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					                                                               Web-based Instruction   1

Running head: Web-based Instruction in Elementary Science

              The Effectiveness of Web-based Instruction in Elementary School


                                    Adriane S. Jackson

                          California State University, Sacramento
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       This paper is to communicate the findings from three weeks of research undertaken to

fulfill the requirements for the Master of Arts in Educational Technology at California State

University, Sacramento. The research was conducted in an elementary school sixth grade class in

a low-income urban school. This action research project was borne from the idea that students do

not spend enough time in school studying science with the current emphasis is on language arts

and math. The research attempted to determine if technology could be used to supplement the

direct instruction of science. The students in the research studied heat transfer as part of an Earth

Science unit that was taught to the whole class using the textbook and accompanying work book.

The idea was to have students work independently during workshop time to do inquiry-based

research on a science concept. The research would be guided inquiry with the teacher providing

questions and assigning tasks. As the inquiry progressed, I would help students refine their

research. Students used the internet to discover more about the science concepts including

exploring websites with online simulations. Students used a software tool, Inspiration, to create a

graphic organizer demonstrating what they learned. An online line quiz was created to test

knowledge at the start and at the conclusion of the research. The hope was that students would

add to their understanding of heat transfer in a way they would found more engaging than

reading the textbook and completing workbook pages. At the completion of the research,

students completed an online survey to assess their outlook of the learning process.
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                  The Effectiveness of Web-based Instruction in Elementary

                                          School Science


       The purpose of this study was to research the effects of using technology to supplement

the direction instruction of science in a sixth grade elementary class. The research was conducted

in my classroom a group of my students. The whole class studied heat transfer as part of an Earth

Science unit. For the action research, students were to further study the topic. Through guided

inquiry, students used the internet to research questions (provided by me) regarding heat and heat

transfer. An internet site was created by me with the questions and each task listed. Students

were given a list of websites to explore, including those with simulations of heat transfer.

Students were to search for additional websites covering the topic. A Wiki was created to create

a knowledge base of findings. Once students had researched heat and heat transfer, they created a

graphic organizer to show what they had learned. In addition to the graphic organizer, an online

test was created to assess student learning. Students took an online pretest and took the test again

at the end of the research period. At the end, students completed a survey to determine student

opinion of the use of technology for science.

       The idea for this action research project came from my experiences in the classroom.

Most of the instructional time is dedicated to language arts and math due to the impact of the No

Child Left Behind Law (2001) and the resultant standardized testing required in those areas.

Science instruction is limited in my district to thirty to sixty minutes a week at the elementary

school level. Could technology be used so the students would have more time to learn science?

Would students enjoy learning this way? These were the driving questions.
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Link to Review of Literature

          My review of literature is an analysis of readings done on the use of technology in

education. Specifically it looks at using technology to teach science at the elementary school

level. It looks at readings in support of my research on the use of technology to supplement

science taught in elementary schools. Since my premise was the time allocated to science is

lacking, the review started with articles on the amount of time spent teaching science and the

impact of the No Child Left Behind Law. Topics of review also included research conducted on

the use of technology in education and on specific uses of technology such as simulations,

graphic organizers, and Wikis. Education theories such as inquiry based learning and

constructivism were considered. Technology and today's generation of students was covered as


          My Review of Literature can be found here in both Microsoft Word and PDF format.


The elementary school where I did my research is an urban school in a low income, residential

neighborhood. The school has a population of four hundred and twenty-eight students. The

demographics of the school site are sixty-five percent Hispanic or Latino; thirteen percent

African-American; eleven percent Asian (Chinese, Hmong, Laotian, or Other Asian); eight

percent White; and the rest American Indian or Alaska Native. Fifty-nine percent of the students

are classified as English Language Learners. Altogether, a total of nine languages, in addition to

English, are spoken by the students as a first language. From the California Department of

Education School Demographic Characteristics ( ),

of those who responded to the question five percent of the parents attended graduate school, four
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percent are college graduates, sixteen percent had some college, thirty-six percent graduated

from high school, and thirty-eight percent were not high school graduates. The research was

conducted in my classroom of twenty-six students, eighteen of whom are Hispanic/Latino, three

are African-American, three are Asian, and two are White/Caucasian. And of the twenty-six,

eight are English Language Learners.

