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Case Study - Research

A case that examines how best to introduce computers into classwok for positive learning outcomes.

Last Update: 2012-07-10 06:42:20

Case Study: Research (Roblyer & Doering, 2010)
Ms. Eltona was very pleased when her school placed a three-computer workstation in each classroom so that students could do Internet research for classroom assignments. However, she finds that when students have a research paper to do for her class, they do a quick keyword search, locate a number of web pages on the topic, copy down what each page says, and put that in their research papers. She tells other teachers that she thinks using the Internet makes her students’ papers worse instead of better because it makes it too easy to find information that may be unreliable.

Research assignments could benefit from planning and structures similar to webquests and pathfinders as has been outlined in our text, class materials and web references.  One good example is the structure used for each of the Webquests at questgarden.com, a collection of guided “webquests” shared by teachers.  Questgarden.com includes these topic titles (there are some more, but these are the ones relevant to the assignment itself):

  1. Introduction
  2. Task
  3. Process
  4. Evaluation
  5. Conclusion


This is a useful framework with which to organize this analysis..


Ms. Eltona could begin at the first introduction of the research paper assignment to focus attention on web research skills by including them as co-objectives.  This is, of course, off topic, and, in a prior case I reasoned that significant off assignment skills were preventing training of the selected objectives.  However, with due caution and ample instructions, templates, search words, pathfinders, etc., this case could have better results by adding some focus on web skills.

Task and Process:

According to the scenario, the research paper could be completed with a “quick” keyword search, find a number of web pages on the topic and copy the text of the paper directly from the web pages they visit.  This suggests that the structure of the research topic and the related research questions were too straightforward, essentially asking questions for which the answers have already been widely written.  The assignment should be re-formulated to generate questions that engage higher level skills involving extracting and combining information, producing something original or applying information to derive original answers and conclusions

Moreover, if Ms. Eltona has not incorporated or provided any focus about responsible resource use in the task, process and rubric, then the students would not even have to re-formulate the information into their own words. 

Consider also that including pre-researched websites in the Process would first ensure that the students visit some relevant and reliable web pages, no matter what they come up with on their own.  Similarly, directing students to particular search sites and suggesting search terms and phrases would teach, by example, effective search skills.  Ms. Eltona could have consulted the school librarian for help in finding pathfinders and identifying appropriate search engines and authoritative web sites for the research topic.

Also, by visiting the assigned web sites, the students will see examples and gain understanding of the look, feel and content of relevant and reliable websites.  By comparison, students could judge other websites they find and visit on their own. 

Going on step further, consider including a webliography as an explicit requirement of the assignment.  This would train an important skill and tie to the opportunity to teach appropriate use of information resources.  Ms. Eltona should be careful to provide clear instructions and templates to minimize the its impact on the main objective.  If however, the objectives could be expanded (ie. the tech skills objectives are formally incorporated in the research assignment, the students might even be asked to arrange their web references in a tabular format with columns in which they rate the sites on the American Library Association’s (ALA) information quality criteria (Maloy, 2011, p131):

  1. Accuracy;
  2. Authority;
  3. Objectivity;
  4. Currency; and
  5. Coverage



Consider including in the evaluation rubric a category for: the quality of web resources.  This would be a factor in the grade.  The rubric would use the some ALA criteria above.  It seems reasonable to say that the quality (or final grade) of a research report depends on the quality of the resources used in its preparation.  Students could be expected to understand this and between the process requirements and the rubric, the student would be reminded to practice and show skills in web searches, critical evaluation of web pages and responsible use and documentation of web resources.

In summary, in this case and in the previous case, I’ve reasoned that technology and web skills are not acquired simply because equipment and access to the internet are provided.  Maloy and his associates (2011, p32), quote Nicholas Burbules and Thomas Callister Jr.’s observation that “capacity for transformation is not intrinsic to the technology itself” (2000, p7) and go on to say that “simply adding computers to a school classroom or requiring students to use technology in their assignments will not in and of itself change education” to which I add ­for the better.  In this case Ms. Eltona sees the assignment to research a paper via the WWW as negative change.  Transform those results by considering NETS-T 4 and NETS-S 3 objectives (ISTE, 2007) in every technology based activity.



Burbules, M. C. & Callister, T. A. Jr (2000). Watch IT: The risks and promises of information technologies kfor education. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

Maloy et al. (2011). Transforming learning with new technologies. Boston, MA: Pearson Publishing as Allyn & Bacon

Roblyer, M.D., & Doering. A.N. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 235.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National educational technology standards for students (2nd ed.) Eugene, OR: Author

International Society for Technology in Education. (2007). National educational technology standards for students (2nd ed.) Eugene, OR: Author

Questgarden.com. (3.4.2011) http://www.questgarden.com/

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