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Running head: TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

Technology and the Elementary Classroom


Kimberley Eschler
American College of Education

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

Technology and the Elementary Classroom


Technology in the classroom is an extremely focused area of education. State
governments, school districts, principals, classroom teachers, and parents, have
the perception that students will acquire greater learning and higher engagement if
more technology is present in the classroom. This paper will explore the amount of
funds being set aside for technology, students perceptions of technology in a
public elementary classroom, review information from the study of the adolescent
brain, and how technology may not be beneficial across all ages.
Funding Technology in Learning
In March of 2015, Representative Jack Draxler of the Utah House of
Representatives sponsored House Bill 54 (HB54). This bill was asking for a half percent
tax increase from the Income Tax Growth Account within the Education Fund to fund
additional technology and professional development (Utah State Legislature, 2015).
HB54 also proposed a Pay for Performance Incentive Pay Program, because many
believe with the proper technology and training students are going to be achieving
higher proficiency on standardized tests and teacher pay should be tied to student
performance.
Davis School District (DSD) in Northern Utah is the second largest school district
in Utah with eighty-eight schools and 69,185 students enrolled in the 2014-2015 school
year (Davis School District, 2015). DSD is spending 7.82% of their total budget on
technology (undefined on details) in 2015; this is an increase of $327,000 over the 2014
school year (Davis School District, 2015). Bluff Ridge Elementary school is one of the
sixty elementary schools within DSD. In the Bluff Ridge 2014-2015 School

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

Improvement Plan (SIP), for goal number three of quality staffing, a budget total of
$18,300 was to be spent on audio enhancement and technology support; 25.7% of the
SIP allowances (Bluff Ridge Elementary, 2015). The 2015-2016 SIP budgeted $3,000
for software and $8,000 for projectors, Apple TVs, and additional technology devices;
19.3% of the SIP allowances (Bluff Ridge Elementary, 2015).
The above statistics are a very small picture inside the amount of resources
allocated to provide more technology to school age students. Integrated technology is
expected to be more than teaching students basic computer skills; the expectation is
that students are going to be able to reach deeper, more enhanced learning with active
engagement and connection to real-world experiences. Through integrating more
technology, the desire is to allow growth by incorporating projects that allow students to
create paths for analysis and problem-solving skills with the tools of the current
workforce.
The resources wanted for student learning, and those currently provided, are
astonishing. The driving force from the government to local parent-teacher associations
is to get more technology into the hands of students. It is a huge undertaking, but is it
worth it? Do students learn more? Do students learn better with access to technology?
Are students more engaged? Do students want this technology?
Research and Data
To find out if students want technology or feel more engaged, a student survey
was created. The American College of Education follows The Human Subjects
Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements. In addition, Davis School District has a
research request approval process. Once approved, permission was allowed to ask

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

teachers if they would like to participate; those classes willing were given a permission
slip for students parents to complete.
Bluff Ridge Elementary School in Syracuse, Utah has a student population of 953
students, kindergarten through sixth grade. Bluff Ridge has low diversity with 93.8%
Caucasian students and a relativity low-risk factor of 16.7% economically
disadvantaged, .2% English Language Learners, and 10% receiving special education
services (Bluff Ridge Elementary, 2015).
Results of Student Research
Of the forty-three teachers at Bluff Ridge, there are eleven classrooms with oneto-one desktop, tablet, or iPad technology. Of the forty-three teachers, thirty-seven were
invited to take one of two surveys. The first survey is four questions intended for nonone-to-one classrooms, and the second is seven questions for current one-to-one
classrooms. After some discussion with first-grade teachers, it was decided that firstgraders would not be able to articulate or type enough to take the anonymous online
survey. Seven teachers were interested in participating and sent home permission slips
for parent authorization. Of those seven teachers, forty-four students in non-one-to-one
classrooms answered the survey, and fifty-nine students in one-to-one classrooms
answered the survey. A consideration to keep in mind is the overall effectiveness of a
classroom teacher either with or without the one-to-one technology. Individual teacher
effectiveness with technology is something for future evaluation, and for the purpose of
this finding report, the focus will be on the students perception of the technology and
how it is used in their classes.