Figure 1: School Demographics

Limitations of the Study

       This study is not intended to generalize instruction in every classroom. This study was

specific to one urban classroom, and the results obtained there. Limitations existed because of

the technology. There were frequent disruptions as the software and to be restarted or computers

rebooted. In addition, the students needed additional time to become familiar with the software,

specifically the Wiki site. Prior to the start of the research, the students had used the Inspiration

tool to create graphic organizers, but still had to learn the software. Results in another setting

might not yield similar results.
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       This study took place over a three week period starting April 5, 2010 and ending April

23, 2010. During the week of April 5, students became familiar with the tasks during

independent workshop time which is fifteen to twenty minutes a day. Data collection started the

first week with a pretest I created on Google docs. The research continued over the next three

weeks with students completing the assigned tasks. Students worked certain tasks each week.

Every day I would briefly tell them what to do as a group. I would observe them periodically to

check on their progress and take care of any problems. Discussions with the participants would

be informal chats during the school day or at recess time. The last week of the research, the

students created their graphic organizers that were used as part of the assessment. At the end of

the third week the students completed the final quiz and the survey, both also on Google docs.

Description of Research

       The study group was limited to six students since the classroom is equipped with six

personal computers. This ensured each student would have time on the computer everyday for

the three weeks of the study. Starting in late March, I talked to the students about what I was

doing and why. I showed them some examples of the web sites they would explore and the Wiki

they would create. By the end of March, I selected six students from the pool of students who

returned the “Parental/Guardian Consent Form for Participation in Research.” Once the group

was selected, I had them complete a “Research Assent Form for a Child.”The group of students

selected included three girls and three boys. Four were Hispanic/Latino and two were Asian.

Two of the students are classified as English Language Learners.
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       Since the guided inquiry method was to be used, I provided the students with the

following list of questions:

             What is heat?

             What are the types of heat transfer?

             How does heat move from one object to another?

       Students were given tasks to accomplish. The tasks were based on the following


       Science standards relevant to tasks.

             a. Standards
                    i. Sixth Grade Physical Science (Science Content Standards for California
                       Public Schools Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve, 1998)
                        3.0 Heat moves in a predictable flow from warmer objects to cooler
                        objects until all the objects are at the same temperature. As a basis for
                        understanding this concept:
                        a. Students know energy can be carried from one place to another by heat
                        flow or by waves, including water, light and sound waves, or by moving
                        c. Students know heat flows in solids by conduction (which involves no
                        flow of matter) and in fluids by conduction and by convection (which
                        involves flow of matter).
                        d. Students know heat energy is also transferred between objects by
                        radiation (radiation can travel through space).

                    ii. National Science Education Standards - ("National Science Education
                        Standards," 1996)

                        Physical Science
                        Light, Heat, Electricity, and Magnetism
                        2. Heat can be produced in many ways, such as burning, rubbing, or
                        mixing one substance with another. Heat can move from one object to
                        another by conduction.
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       A web page was created with their tasks listed, but at this age it was easier for them to

have the task sheet printed which they each kept on a clipboard. Prior to the actual start of the

study, students had learned to use the graphic organizer software tool during a language arts

assignment so were familiar with Inspiration. Before starting any of the tasks, the students

completed an online quiz I created using Google docs. This was to determine what knowledge

they had regarding heat transfer.

       The first task was to post a comment to the Wiki page I created. PBWorks offers free

Wikis to educators. Students are provided with usernames and passwords so email addresses are

not required. Posting comments to the Wiki site proved to be the most difficult and time

consuming task for the students and the requirement was eventually reduced.

