Abstract


       The purpose of this study is to determine if there is a difference in computer journaling or pencil and paper journaling. The Research Design used is a qualitative case study following two seperate groups over a six-week period. The study used a convenience sample of all 7th grade English Classes at Creekside Junior High School. Two 7th grade English classes will be used. Both classes will receive the same classroom instruction. One class will keep a computer journal and one class will keep a hand written pencil and paper journal. A technology survey was given to both groups prior to the start of the journaling. The survey was used to help determine the amount of time the students used the computers and where they were used. Journal entries were collected weekly over a duration of a six week period. The journals were scored based on the number of mistakes and overall structural quality. A t-test was performed to analyze the scores from both groups. There was no statistical significant difference between the groups.


Purpose

       The purpose of this study is to determine if there is a difference in computer journaling or pencil and paper journaling.


Review of Literature

     The world is always evolving. However, there are some things that will never change. People will always need to be able to write in order to be successful. The inability to write effects many different areas of life. Bartscher (2001) studied the effects low writing ability had on behaviors, attitudes, and peer interactions. He found that implementing cooperative learning activities, journaling, and creative writing activities did render an improvement in the study group. Bartscher found that routine journal writing was the biggest influence on student improvement.
     One contributing a factor to poor literacy is a poor literacy curriculum. (Sims, 2001) Another factor is also that parents and teachers did or do not take the time to read, talk, and write with their children. (Sims, 2001) That was confirmed in Sims' study. He found that less than half of the teachers were integrating writing into their daily activities. The students didn't have a model to follow. Educator's use modeling across the curriculum and now it is evidenced that more is needed in the language arts curriculum.
     Although the importance of the basic skills has not changed, technology has begun to make its way into the curriculum. There are now many different methods being used to teach through technology. What once was taught in high schools is now being taught to elementary students. Computers are in most classrooms across the country. Educators are now trying to tie together different methods to teaching to incorporate technology.
     Computers are here to stay whether we like it or not! (Reid, 1987) Society has taken good advantage of the versatility of computers through communications, medicine, personal and corporate business, banking and a host of other reasons. (Reid, 1987) However, the computer's potential has not been reached as an instructional tool. (Reid, 1987) Reid studied the keyboarding, reading, spelling program and its effects of teaching reading and language skills to elementary school students by integrating computer assisted instruction into the curriculum. She found that significant growth was made on the reading, language, keyboarding, and computer usage skills of elementary students.
     There are several other teaching methods that are being used. Kajs (1998) finds that before you can teach students with the use of computers they need to understand what they are doing. The use of the known and the unknown were combined in this study to relieve some of the student's anxiety. Kajs (1998) used colors to code the keyboard to enable the students to become more comfortable with the computer. The color was the known and the keyboard was the unknown. It was found that by making the students familiar with the keyboard the children's understanding of computer usage strengthened their self-concept, freeing them to learn and solve problems. (Kajs, Alaniz, Willmar, Sifuentes, 1998)
     How do we tie technology and writing together? Easy. These two concepts have gone hand in hand for years even before anyone noticed. The typewriter was the forerunner to the computer in word processing. Bortwick (1993) analyzed forty-one research studies completed between 1929 and 1983 addressing the effects of typewriting on language arts skills. Bortwick (1986) surveyed educators at an Ohio statewide computer conference showed almost 2/3 thought keyboarding/typewriting should begin in or before 4th grade. Yet, half of the respondents expressed time and scheduling constraints in implementing the instruction. Kercher (1985) reported that the intermediate grades were the most successful in learning keyboarding skills. Fifth graders were the most successful when testing children ages 5 and up. One important factor is the ability to read. It is difficult to teach keyboarding to ones that don't read. (Kercher, McClurg, 1985) Cowles studied the ability of children ages 5-8 to learn keyboarding. Her results were similar to that of Kercher. She found that the older children had a higher rate of success than the younger children.
     Bortwick's (1993) review analysis found that typewriting/keyboarding may assist language arts skills by providing a clear visual display of letters, punctuation, and capitalization; developing skills in keeping one's eye on a line of print and in processing from left to right across the page; making lower uppercase connections; and encouraging authentic language arts activities. Dalton (1989) finds that by incorporating computers into writing it encouraged some students that didn't like to write because of a weakness in spelling. She finds that by having a spell checker on the computer it made it easier to write. The students that were poor spellers were more enthusiastic about writing because of the computer.
     One of the biggest problems with writing is the lack of self-confidence. Many students feel like they are not successful at writing; therefore, their proficiency was not where it should be. How can the student's interest be sparked to improve their writing abilities? Padgett (2000) found through her study, "Word Processor vs. Paper and Pencil", that interest in journal writing increased when the students used the word processor. At the beginning of the research some students appeared to prefer paper and pencil. Those students were probably not experienced with the word processor. However, throughout the course of the study even those students preferred the word processor. These results should tell us if students enjoy using a type of word processor then maybe educators need to use them as much as possible. Taylor (1985) stated that while eliminating much of the anxiety associated with writing, journaling yet forces thought into the reading process. The journal is a chief tool for enabling students to handle the challenge of college-level reading. (Taylor, 1985)
      Researchers have tied together the need for technology and language arts to be integrated into one program. Wild and Ing (1994) studied the "Use of a Concept Keyboard as a Computer-Related device to improve the Structure of Young Children's Writing." They found that children benefited by the use of concept keyboarding to write recounts, that is, they create text that is better structured. However, in reality the study is at fault because teaching and learning of writing skills require a wide range of strategies and only one method will not work.
     In conclusion, it is probably safe to say that there is a correlation between keyboarding and the improvement of student writing. However, it must be realized that proper instruction must go hand in hand in order for student success.

