«DOCUMENT RESUME IR 013 405 ED 298 937 AUTHOR Balajthy, Ernest TITLE Recent Trends in Minicomputer-Based Integrated Learning Systems for Reading and ...»
IR 013 405
ED 298 937
AUTHOR Balajthy, Ernest
TITLE Recent Trends in Minicomputer-Based Integrated
Learning Systems for Reading and Language Arts
27p.; Paper presented at the Rutgers UniverSIty
Spring Reading Conference (New Brunswick, NJ, March
Book/Product Reviews (072) -- Reports - Descrirtive
PUB TYPE(141) -- Speeches/Conference Papers (150) EDRS PRICE MF01/PCO2 Plus Postage.
Compensatory Education; *Computer Assisted
DESCRIPTORSInstruction; *Courseware; Elementary Secondary Education; *Language Arts; *Minicomputers; *Reading Instruction; Teacher Attitudes *Integrated Learning Systems
U.S. DEPARTMENT OP EOUCATIONOffice o Educabonal Research and Improvement
EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATIONCENTER (ERIC) This document has been reproduced as received from
Paper presented at the Rutgers University Spring Reading Conference, March, 1988, New Brunswick, New Jersey The research described in this paper was supported in part by the Geneseo Foundation, Geneseo, New York.
An integrated learning system is a computer-based instructional system of hardware and software. It differs from the typical classroom microcomputer primarily in that its component workstations are terminals connected to a central computer or memory storage device. Instructional software is supplied by the publisher. Integrated learning systems offer some important advantages over microcomputers, though there are serious disadvantages as well. ILS's are called by a variety of different labels, such. as profeional learning systems.
ILS instructional software is typically traditional Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI), a combination of tutorial presentations and drill and practice exercises. Most of the software is targeted to the teaching of basic skills such as mathematics and reading, and it includes a comprehensive management system for tracking student progress. In recent years, some vendors have recognized the increased interest in using computers as tools and have developed word processing and database software for their systems.
some specified amount of time each day for practicing the targeted basic skill, perhaps 15 minutes or so. Many school systems find ILS's-particularly appropriate for supplying underachieving students with additional drill and practice work (Reinhold, 1986). ILS software has typically been developed specifically for the ILS system and is not available commercially for use on ordinary classroom microcomputers.
The present paper deals with minicomputer-based ILS's.
These usually follow in the path of traditional CAI in using a minicoor=ter as a central device to which so-called "dumb" terminals are connected as student workstations. Minicomputers have much greater memory capabilities than microcomputers. They can deal with many students at one time. A dumb terminal has little memory storage of its own. Unlike the situation with microcomputers, the program remains in the central minicomputer.
The terminal simply presents a monitor display derived from the software program in the central minicomputer and allows students to input information to the minicomputer by way of a keyboard.
The computing power of the minicomputer is far greater than a standard microcomputer, allowing for increased flexibility, complexity of programming, and extensive management and recardkeeping. The minicomputer is typically connected to a hard disk storage device that allows it to access a wide variety of iprograms instantly and to store large amounts of student records.
The operating system allows "multi-tasking"--that is, different students can have access to different parts of the software at the same time. Some students might be working on letter recognition, others on comprehension development, and still others on, arithmetic drills. All are working at their own workstatiOns, that in turn are simultaneoUsly accessing the central minicomputer.
Some systems, such as Computer Curriculum Corporation and PLATO have recently begun to use self-functioning microcomputers as terminals. These workstations are ordinarily directly connected to the minicomputer, but they can be disconnected -for independently operated software on diskettes.
Different systems have differing capabilities in terms of number of terminals acceptable, ranging from 5 to over 100. When evaluating systems, schools that foresee the possibility of someday approaching the maximum number of terminals acceptable% should carefully check response speed under those conditions.
Overloading a minicomputer system with too many workstations will result in dramatically slower responses to student input from the computer.
Many of the systems include utility software in addition to the instructional programs. Most have an authoring program that allows teachers and schools to construct their own CAI software.
The WICAT System 300 series, for instance, also has administrative software, a spreadsheet calculatar, and a word processor.
in the Schools The Ridge School District to compositc of several actual districts) has developed a highly subskill-oriented reading program for its compensatory education students. All students are administered a series of locally developed paper and pencil criterion-referenced tests. Each school's reading specialist uses the test results to assign subskill tutorials and practice exercises to be completed during morning reading periods. All compensatory students receive 30 ainutes of reading lab instruction per day, in addition to their regular classroom reading period.
Each school's reading laboratory is equipped with about five Apple II-series microcomputers and five terminals that access an ILS minicomputer. Two aides provide for most of the supervision and instruction on the basis of the specialist's assignments.
The reading specialist's duties are primarily consultative, as she must also supervise classroom teachers in their implementation of the school's developmental reading program.