       The second task was to read a website I provided on heat transfer and then search for

other websites with information on heat and heat transfer. The students had previous experience

finding information using the internet for reports done for language arts. They were able to find

many excellence sites. They were to post the URL for these sites to the Wiki. The students

continued to have trouble posting comments on the Wiki, mainly due to the time required.

       During the second week, students continued to collect the information they had found on

the internet. Instead of posting their findings on the Wiki page I created, they were saving the

websites in folders used in previous projects. Since this was easier for them, I did not insist they

use the Wiki. Students spent the week looking for relevant websites. At this point I realized I

needed to scaffold the instruction more. Students were finding information on heat transfer, but

the information was broader than my intended focus which was the three types of heat transfer.

       The third task was to learn more about heat and heat transfer from the online simulations,

first using websites I provided, and then finding their own. Students spent a lot of time with the
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simulations, exploring what happened as they changed the parameters in a system. I then had the

students search for additional simulations. As they were searching, I started to hear them using

more of the scientific vocabulary.

          The fourth task was to answer the question posed to them at the beginning. This they did

on the task sheet. Toward the end of the week, students began to design their graphic organizer

on paper.

          The fifth task was to create a graphic organizer using the Inspiration software to

demonstrate what they had learned. During this phase the students had started to collaborate,

sharing knowledge and discussing what to include in the graphic organizers. For the most part,

the students were able to create their graphic organizers without much help from me. Week three

was spent with students completing their exploration of web pages and creating graphic

organizers. The Inspiration software would often fail while students were using it which led to


          The final two tasks were to complete the online posttest and the online survey.

Presentation of Data

          Starting in September, lessons were taught for two chapters in the science textbook prior

to starting the research. Science is taught for two thirty minute periods each week. Typically, the

lesson is read on one day and the workbook is completed the next. Teaching sixty minutes a

week, it takes four to six weeks to complete a chapter. The science curriculum for sixth grade

includes tests for each chapter. The tests were chapter one and chapter three were given after

reading the textbook as a whole class and completing the workbook pages. The scores for the

whole class were included in the data to demonstrate the results of learning the concepts using
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the curriculum. With the limited exposure to the material, six weeks is a long time to retain

information. The averages for the whole class are below.

                                    Test Averages for Class
                     Chapter 1 Test Curriculum         Chapter 3 Test Curriculum

 Class Average       59%                                   42%

 Research            75%                                   42%

       Chapter three of the curriculum covers heat and heat transfer, the topic I wanted to

include in my research. The class average was forty-two percent on the chapter test. Students

who ultimately participated in the research scored forty-two percent.

       Knowledge prior to start of the research was determined through the pretest I created.

Only participates in the research took this test. The curriculum tests cover more topics than

covered in the research tasks. For the research, I created a test on the specific material I wanted

the students to learn. Specifically the students were to know the types of heat transfer and how

heat is transferred. There was a three week period between the end of the instruction on chapter

three (on heat transfer) in the science unit and the start of the research. The students who

participated in the study were above the class average for the chapter one test, but were about

average on the chapter three test. Pre- and posttests on heat transfer were given to the students

participating in the study. After completion of the action research, all of the students who used

technology showed improvement.

       On the pretest students averaged forty-five percent. By the posttest the average was

seventy-seven percent. There was no discernable difference between attitude from the survey and

performance on posttest. Correlation between quality graphic organizer and post test scores. The
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English language ability was not a factor on posttest score for Student 3, but likely was for

Student 5 based on past experience with the student.

