Increasing Academic Writing Achievement without The Initial Hindrance of Technology: Mixed Methods

Original Document:


Chapter 1: Introduction

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this study is to design and implement an adaptable and differentiated collection of learning strategies in a secondary English Language Arts (ELA) classroom in which the academic writing process is taught without the use of technology on the students’ part. In my experience as a classroom teacher—as well as being a student— there is no shortcut technology can provide in learning how to think about thinking, literature, comprehension, or purposeful writing in the secondary ELA classroom. It is also my experience that students who do choose the easy way out with cameras on their cell phones are left at a disadvantage compared to their peers who take longhand notes and synthesize their ideas and understanding in handwritten journals.

A study referenced by Maryellen Weimer (2015) in an article written for Faculty Focus, states that students “need to take their own notes and not think they are excused from doing so because they’ve got the teacher’s notes [or notes on their phones via photograph]. Research results… don’t preclude teachers from supplying students with written materials, maybe an outline of the day’s topic or a diagram, but we do so needing to remember that it is the process, the engagement with the material—the cognitive exercise involved in recollecting, summarizing, reorganizing, and restructuring [the notes] that actually matters the most.” Essentially, when students take notes by hand in their own words, they are actually learning more than their counterparts who simply record what a teacher speaks or presents. The study referenced in the previous paragraph had significant results: “Students averaged a 72 percent correct on questions from the week they completed a note-restructuring assignment, whereas they averaged 61 percent correct for other weeks,” (Weimer, 2015).

At Riverview High School, where I teach, our Florida Standards Assessment in writing scores are barely “par” for what is expected. This is not unusual in our country. We also have limited and unreliable access to technology. Also, not unusual. Completing this study to create a collection of strategies—in which technology is unnecessary— for all teachers across a variety of content areas could drastically increase the success rate our students have and positively impact our ability to create an environment where our students are college and career-ready.

Statement of Research Questions

There is a single research question at the focus of this study: Are there differences in writing progress for students in traditional secondary English Language Arts courses compared to students in ELA courses infused with technology?

Throughout the course of research, sub-questions will also be answered:

  • What are the benefits and consequences of using—or not using—technology in the classroom?
  • For existing low-tech and no-tech classrooms and schools, which strategies in writing are working and which are not?
  • What is the disconnect between classrooms who successfully implement technology to support learning and classrooms who are unsuccessful? How is the teacher involved?
  • What can be learned from limiting access to technology while students build a foundation for genuine learning?

Limitations of Proposed Research

Limitations of this study include a lack of previous research and accessible sample size: each must be recognized and acknowledged. Much of the research found is specific to other areas of education with a variety of technology used (i. e. maths and calculators, electronic dictionaries and foreign languages, web-based notes versus handwritten notes) between 1979 and 2013. Humans have advanced a great deal in technology even in the last three years. There were no reliable studies (only brief articles with limited scientific validity) found regarding capturing slides or information via photograph, or using the Internet to pass along completed class work to other students for copying. To overcome this in the study, connections to previous research will be made and adapted to the specific scenario of the secondary ELA classroom.

Sample size may also be a limitation of this study as it is. I currently have three classes of English II Honors, two classes of English II Regular, and one class of English II through ESOL. Each classroom ranges from 15-25 students. I have access to my own students for the 2016-2017 (and beyond) school year. There is generally little to no opportunity for me to work with any other classroom on campus outside of my own. With that said,  if I am to utilize students as participants from other classes or content areas, I will need to have permissions from administration and the teacher facilitating that class.

This is largely an unviable option as the teacher will not be versed in the study nor the practices which should be implemented.  Unfortunately, as a classroom teacher, I am unable to observe and move throughout the school during class periods. Also, throughout the year, students are shifted from class to class, or leave the school entirely. Sometimes new students come in that were not in the classroom at the beginning of the year.

Key Terms

Four phrases need to be defined prior to moving forward: technology supporting learning, learning without technology, overuse of technology, and academic achievement. Technology supporting learning will be dieted as students utilizing web searches, and computer-aided editing/revising marks (spell check). For teachers, this means online sources for information, presentations via projector, recorded readings of literatures, as well as other opportunities within the curriculum.