Children in the reading lab are typically assigned two to three 15-minute sessions using the microcomputers each week. In addition, they complete three 15-minute ILS lessons per week.
Each CBI session is geared toward development of a specific skill identified as a weakness by the district's criterion-referenced testing.
The Ridge district's response to the use of CBI is enthusiastic. Reading scores have "noticeably improved." The
is viewed as a crucial component of the reading program. The ILS lesson pretests are used, as well. If a child passes the ILS1 pretest, he or she does not need to complete the related skill lesson.
Despite the overall positive reaction, teachers do have some complaints, many of which identify characteristic problems with
the lesson posttest, he or she is simply recyCled back into the same lesson. Ridge teachers typically move such students on to workbook or microcomputer drills on the same subskill rather than subjecting them to another run through a lesson that had failed to teach them the first time.
In addition, student attention span is limited due to the unvarying format of the ILS lessons. The district reports have had at one time assigned students to 30-minute Dolphin sessions.
Students were unable to maintain attention for that length of time, however. The teachers report that educational microcomputer games are most motivational. The ILS comes in second, and workbook-based exercises third.
A. minimum of teacher training is necessary to use the ms, less than is required for use of the microcomputers. Supervision responsibilities appear to be minimal, as well. Children seem well able to function independently.
The district office reports that classroom teachers can consult the ILS management system for feedback on student progress. Few or in teachers take time to do this, however. The
information to the classroom teachers.
WICAT System 300 The WICAT System 300 is a minicomputer-based ILS, accepting up to 30 student workstations. The system has audio capability that is particularly useful with beginning readers, and it can use Apple II-series or IBM-PC microcomputers as workstations.
These allow students to work with both the System 300 software and standard diskette-based programs. Schools can also choose to use WICAT's own workstation equipment that features touchsensitive screens. System 300 includes software for primary reading, reading comprehension, writing, language arts (with language arts skills, spelling, and sentence combining components), English as a Second Language, and other academic subjects.
The Primary Reading curriculum is based on 13 types of activities (see Figure 1). These 13 types of activities are used to form 1010 activities in 285 lessons. 40 lessons are at the kindergarten level, 75 at the first grade, 90 at the second grade, and.80 at the third grade. Each. activity takes several minutes to complete, and consists of a short tutorial followed by a practice exercise.
The Reading Comprehension curriculum is composed of 565 lessons, each of which is presented as a newspaper article or story. For each lesson, students work on one of four types of activities. In one activity, a portion of the story it displayed and students are presented a question about it. In another activity, students must remove irrelevant sentences from a passage. The third type of activity involves interpretation of graphs, tables, Or maps. The final type of activity involves an evaluation of an editorial, in which students must answer questions as to the author's point of view and evaluate the acceptability of the arguments used in the 'editorial.
Douglas and Bryant (1985) reported on use of the system in a Texas school system. Teachers and students seemed pleased with results of the lessons, that averaged 20 minutes per day.
Reading gains of 9% in the third grade and 6% in the fifth grade were reported, but these statistics were not based on comparison with a control group, So they are of dubious validity.
Computer Curriculum Corporation Patrick Suppes, director of the pioneering Stanford University CAI project in mathematics (see Chapter 5 of Balajthy, 1988--"An Overview of Research on Computers in Reading"), founded Computer Curriculum Corporation (CCC) in 1967. The corporation's MICROHOST system, based on the Stanford software, is the most financially successful system on the market today (Bork, 1985).
While other companies may dispute this assertion-, there is no doubt but that CCC brings a wealth of experience to computerbased instruction.
,MICROHOST is based on a central minicomputer using the wellknown UNIX operating system for increased flexibility. Atari ST 8
the MICROHOST system. MICROHOST can also use the IBM-PC and Apple II-series as workstations, but software is limited for these models. MICROHOST provides a Speech System for voice synthesis of some lessons. Up to 128 workstations can be run on the system, though the system speed slows considerably if that number are being used at the same time.
The.MICROHOST curriculum includes mathematics, reading, language arts, and computer literacy, from grade 1 through adult.
Figure 2 illustrates the teacher report function. The Gains Report indicates the reading comprehension gain over the student's prior twenty sessions, as well as the total gain for the academic year and the student's present grade equivalent standing. The Gains Report indicates exact measures, up to onehundredth of a grade level, though these distinctions cannot be accepted as valid. Reading performance cannot be measured so accurately.
Computer Curriculum Corporation's Audio Reading component is designed for grades 1 and 2. The system provides two years of daily 12-minute sessions on letter identification, phonics, sight words, meaning vocabolaey and sentence and passage comprehension. A digitized voice synthesizer gives instructions, poses problems, and offers feedback. In the phonics lessons, for example, the synthesizer reads a word or word part on the monitor screen and asks students to repeat it. The students then type a letter or word to fit the pattern.