          The graphic organizer was also intended to be used to assess understanding. The students

were to be assessed on a five point scale with five indicating understanding of the types of heat

transfer and how it is transferred. However, the students’ graphic organizers are more indicative

of the difficulties with the software than student understanding of the concept of heat transfer. If

the software stopped responding, it would take fifteen minutes to shut down the computer and


Student          Chapter 1         Chapter 3    Pretest               PostTest       Graphic
                 Test              Test         (Beginning of         (End of        Organizer
                 (Curriculum)      (Curriculum) Research              Research
                                                period)               Period)
Student 1                   80%              35%               20%             80%                5

Student 2                   90%              50%               50%             90%                1

Student 3*                  80%              10%               60%             80%                3

Student 4                   70%              40%               50%             70%                5

Student 5*                  50%              30%               50%             50%                4

Student 6                   90%              35%               40%             90%                4

Average                     75%              42%               45%             77%


          A survey was conducted to determine the participant’s views of the whole process. The

survey was intended to determine how the students regarding the process of learning about

science using the personal computers and the internet. From the survey, all of the participants

agreed that they learned more using the technology than they did from the textbooks. The action
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research was successful; the students learned and they enjoyed using the technology, despite the

problems with the hardware.

       My observation during the three weeks was that the students were very engaged in the

tasks. They were looking for the answers to the questions I posed. The students were working

together and discussing what they found with the person next to them. There was also frustrating

caused by the computers and how often they required rebooting. This frustration is reflected in

the survey. More time would not have been needed if computers were not so slow.

Student      Enjoyed             Learned more           Would like to     The                I would
             learning            about heat             use the           simulations on     like to
             science using       transfer from          computer          heat made it       spend
             the                 the computer           more to learn     easy to            more time
             computer.           than I textbook        science?          understand the     in school
                                                                          lesson             learning
Student 1
             I agree             I agree                Only a little     A little easier    I agree
Student 2    Yes, I definitely   Yes, I definitely                                           Yes,
             agree               agree                  Yes, definitely   Yes, definitely    definitely
Student 3    Yes, I definitely   Yes, I definitely
             agree               agree                  Yes, definitely   Yes, definitely    I agree
Student 4                                                                 Some of the
                                                                          simulations made
             I agree             I agree                Yes, definitely   it easier          I agree
Student 5
             I agree             I agree                Yes, definitely   A little easier    A little more
Student 6
             I agree a little    I don't agree at all   Sometimes         A little easier    A little more

       The biggest concern the students had was the amount of time it took them to complete

each task.
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        Figure 2: Problems Completing Tasks

Data Validity

        Data validity guarantees data collected and resultant analysis are trustworthy, credible,

and reliable. Does your data support your hypothesis? The main model I used for data validity is

Wolcott's Framework for Validity as this model best fit my data collection method.

        One element of Wolcott’s framework is “Talk a Little, Listen a Lot” to allow students to

fully express their thoughts. While I did not conduct formal interviews, I did listen to the

comments the students were making, whether it was enthusiasm over finding an interesting

website to frustration at technical glitches. Students are easily influenced by my opinions. By

allowing them to talk, I can truly get their views, and not what they think I want to hear.

        Another element is to “Record Observations Accurately” by recording observations daily

 while they are fresh. Instead of relying on memory, I wrote quick notes on observations.

According to Walcott, it is important to let readers “see” for themselves so the data speaks for

itself. I included all of the data in the presentation section.
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        Finally, I included feedback from the participants in the form of a survey to determine

whether they felt the technology helped them to better learn the science concepts. It gave me

more insight into their thoughts on the process and the tasks.


        My goal as a teacher is to encourage in my students the desire to learn and ask questions.

I want them to be more self-directed in their learning in order to become lifelong learners. Too

often my instruction feels like what Haberman called the “pedagogy of poverty” (1991) wherein

the teacher gives instructions, asks questions, assigns homework, and maintains discipline.

Haberman describes a evidence of a good teaching approach as one where “wherever teachers

involve students with the technology of information access” (p. 293). This research effort was

successful in that it allowed the students to work and learn without being so dependent on me.

        Much of the frustration with the research was centered on difficulties with the computer.