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

Non-one-to-one Classroom Survey Results


1. The first question was Would you like to have a one to one classroom? Why?
Of the forty-four students who answered, twenty-nine said yes, and fifteen said
no. An interesting note, the students who said no, left reasons for why. The
answer for why students chose no was no, I like to be with other kids, No.
Because I like to be involved in group activities, They help me learn better. The
second most frequent student answer was i would not, in 4 th grade we all played
on them instead of work(ing), and no, because it can be distracting for the kids.
2. The second question was Do you have technology at home that you use? Not
surprising for this community, the answer was one-hundred percent, yes.
3. Question three What grade are you in?
Grade of surveyed
student
Second
Third
Forth
Fifth
Sixth

Number of students in
non-one-to-one classrooms
20
0
0
11
13

4. The fourth question was Have you ever been in a one to one classroom? Thirtythree students said no, and eleven said yes. A notable finding from the surveyed
fifth-grade students, who are currently in non-one-to-one classrooms but were in
one-to-one classrooms in the prior year, was that nine out of eleven would not
like to be in a one-to-one classroom again. Seventy-eight percent of students
who were in one-to-one classrooms in fourth grade, feel their fifth-grade, nonone-to-one classroom is more engaging.
One-to-one Classroom Survey Results

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

1. The first question Do you like working in a one to one classroom? Why?
Overwhelmingly, students currently in the one-to-one classroom environment are
enjoying it. Ninety-eight percent said yes, and only one student who responded
with No because it gets old.
2. The second question Do you have technology at home that you use? Again, the
answer was one-hundred percent, yes.
3. The third question Do you feel you are learning more in a one to one classroom?
Why? Fifty-one of the fifty-nine students responded yes to this question.
Comments from students included Because it is nice to have things to use all
the time, So people wont look at your paper, and Yes Because its easier to
not share than to share.
4. The fourth question What programs or app do you most enjoy learning from?
Why? In 2014-2015, Davis School District adopted a new Language Arts
program from McGraw-Hill called Reading Wonders. In 2015-2016, third-grade
through sixth-grade have adopted a new district created pilot math program,
which is supplemented by the use of three online math programs; Think Through
Math (TTmath), Spatial-Temporal Math (STmath), and Math Mater. Other
applications and sites used are SpellingCity.com, Raz-Kids.com, IXL.com, Learn
Zillion, and Ultra Key. The three math programs came out on top for favorite
tools; reasons included It is more challenging, because it gets harder and
challenges you, and it is fun and helps me learn.
5. The fifth question What programs dont you like? Why? Many of the same
programs and apps were mentioned in question five as question four. Learn
Zillion was the least liked because it was difficult to find the videos and students
would rather have their instruction from the classroom teacher.
6. The sixth question What grade are you in?

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM


Grade of surveyed
student
Second
Third
Forth
Fifth
Sixth

Number of students in
one-to-one classrooms
0
0
22
15
22

7. The seventh question Have you ever been in a one to one classroom before this
year? Twenty-five responded no, twenty responded yes. In the one-to-one
classroom, seventy-eight percent did not feel the technology benefited them
enough to want it again. One could extrapolate that those students who wanted
one-to-one classes asked for a specific teacher or maybe the complication of a
year-round track schedule has some effect on classroom placement; all
questions that are not able to be answered in this paper. What seems to stand
out is that students appear to like the environment they are currently in.
Summary of Findings
The questions posed in this paper are: Do student learn more? Do students learn
better with access to technology? Are students more engaged? Do students want this
technology? Are the time, cost, and results of technology in the classroom worth it is, a
vast question that would require a much longer study. An additional project would be to
follow students who have been in one-to-one classrooms and gather data of their end of
year summative tests, versus students who have been in non-one-to-one classrooms.
An additional project would be to follow a handful of students through their schooling
and at the end of each school year, gather data on their learning experience with the
use of technology from that school year.
From the data collected it seems the older students want and like the technology.
Students comments indicate they like the one-to-one classrooms because the learning

