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CHAPTER I

Introduction

A child with 85% attendance will miss the equivalent of half a term’s learning.

A child with 80% attendance will miss 2 whole school years by the age of 16.

(Seymour, 2007)

Significance of the Study

From a pedagogical perspective, the greatest teaching strategies and instruction are not effective if a child is not in school. According to the California Department of Education (2000), “One out of ten grade school children is absent on any given day” (p. 13) Regardless of the reason for this absence, the fact is that these students have missed important instruction. This thesis will be a formative evaluation research project designed to create and develop tools for the classroom teacher to make daily lessons and instruction available for students and parents to view (missed due to absenteeism) using technology.

In order to eliminate the learning gap that takes place when students are not in class, teachers must develop a system that ensures that detailed instruction is provided to the students along with the assigned make up of schoolwork. This project will assist teachers in providing absent students with detailed lessons and instruction for assignments using SMART Technologies products, including Bridgit™ conferencing software.


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The state of California has gone to great lengths to ensure that students are in school regularly. According to the California Department of Education (n.d.), Education Code, section EC48260:

Any pupil subject to full-time education who is absent from school without valid excuse more than three days or tardy in excess of 30 minutes on each of more than three days in one school year is a truant and shall be reported to the attendance supervisor of the superintendent of the school district.

Parents and students have found ways to work around this system to avoid having school officials and the judicial system involved. To prevent their child from being marked off as absent or tardy, students will report to school on time, take roll, and then parents will pick them up to leave for the day. Furthermore, another alternative to avoiding unexcused absences is to place a child on independent study. The California Department of Education (2008b) defines independent study as

an alternative instructional strategy, not an alternative curriculum. Students work independently, according to a written agreement and under the general supervision of a credentialed teacher. While independent study students follow the district-adopted curriculum and meet the district graduation requirements, independent study offers flexibility to meet individual student needs, interests, and styles of learning.

In many of the school districts throughout California, the responsibility of the preparation and supervision falls on the students’ classroom teachers. Using new technology, this preparation can be less time-consuming.


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SMART Technologies is the leader in providing interactive whiteboards. In 1991, they introduced the SMART Board. SMART Boards are interactive whiteboards that are hands-on and have the ability to manipulate and project desktop computer screens. They have a touch control that allows users to use a finger or one of their specially designed pens on a large projection screen the size of a typical whiteboard. The SMART Board has the technology to use educational software to enhance instruction, as well as the capability to save and print handwritten notes.

Also available to accompany the SMART Board from SMART Technologies is

Bridgit Conferencing Software. According to SMART Technologies (2008):

Bridgit conferencing software provides a quick, easy and effective way to share voice, video and data over the Internet.

In three easy steps, you can interact with colleagues and customers using any presentation or application you have running on your desktop or SMART Board interactive whiteboard. As well, participants can join your meeting through a simple e-mail invitation – no installation required, which is ideal for those who don’t have administration rights to install software on their computers.

If students are out of the classroom, but have access to the Internet, teachers will be able to electronically bring the classroom and daily lessons to students via a video-conference. For students who are out of the classroom due to extracurricular activities, doctors’ appointments, or who do not have Internet access, the lesson will be saved and they will be able to view it from the school Web site, or when they return to school. Through the use of this software, I expect to see students, who have missed classroom


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academic seat time, maintain historic academic achievement and possibly exceed their average performance.

Technology in the classroom is a controversial issue between educators and the business sector. Without proper thought and detailed planning, a significant amount of money can be spent on electronics, updating new programs, and software for the year. Marketing experts do an exceptional job at promoting and encouraging the purchase of technology. In an interview published in Education World, Todd Oppenheimer, author of THE FLICKERING MIND: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved, says, “When it comes to technology, too often educators think the more the better, the sooner the better” (Delisio, 2004). They need to approach technology “skeptically.” Oppenheimer also warns:

As trustees of an institution that is responsible for the nation's children, but that is extremely under funded, educators have a special duty. They must be unusually cautious consumers of all the new tricks that are sold to schools. Its fine to test out new products, but schools must do so slowly and warily. They never should make big, school-wide investments in anything before they are absolutely certain that results will match the salesmen's hype. (Delisio, 2004)

This research study will test the usefulness of Bridgit Conferencing Software and the SMART Board recording feature, and determine if this technology will help students who are not physically present in the classroom maintain high academic standards.

Research Questions

This study’s main research questions are as follows:


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1.      Does the use of the SMART Technologies recording feature or the Bridgit Conferencing software enable students who are absent to successfully complete and return daily assignments?

2.      How do parents, teachers, and students respond to SMART Technologies

Bridgit Conferencing Software?

Hypothesis

The hypothesis of this study is that by employing the SMART Technologies recording feature and Bridgit Conferencing Software in their classrooms, teachers will be able to create and develop a system to bridge the gap in learning that is created by student absenteeism. The expectations are that students will not struggle with the assigned work because they have had access to detailed instruction, their work will be turned in on time with little or no missing work due to absenteeism, and this technology will be a fairly easy process to implement in the classroom. Parents and teachers will recognize that this instruction does not replace the importance of a student being in the classroom; however, it does provide an alternative to missing the instruction entirely.




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