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Sample Research Proposal on Computer Aided Learning on Teaching Health and Safety for Children

            The media suggests that the internet, and especially the World Wide Web, is a solution to all the needs of Education. However, there are many ways in which ICT can impact on the teaching and learning process. The extent of the impact of communication technologies depends on teachers changing their practice in classrooms (Leask, M. & Meadows, J. 2000). In the book, E – Moderating: the key to teaching and learning by Gilly Salmon, he emphasizes the rapid development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Its key focus and emphasis are on the changes to learning made possible by ICT, but he look at these changes through the eyes of online teachers, for whom he used the term 'electronic moderators ' - 'e-moderators'. Today, 'online networking' covers a range of technologies. In education and training, technologies that concentrate on computer mediated communication are commonest (2003). They fall into three broad categories as defined by Santoro (1995): (1) Informatics, particularly involving electronic access via telecommunications to catalogues, library resources, interactive remote databases and archives, including those on the World Wide Web. (2) Computer-assisted instruction, also known as computer-assisted learning and computer-based training, which may or may not require telecommunications. (3) Computer mediated conferencing is based on computers and telecommunications.

            "Computer-assisted instruction" (CAI) refers to instruction or remediation presented on a computer. Many educational computer programs are available online and from computer stores and textbook companies. They enhance teacher instruction in several ways (Hauser, 2006). Computers capture the students' attention because the programs are interactive and engage the students' spirit of competitiveness to increase their scores. Also, computer-assisted instruction moves at the students' pace and usually does not move ahead until they have mastered the skill. Programs provide differentiated lessons to challenge students who are at risk, average, or gifted. If the answer is not correct, the program shows students how to correctly answer the question. Computers offer a different type of activity and a change of pace from teacher-led or group instruction. Children can not be taught to read. A teacher's responsibility is not to teach children to read but to make it possible for them to learn to read (Smith 1978:6.) This process involves providing children with appropriate decoding skills using phonic, whole word and context clues while, at the same time, encouraging them to enjoy stimulating texts which allow them to behave like readers. The real attraction of electronic books is that they can fit into the way teachers teach reading, rather than forcing teachers to change to accommodate the technology (Medwell 1995:24) . They are easy and fun to use which motivates children to want to use them. Finally, multimedia texts can be used to great effect to support both beginners and less able readers. On the other hand, Teachers are the main gatekeepers in allowing educational innovations to diffuse into the classrooms. Therefore, one of the key factors for effecting an integration of computers in the school curriculum is adequate training of teachers in handling and managing these new tools in their daily practice.

            In 2001, Azim Premji Foundation, after an initial review of the content available for children, decided to invest in developing content for students of rural elementary schools in India in the local language. Considering that imagination is the only limitation to realizing the full potential of computers, the collaboration of available talent from the fields of education and technology was actively sought. Computer-aided learning and child-centric content were chosen in preference to computer literacy and teacher-centric content for the first level of technology driven educational initiatives. The rationale for computer-aided learning was that since computer literacy would be a by-product, the focus would be on actively engaging the child. Child-centric content would provide a different experience to the child from the normal classroom. Animated cartoons with storylines set in a rural environment were a conscious choice as our audience was children in the age group of 6-14 years and from rural schools. Competency based content in the local language, in Hindi and in English, with game based evaluation was the pedagogic choice (Shankar, J. n. d.). Teachers from four states prioritized the topics to teach first. The structure consists of learning screens ad evaluation games. Meaning, with Computer Based Learning, it encourages children to participate in any activity since it can be fun. One can also program the computer to be patient, especially dealing with children so if a child makes a mistake the computer will not chide them. However, the computer will give them encouragement to continue in the next round.

            In the book, 'Minds in Play: Computer Game Design as a Context for Children's Learning' follows a Constructionist Theory (1995). The Constructionist Theory motivated the project's implementation (Papert, 1980, 1990a, 1990b): a major emphasis was placed on the learners' being the generators, mot the recipient, of knowledge. Children were given the opportunity to show and develop their abilities in deigns and to learn at their own pace while creating complex software products – games – for use by other (Harel, 1991). The Game Design Project provides one example of how to implement the principles of learning through design with a class of fourth graders and their teacher. A learning environment was created that emphasizes time, diversity, integration, choice, and conviviality as its main principles (Falbel, 1991; Harel & Papert, 1990). On Computer Aided Learning, one can integrate several subject matters from programming, language arts, mathematics and arts, science to health and safety precautions. This also influence how the child thinks making it his reality since, he can control it giving an emphasis on his ingenuity to solve the subject at hand or analyze or discuss matters.