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

is differentiated and takes place at their pace. For example, one student wrote, ...
because you can do it yourself and you dont have to watch your teacher it helps you
learn better. Also, teacher comments reflect this same idea, "... I feel it engages
students and allows individual students to work at their own levels and because
everyone can learn at their own pace. Students also enjoy not having to wait to use the
technology for math and writing. Teachers in one-to-one classrooms that offered
feedback pointed out that it was easier to allow students who were ready for higher
order thinking to achieve deeper learning; this is supported by comments from students
that include, yes, because we can get more info, for research and more questions that
we might have and I do feel like Im learning a lot because my friends can help me I
am stuck on an idea. Another comment from teachers was that students who are not
self-motivated have a much harder time with self-discipline and staying on task with the
technology.
Engagement is far more difficult to measure. Students are isolated to their
own equipment, so the uses of individual reports from apps and online programs are
essential. Formative and summative assessments can conclude if students are
engaged in personal learning. Student comments said an overwhelming number of oneto-one students felt they were more engaged and learning more than their peers who
were not in a one-to-one classroom. Student comments reveal feeling this way because
of the ease of access; ... because you dont have to share it makes it easier, "...
because your brain doesnt get mixed up with all the other subjects, and "... I think
having computers for are use is a great learning opritunity. An additional study would
be to collect data on homogeneous level learners on the metacognition of their learning.

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

Negative Effects of Technology and the Adolescent Brain


It is impossible to ask a question that relates to education without taking into
consideration the development of the adolescent brain. A Davis School District
sponsored a presentation by Dr. Christy Kane (2015), Dr. Kane shared her experience
as a counselor and life coach focusing on mental health. She pointed out that research
has shown the evolution of the brain has not changed in many years; the human brain
still processes information the same, regardless of the method it is acquired, technology
has not changed how our brains work.
According to Dr. Kane (2015), the human brain processes feelings though the
sixteen billion neurons in the cortex that aids in communicating feelings. In turn, what
the eyes see, the brain believes. When the brain is engaged through technology, the
limbic system takes over, and the cerebral cortex is unable to process normal emotion.
The constant interactive play and stimulation of the brain through electronic learning
gives the brain a shot of dopamine and a satisfaction feeling. Dopamine is a reward
molecule, pleasure producing rush that wears off. Therefore with more interaction there
is a high, low, high, low effect that takes place and the normal balance of the brain
chemistry is not able to achieve balance. Dopamine is connected to the addiction
causing effects from cocaine and methamphetamines. The balancing endorphin,
oxytocin, is released only through human contact. Oxytocin is necessary to remove the
cortisol in the blood; cortisol known as the fight or flight chemical. The only way for
oxytocin to be released is human contact. The more humans become introverted from
the use of technology the more they become self-absorbed and less oxytocin will be
received.

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In adolescents, when the limbic system is overstimulated (a side effect of


frequent technology use) it creates the ups and downs of dopamine, and when there is
little to no introduction of oxytocin, cortisol builds up. Young people, who have very little
experience with dealing with how to handle negative feelings, can develop depression
and uncontrollable thoughts. These students, unless identified and helped, become at
risk for failure and self-harm. When asked her opinion of technology in the classroom,
Dr. Kanes response was that technology creates a passive environment requiring a
minimal amount of movement and human interaction, which impacts the creation of
chemicals the brain needs for healthy growth, development, and self-esteem in children
and young adults.
Beyond the chemicals and feelings that are effected by the use of technology, the
brain has a process called memory consolidation. The memory consolidation involves
converting information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Short-term
memory stores information for about twenty to thirty seconds, then the information is
moved to the synaptic level to be stored throughout the brain as long-term memory. The
information needs to be accessed again to retrieve the information and create a neural
map. The more that information is retrieved, the stronger the pathway to the learned
material is. In a professional development class provided by Davis School District,
Suzanne Cottrell (district professional development coordinator) reviewed the
importance of allowing time for students to change activities, physically move their
bodies, and come back to the information reviewed to avoid disengagement and
improve effectiveness. Students need to be moving for approximately three minutes and

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how often depends on the age of the learner; for young students every fifteen to twenty
minutes, for adults every fifty to ninety minutes.
Authors Thesis
An article was written by Benjamin Waldman, a high school junior in West
Hartford, Connecticut, most resonated with the authors connection to technology in the
classroom. Technology is not the Answer: A Students Perspective (Waldman, 2014)
shared long-term information that could be found in a longer, more detailed research
paper. The paper reviewed how some schools have started kindergarten students
learning guided with iPads. These initiatives do make schools appear more progressive
and advanced; however, elementary school is when students are learning interpersonal
skills, how to build relationships, learning how to self-motivate, and receiving supportive
interaction with the classroom teacher and peers. Waldman points out that a branch of
schools in Silicon Valley has a technology prohibition on students through the seventh
grade. According to a New York Times article, "The Waldorf School in Silicon Valley",
the school that eBays chief officers' children attend, along with some Google, Apple,
Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard employees children, have no technology in the
classrooms and believe pencil and paper is the greatest tool to teach the young. The
school and parents believe that computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human
interaction and attention spans (Richtel, 2011).
It is the belief of this author that technology integration should be done according
to the cognitive development of a childs brain and readiness. Piagets theory of
cognitive development (Piaget, 1957) explains that a concrete operational child between
the ages of seven and eleven years old should be capable of thinking logically about

