivity software such as word processing, data bases, and spreadsheets, in addition to software applications for children. Teachers were able to track children1s progress toward meeting their IEP goals more efficiently using spreadsheets.
From the onset of the project, classrooms of each teacher involved in the study contained appropriate, up-to-date computers, software, and adaptive devices. The wide variety of software provided choices to meet children's individual needs and interests. The software resource library enabled teachers to preview then learn programs before they used them in the classroom. Teachers used technology to prepare books of children1s art and/or writings; to create HyperStudio stacks to meet individual children1s or classroom needs; and to reproduce children1s artwork. Teachers (and families) could also check out software, adaptive devices, and print materials from a resource library maintained by the Tech Team. Technology applications made it possible for teachers to quickly produce letters, cards, newsletters, invitations, announcements, certificates, posters, and banners for classroom or personal use. Regular observations in the classrooms showed an increase in the use of the computer and more integration of software into the curriculum as a result of the training. Teachers became progressively more skilled with technology as training continued.
Ongoing training and support in using technology and integrating it into the curriculum is most dramatically shown by the self report of the Technology Self-Assessment (of computer competency), On the 68-item instrument, three-fold or better gains were registered on 37 of the topics while no areas showed a decrease. Scores of all teachers on the computer competencies instrument increased substantially from acquisition of 17% to 79% of the competencies between the beginning of Year 2 and the midway point in Year 3. These averages include five teachers who participated in the program for only half a year.
Certain basic skills and attitudes led to successful integration of technology into the classroom. They included (1) ability to keep the computer going in the face of small mishaps; (2) ability to help children with software when they got 'stuck'; (3) knowledge and ability to use utility programs such as KidDesk and HyperStudio;and (4) knowledge of and ability to use interactive instructional programs such as the Living Books series and Kid's World.
Teachers reported a number of uses of the computer to promote children's learning or to help children access the general curriculum. Such uses included large fonts for children with visual disabilities; Braille keycaps for children who were blind; and a talking computer to read stories to children who are blind. Teachers also prepared books of children's writings; prepared HyperStudio stacks for individual children or for classroom activities; used software to simulate visits to the airport, firehouse; introduced basic science and math concepts; reproduced children's artwork for inclusion in classroom books of HyperStudio stacks; and reproduced children's photos, printed them on labels, and used the labels to identify children's lockers, lunch boxes, and other property.
Just Kids' staff observed benefits for themselves and for the children and spread the news to their colleagues. Expansion into other classrooms occurred as a result of the positive interactions among personnel who saw the benefits of technology, and of the program's flexibility. Some teachers who initially resisted technology later became advocates when they saw the advantages technology offered the children in their classrooms. A Special Education teacher was overwhelmed by the computer in Year 1. However, she had a daughter with a disability who was in one of the ECCTS classrooms and who liked the computer. This teacher obtained a computer for her child from the Starlight Foundation, learned more about computers from the Tech Team and her daughter. In Year 2, the teacher became an active computer user with her class although she was transferred to a class of very young children who were not part of ECCTS. She frequently brought one of the remaining hallway computers into her classroom and continued to use the technology in Year 3 with her class of 3 year olds.