            Young children have much curiosity and desire to explore new things. When young children use computers, they may feel that the computers are their playmates and also new toys for them. Genishi, McCollum, and Strand (1985) observed six kindergarten children using the program LOGO for 3 months. A variety of social interactions (child-to-Child, child-to-computer, and child-to-adult) were observed by the researchers. They recorded a significant amount of interaction between children, and between children and adults. The interaction between children and the computer was also recorded. While programming, children often spoke to the computers calling their computers "you" or "he" instead of "it." While interacting with computers, young children may feel that the computers are their playmates.

            In general, the use of computers in education through CAL has been sporadic a great deal of effort was expended with little general impact. Many of those academics that took part in that earlier crusade are now cynical about the effectiveness of computers in teaching. CAL is run either straight from a CD or floppy disk drive or over a local network so the constraint of the internet - slow download times for multimedia materials may not apply. This, coupled with the fact that CAL technology has been around a bit longer, means that CAL packages have the potential to offer more advanced, interactive, multimedia learning experiences than it is currently reasonable to expect from the Web. This has been changing as Web technologies develop and bandwidths improve but there are currently many things that can only be achieved with CAL rather than the Web. Computer presentation is particularly suited to subjects that are visually intensive, detail oriented, and difficult to conceptualise. Each learner can progress at his or her preferred pace. They can repeat, interrupt, and resume at will, which may have particular advantages for weaker students. Developing computer assisted learning applications is a lengthy and skilled process. Innovators within traditional courses have embraced the concept and have often produced creative and high quality material to supplement their existing courses. But these individuals are in a minority; most academics will not become developers or supporters of computer assisted learning unless considerable time and resources are dedicated to supporting this activity (Bonk, C. J. et al. 2000).

            In summary, Computer Aided Learning can be easily accepted especially with children ages 7 – 11 years old, since the main characteristic of this age group is fun at play; matched with increasing trends on technology, learning won't be boring as the conventional way of teaching. For example, to reinforce basic skills, a more traditional approach may be to use a "drill and practice." It doesn't mean that it is not effective; it only implies that learning grows together with the improvement of assessment and learning material tools.  The Computer Assisted Learning offers wide choices to pick on – with regards to health topics and safety precautions the children don't need to be in the situation to actually learn it. They can simply click the mouse and browse in the net or if the teacher has provided them the website or better yet, the teacher herself made the program for such topics they it would be just a click away. Like for example, the lesson is about emergency situations such as road safety, they don't need to be in the actual scene to learn the various measures they can just sit and relax and view scenes from their computer that they can obviously learn from it. True, that experience is the best teacher; this also does not imply that doesn't mean that Computer Assisted Learning is not an actual experience – it is in a virtual manner. Working online enables the sharing and assimilation of a wide range of experiences of practice. This form of knowledge is often informal, tacit and continuously developing. The participants create knowledge for themselves through dynamic processes as explained by levels three and four of the model. Therefore, in e-moderating there is very little teaching in the conventional sense of instruction or 'telling'. Online learning offers participants' opportunities to explore information rather than asking them to accept what the teacher determines should be learnt. They construct knowledge for themselves through interacting online with peers, under the guidance of their e-moderator (Salmon, G. 2003). Can this program supplement the lesson, give basic skills practice, or be used as an educational reward for students? Teachers should also review all Web sites and links immediately before directing students to them. Web addresses and links frequently change and become inactive. Students might become frustrated when links are no longer available.

This is a way of reaching out to children in their level of perspective towards learning. The computer program may also be a station in a classroom learning center or used as a reward for positive behavior or work completion. Knowing that computer technology is rapidly transforming society by ensuring that children have opportunities to use computer technology more actively to create, design, to invent and to collaborate with children in other classrooms and communities. These are style of activities that allow children to play on the go roles in the up-and-coming digital world, not simply to navigate through. Computer Aided Learning does not replace the actual lecture of the teacher. The key here is assist. Its function is to assist the user in learning a particular subject. Computer Aided Learning describes an integrated approach to teaching a subject in which learning technology forms a part and which, only comes about after the re-assessment of the current teaching methods. This means, that Computer Aided Learning (CAL) is not a single assisted program but art of an educational strategy to teach a particular subject. The relative part each method of instruction plays within the strategy is determined through the re-evaluation of the subject being taught. Furthermore, re – evaluation determines the level at which he program operates – the educational objectives which the program alone cannot teach and that the level of required support from the other method. Ergo, re – evaluation helps to determine the areas or objectives of the subject in which the traditional methods are failing and where computer program can help.


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