Learning without technology for students means that each individual handwrites notes from presentations, lectures, or videos to refer back to as necessary. This may also entail reading texts and annotating, editing and revising a writing sample without the use of a spell check software, monitoring progress on a diagram, et cetera.

Overuse of technology will stand for dependence on technology for accomplishing learning tasks without taking the opportunity to learn the material. Overuse will also include reliance on the Internet for quotes or facts and utilizing mobile phones to record photographs of presentations or “notes.”

Achievement will be defined as any upward or forward-moving progress in secondary ELA.

Chapter 2: Review of Literature

Integrating Technology

When teachers know how to utilize technologies to support learning in instruction, then implementation should be seamless. This should be common sense, but many teachers mindlessly rush into using technologies without training simply because they are mandated by a district or administration. However, in a study published in 2011, Wright and Wilson discovered that teachers who were in higher phases in Hooper and Rieber’s Model of Technology Adoption in the Classroom “were teachers who had continued professional development, had engaged students in using technology, and had support from their school community.” Not only do teachers need to understand what technologies are and how to use them, technologies also need to engage students during instruction, and teachers need support from their administration within their organization.


An even more recent study discusses the recognition that technologies can, in fact, enhance students’ learning in mathematics courses but states that “effective integration of technology into classroom practice remains patchy, with factors such as teacher knowledge, confidence, experience and beliefs, access to resources, and participation in professional development experiences,” (Bennison & Goos, 2010). Even further into this study, researchers found that teachers who did participate in professional development experienced higher levels of confidence and were “more convinced of its benefits in supporting students’ learning of mathematics,” (Bennison & Goos, 2010). In interviews, “teachers expressed a clear preference for professional development that helps them meaningfully integrate technology into lessons to improve student learning of specific mathematical topics,” (Bennison & Goos, 2010). This could very well be the case in many English Language Arts courses, or even social sciences, as well.

Negative Connotations of Technology

With the lack of professional development for teachers in the use of technologies in the classroom comes a negative association with technology in learning. There also seems to be a fundamental need for teachers to ensure students understand information from a foundational aspect so that each student can build on what they have already learned. For example, in a study published in 2013, Salani states that:

The study showed that most of the teachers believed that a calculator was a technological tool that could be useful to the students in the future. On the contrary, most teachers felt that the overuse of calculators by the students could hamper the development of basic computational skills. Therefore, it was recommended that school based training on calculator use should be provided so as to empower teachers with the necessary technological skills for effective classroom instruction.

Current Research on Taking Notes

Published studies on taking notes—with and without technology—resembled the topic of this proposed study most. A variety of outcomes have been established in other studies between 1979 and 2014. Some of these conclusions include handwriting notes leading to “deeper levels of processing on two post-tests,” (Breezing & Kulhavy, 1979), the process of reviewing notes being the most important aspect of taking notes, and teacher handouts as a hindrance.

In The Effects of Notetaking: A Review of Studies, the researchers note that current “literature indicates that recoding notes is less crucial than students’ review of notes for performance on a variety of learning tasks,” (Carrier & Titus, 1979). If students are not going back to look at their notes then there is no learning occurring as students are unable to recall important information. However, in a study on the effects of note taking, Barnett’s What is Learned in Note Taking? Includes “supporting the encoding function of note taking and demonstrated that unguided elaboration hindered performance on teacher-made tests,” (Barnett, 1981). These two studies published only two years apart seem to slightly contradict each other.

Along the same lines, in 1980 Palkovitz and Lore published Note Taking and Note Review: Why Students Fail Questions Based on Lecture Material in which researchers “compared the test performances of students taking a course in introductory psychology with the quality of notes taken during lectures. Findings showed students failed tests because they did not review and learn the information in their notes.”

In 1979, Riley and Dyer published The Effects of Note Taking While Reading or Listening. This study included the difference between reading and listening while taking notes on specific content. The researchers point out that students who read the materials were more likely to remember the content than listeners, and also that, “note taking helped listeners but did not help readers.” If we connect this study to other studies discussed in the above paragraphs, then we can liken “reading” to “reviewing notes” in order to make academic progress. Again however, another study, McDonald and Taylor’s Student Note-Taking and Lecture Handouts in Veterinary Medical Education, tends to contradict these findings. This study, as stated above, found that “important information is often omitted from notes… [and] Handouts did not improve test performance…” (1980).