Hypothesis

     It is hypothesized that the students using the computer to write their journal entries will have a greater rate in reduction of errors than those that use the paper and pencil method.


Operational Definitions

      Computer Journal- journal entries assigned by the teacher written and stored on the computer.
      Pencil and Paper Journal- journal entries assigned by the teacher hand written and stored in a folder(notebook).


Methodology

Research Design

      This is a qualitative case study following two seperate groups over a six-week period.


Sample Subjects

      The subjects were a roughly equivalent convenient random sample of 7th grade English Students.


Instrumentation
     There were three informal measuring instruments: technology surveys, computer journals, and traditional pen and paper journals. The technology survey was used to determine if there was any prior computer knowledge or experience. The teacher prior to beginning the journal assignments handed out the survey/questionnaire. The students completed the survey. It is believed the surveys will be a tool to help determine or gauge the computing skills of the students. It is believed that measuring the computing skills of the computer journaling group will help identify any extraneous circumstances that need to be considered.
     Section one determined the amount of experience the students felt they had using computers for word processing, multimedia productions, educational software, games, email, and the Internet.
     Section two determined how often technology was used for writing reports, recreational games, email, exchanging messages, keyboarding, multimedia presentations, brochures or newspapers, internet projects, and video conferencing.
     Section three determined how often each subjects used the computer.
     Section four determined how much technology was used at school, if the teachers used the computers, and would students like to use the computer more often.
     Section five determined where students used computers the most: home, computer lab, or classroom.

     The survey was divided into 4 sections for scoring. Each section is scored by percentage:
100-75 percent is Very Often or A lot of experience.
74-50 percent is Often or Some experience.
49-25 percent is Sometimes or Very little experience.
24-0 percent is Never or No experience.

     
The journal topics were posted in the front of the classroom as they were assigned. All journals were collected weekly and combined at the end of the six-week period. It is believed that the journals will be a tool to measure the writing abilities of the students. The journals were scored based on grammatical mistakes and overall structural quality.
     The scoring the overall structure of the journal entries was based upon creativity, readability, and continuity of the topic. When reading the journal entry did it make sense? Was it well written? Did the article answer the question or cover the material suggested for the topic given? The scoring was broken down into four areas: poor, fair, good, excellent.

The criterion for excellent was: easy to read and understand, the topic was covered or the question was answered, a high level of creativity was used, and there were minimal grammatical errors, very neat and legible.

The criterion for good was: relatively easy to read and understand, the topic was covered or the question answered, minimal grammatical errors, relatively neat and legible.

The criterion for fair was: there was an attempt to cover the topic or answer the question even if not fully, minimal difficulty reading and understanding, varied amount of grammatical errors, not very neat and legible.

The criterion for poor was: hard to understand, topic not well covered or not well detailed, variance in grammatical errors, not very neat and legible.

A copy of the survey and the evaluation rubric will be attached in the Appendix .


Procedures

     The study was conducted at Creekside Junior High School in a two 7th grade English classes. There were two groups of 9 students each. The students were chosen as a convenient random sample. The procedures were the same for the two groups with the exception of how their journals were recorded. The one group was the computer journaling group while the other group used computer journaling.
     The teacher provided the students with the same classroom instruction. There was a flip chart in the front of the classroom with journal topics posted. For the pencil and paper group they were instructed to chose a topic and write their journal entry. When they finished they were to place the journal entry in their 'journal' folder at the front of the class. The computer group was not able to go to the lab and do their entries at one time. The teacher would instruct the students during the course of the week to go the back of the room and do their entry on the computer. There was a designated folder on the hard drive to save their work. The teacher printed hard copies if needed. AT the end of the six-week period the entries were combined into one document to save paper.
     The classroom teacher 'graded' the entries for grammatical errors. The scoring was consistent with what was required of them in the class. The researcher then took the graded entries and broke them down even further. Week 1, Week 3, and Week 6 were measured for overall structural quality. The entries were rated on overall quality on a scale of poor, fair, good, and excellent. This rating was used to help determine if there was improvement, decline, or no change in their writing ability.