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concrete events and grasping concrete analogies. With the Psychosocial Stages of
Development theory from Erikson (1968), states that in stage four; industry versus
inferiority, children develop a sense of pride in accomplishments and abilities through
social interactions, encouragement from parents and teachers is necessary for success,
and failure results in doubting ones abilities for success. The education system should
be scaffolding the introduction of technology to the appropriate age of students. It does
not matter if a six-year-old can create a Word document; they do not need to. The focus
of young people needs to be on playing, interaction, and personal connections with
peers and trusted adults. Children need the opportunity to develop personalities, to find
if they are introverted or extroverted, to understand what a community is before they are
expected to learn how to forge relationships with people online. Technology needs to be
limited while children develop self-awareness, self-soothing techniques, and selfgoverning behaviors. Personal human contact needs to be a priority and students
technology access should be age appropriate. It is the opinion of the author that the
introduction of technology in elementary should be limited and interpersonal. Social
skills while learning standards from a teacher should be the focus. During middle school
technology skills should be introduced and used in group learning for projects and
flipped classroom learning. High school should continue the improvement of abilities
and to hone in the job market skills.
Before college, it is imperative that all learners have access to technology as it
can prepare students for future careers. After students have reached appropriate
cognition, technology can help focus on different learning styles and
differentiation. When used correctly integrated technology can keep students engaged

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and can allow the teacher to be an adviser and coach. Professional development for
teachers is the obvious answer of how to enable teachers to become those coaches
and use the technology effectively for ready learners. Differentiation should also be
considered for students who do not learn well through technology driven instruction at
the appropriate development stage.
Most summative testing, down to first-grade, is now online. A successful
elementary school teacher has a great deal to plan for, to balance, and to try to control.
By understanding what students are capable of, how students are willing and capable of
independent learning, how to keep the novelty of programs and learning processes
fresh to reduce disengagement, and how to keep children learning personal skills,
teachers must effectively use technology. However, teachers need to understand the
development of the brain, the stages of development, and cognition. These
understandings should show students need time to process new information, they need
brain breaks according to their age level; students need to interact and be involved in
peer projects. Learning together is a human skill and elementary students need to
master this skill, before they are offered the seclusion of the internet community.

Conclusion
Education is an ever changing environment. Students appear to like whatever
learning environment they are in. Wanting to provide students with the best available
tools, materials, teachers, lessons, and technology is a natural evolution. Knowing that
the students taught today are the future is a huge weight; parents, teachers, even the
government tries to focus on what will be in the best interest of the future. Providing

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students with tools and technology beyond their abilities and forming the appropriate
foundation of basic human skills will impact the future in a negative way. It is not
intentional, every school wants to show they are doing what is best for the community,
but sometimes the progressive image and appeal of having superior learning tools is not
always what is best for a young learner.

References
Bluff Ridge Elementary, 2015. Bluff Ridge Elementary composite school plan 20142015. Retrieved from
http://www.davis.k12.ut.us/cms/lib09/UT01001306/Centricity/Domain/3975/SIP
%202015.pdf

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Bluff Ridge Elementary, 2015. Bluff Ridge Elementary composite school plan 20152015. Retrieved from
http://www.davis.k12.ut.us/cms/lib09/UT01001306/Centricity/domain/65/20152016%20sip/1-el%20plans/Bluff%20Ridge%20EL.pdf
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%20Us.pdf
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Piaget, J. (1957). Construction of reality in the child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Richtel, M. (2011) A Silicon Valley school that doesnt compute. New York, New York.
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http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/49/4974810.html.
Utah State Legislature, 2015. Public Education Increased Funding Program. Retrieved
from http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/HB0054.html.
Waldman, B. (2014) Technology is not the answer: a students perspective. Retrieved
from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/10/15/08waldman.h34.html