This study took more time than was expected due to technology problems. Problems with

outdated computers can be a significant obstacle when implementing technology programs in

schools as acknowledged by Varma, Husic, and Linn (2008). My observation is the students

would have been more satisfied with the process if there had not been so many technical


        If I were to design this research project now, I would have allowed another week. I also

might have had them work in groups to allow for more exchange of ideas and information. I

would also spend time prior to research practicing how to use the Wiki. It took too long for them

to log on and make and edit comments into the Wiki. I also would have spent more time

planning the survey and the tasks. Of course, in hindsight the obstacles are obvious.
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       Students enjoy studying science. They are always engaged whenever the science books

are handed out. I am glad I had the opportunity to provide the six participants in the research

more time for science. Now that the research is completed, I intend to give the whole class some

time to explore the science websites and the simulations.
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Haberman, M. (1991). The Pedagogy of Poverty versus Good Teaching. Phi Delta Kappan,
       73(4), 290-294.
National Science Education Standards (1996). Retrieved April 7, 2010, 2010, from
.Science Content Standards for California Public Schools Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve
Varma, K., Husic, F., & Linn, M. C. (2008). Targeted Support for Using Technology-Enhanced
       Science Inquiry Modules. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 17(4), 341-356.
                                         Appendix A

                                     Student Instructions

Student Tasks

Heat Transfer Quiz


Student Survey


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                                         Appendix B

                                         Student Work

Student 1

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Student 2

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Student 3

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Student 4

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Student 5

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Student 6

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                                           Appendix C
                                          Consent Forms

               Parental/Guardian Consent Form for Participation in Research

         I give my consent for my child (________________________________) to participate in
the research titled, “The Effect of Web-based Instruction in Elementary School Science,” which
is being conducted by Adriane Jackson, as a requirement for a master’s in education degree
program at California State University, Sacramento Department of Education. I understand that
this participation is entirely voluntary; I or my child can withdraw consent at any time without
penalty and have the results of the participation, to the extent that it can be identified as my
child's, removed from the research records.

1. The purpose of this research is to determine if technology can be used to supplement the
standards based science instruction.

2. The benefits that my child may expect from the research are: access to improved practice in
technology integration for learning and improvement in her/his skills in science.

3. The procedures are as follows: The research project will take place over a period of two
weeks. During that time, students will use classroom computers and internet resources to study
science. The researchers will be collecting data using a variety of instruments and techniques
(questionnaire (Q), survey (S), interview (I), observation (O), document analysis (DA), and test
scores (TS)). I understand that the researchers might be asking my child to participate using a
combination of these data collection instruments and techniques.

4. No discomforts or stresses are foreseen.

5. No risks are foreseen. My child's participation is voluntary. I understand that my child will be
given alternative, equivalent exercises if I or my child do not consent to participation. This
choice will not affect the grade of my child.

6. The results of this participation will be confidential, and will not be released in any
individually identifiable form without the prior consent of myself and my child, unless otherwise
required by law. The interviews will be conducted and transcribed by the researcher. Quotes
from students may be used. A pseudonym will be used to ensure that my child cannot be
identified in any way.

7. The researchers will answer any further questions about the research, now or during the course
of the project, and can be reached by phone at 916-207-7630 or by email at

You may decline to be a participant in this study without any consequences. Your signature
below indicates that you have read this page and agree to your child’s participation in the
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Please sign both copies of this form. Keep one and return the other to the investigator.

_____________________________                        ____________________________
Signature of Researchers      Date                   Signature of Parent/Guardian Date

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                               Research Assent Form for a Child

Agreement to Participate in Research

I need your help in my research project titled, “The Effect of Web-based Instruction in
Elementary School Science,” which is being conducted as a requirement for a master’s in
education degree program at California State University, Sacramento Department of Education.

You will use the computer to learn more about science. The results from the testing, and your
participation in this research, will be kept private. Your parents have already been asked whether
it is OK with them for you to be in this research, but if you decide not to participate, no one will
be upset with you. Please write your name and today’s date on the line below if you are willing
to be in the research.
________________________________                        ____________________

Signature of Participant                              Date

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