Data Analysis
     The survey/questionnaire was divided into five sections. Each section was scored by percentages. The surveys from Group A were compared to those of Group B. An analysis was done through an observation of numbers.
The journals were scored based on the number of grammatical mistakes. The total number of errors was compared using a t-test.

Results
A t-test was performed on the data collected on the number of errors in the journal entries. The results indicated that there was no significant statistical difference between Group A and Group B.

Mean A- 22.88
Mean B- 20.11
Variance A-118.11 Variance B-271.61
Observation-9 Observation-9
Pooled Variance-194.86  
Hypothesized Mean-  
Df-16  
t-stat-0.422  
P(T<=t) onetail-0.339  
T critical one tail-1.74  
P(T<=t) two tail-0.67  
T critical two tail-2.11  


The journal entries were rated on the overall structure. The scoring was poor, fair, good, and excellent. Poor=1, Fair=2, Good=3, Excellent=4. The results were:
Group A Quality- week 1 Quality- week 3 Quality- week 3
#1 2 2 2
#2 3 3 3
#3 2 2 3
#4 2 2 2
#5 2 2 2
#6 2 2 1
#7 1 1 1
#8 1 2 1
#8 1 2 1
#9 1 1 1
       
Group B: Quality- week 1 Quality- week 3 Quality- week 6
#1 3 3 2
#2 2 2 1
#3 1 1 2
#4 2 1 1
#5 2 1 1
#6 1 1 1
#7 1 1 2
#8 3 3 2
#9 2 1 2

     The computer group had one student consistently produce good quality writings. Another student improved from fair to good. Five students showed no change in the falir and poor groupings. One declined from fair to poor and one was erratic.
     The pencil and paper group had two students decline from the good range to the poor range.Three students declined from the fair to poor range.Two students improved from the poor to fair range while one student was erratic and one student showed no change.
     Generally the computer journaling group showed more improvement while the pencil and paper group generally showed decline. However, this is not a conclusive result because of the erratic data collected.

The survey was divided into 4 sections. Each section is scored by percentage:
100-75 percent is Very Often or A lot of experience.
74-50 percent is Often or Some experience.
49-25 percent is Sometimes or Very little experience.
24-0 percent is Never or No experience.

The results were:    

Group A:

Section 1: 89

Section 2: 43

Section 3: 47

Section 4: 75

Section 5: home

Group B:

88

46

52

85

home


Section 1 showed only a one point difference, Section 2 showed a three point difference, Section 3 showed 5 point difference, and Section 4 showed a 10 point difference. There was no difference in section 5. Through an observation of these numbers the conclusion can be drawn that there is no statistical significant difference in the amount of time or experience that the students used the computer or their experience level with the computer in their journal writing.

Discussion

Conclusions, Implications, & Limitations
     The research showed that there was no statistical significant difference in the performance of the two groups involved in this study. The two groups were a roughly equivalent convenience sample. However, the researcher feels that there are many external factors that could have contributed to these results. Creekside is a school that is in the first year of existence. The students had to deal with change. During the midst of some major changes in the lives of 7th grade students this study was conducted. The entire student body were facing half of a faculty of new teachers. The students from Pear River Junior High were the only ones that were familiar with the administration. The students from Alton and Sixth Ward were facing new teachers and administration. The students from Sixth Ward were also dealing with social issues. This was the first time they attended school with people from other races or nationalities. Sixth Ward was basically a school that was all Caucasian.
     The students were not the only ones going through a change. The teachers were no longer two faculties, they were one. It was very important for the teachers and staff members to gel together for the students to become one joint student body. All of these factors could have led to the lack of interest in academics at this point in the school year.
     Another possible factor is the setup of the computer lab. Initially, it was planned for the computer journaling group to go to the lab together and work on the journaling assignment as a class. (Individually, but all on the same task.) However, once the school opened procedures were changed. The classroom teachers did not have access to the computer lab. The computer lab was being used for the computer literacy elective. The second lab was a career lab and off limits to the teachers. The computer journaling students were forced to work on the computer in the back of the classroom. The students weren't all working on the same project; therefore, they were in a hurry to finish to do what their friends were doing.
     The researcher feels the most important contributing factor was the student's attitude. By looking at the journal entries it is evident to the researcher that the student's didn't take their work seriously. Having dealt with the students in a classroom setting it is obvious to the researcher that these students just didn't care about the quality of their work. The assignment was done to get proper credit, but thought and effort was not put forth into the work. These students were capable of much more than their performance scores showed.

     

Appendix

Survey (Click here to open survey)

Evaluation Form/Chart:

Name:
Week:
Overall Length: _______ words
Average Sentence Length: _______ words
# of descriptive words: _______
Grammatical Mistakes _______
Overall Structural Quality Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent

 

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