Another study published in 2009 compared measures of factual learning in students who were to copy-and-paste their notes from the Internet and students who wrote their notes by hand.

Immediate, cued-recall measures of factual learning showed that students who wrote their notes were better able to recall what they had noted, although recall was low for all students. However, after a one-week delay (which included two classroom opportunities to study their notes), students who pasted their notes performed significantly better on two different measures of factual learning than students who wrote their notes. Follow-up student interviews and analyses of notes revealed a robust explanatory theme: many written notes contained barriers to learning (e.g., illegible handwriting, spelling errors, and/or indecipherable paraphrases), which likely reduced the benefit of study time, (Igo, Bruding & Riccomini, 2009).

Statement of Research Hypotheses and Implications

With the limited amount of research on traditional ELA curriculum implementation and strategies, a study—such as the proposed study—has the potential to have true effects in the future for students and teachers. For classrooms and schools with students from lower socio-economic demographics who may not have immediate access to personal electronic devices or Internet-access at home, this study will provide teachers with a foundation of strategies in which they can improve upon composition and metacognition in the classroom. Along the same lines, for teachers who are still uncomfortable or untrained with the implementation of technology in the classroom, this study will provide a framework of learning opportunities in which students will not need to rely on technology to learn, nor be assessed. An adaptable and differentiated collection of learning strategies in a secondary ELA classroom in which the writing process is taught without the use of technology on the students’ part will result.

Further research will be needed at the conclusion of this study. A study on specific contemporary teacher/instructor motivations, interests, and skill in utilizing technology (or a lack of skill) in the classroom should be examined to discover how to approach professional development for teachers on best practices regarding the use of specific technologies and strategies in the classroom.

Chapter 3: Method


Participants will include six classes of English II Regular, English II through ESOL, and English II Honors students—approximately 150 students total—- at Riverview High School in Riverview, Florida during the 2016-2017 school year. This is a convenience sample and have all been randomly assigned to my roster based on their course load for their sophomore year.

Students are currently unknown amounts of male and female, with unknown race/ethnicity makeup, and between the ages of 15 and 16 years old. All participants must be labeled as sophomores with administration during the 2016-2017 school year.


Three tools will be utilized throughout the process of this study: Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) writing rubrics (Argumentation and Informatory, see appendix), SpringBoard ELA curriculum for 10th grade (level 5), and a baseline written essay as a pretest.

Every high school student and teacher between 9th and 12th grades utilize the FSA writing rubrics for all written assessments, including Florida’s standardized assessment the FSA. To grade writing achievement and progress in the State of Florida based on these rubrics is required. The rubrics are designed to score a student’s written sample based on three areas: Purpose, Focus, and Organization; Evidence and Elaboration; and Standard Conventions of English (grammar, mechanics, usage).

The SpringBoard ELA curriculum is what is mandated in our district, Hillsborough County Public Schools, as well as other districts around the United States. The 10th grade curriculum follows a theme of culture through five standardized units. This curriculum is interchangeable between Common Core State Standards, as well as Florida State Standards.

Along with the SpringBoard curriculum, our district follows a mandatory protocol of assessing students’ baseline written samples as well as a reading diagnostics test in order to determine areas of opportunity as well as strengths. This baseline is standardized across each grade level throughout the county, as all sophomores will engage in the same writing prompt with the same passages on the same two days: August 17th and 18th of 2016.

Research Design

This study is designed in repeated measures with one pre-test and multiple post-tests in order to determine successful strategies in both areas of learning the writing process. Within-subjects variables include the method of instruction with two levels: no student technology and students allowed to utilize technology, as well as each curricular unit of instruction: SpringBoard ELA Level 5: Units 1-4. Between-subjects variables include analyzing data means by class period, individual curricular unit, quarter, and semester.


Students are randomly assigned to one of my six English II classes based on Administration decisions regarding class size and student schedules. During the first two weeks of school in the 2016-2017 school year, students will not be provided any instruction on academic writing. On August 17th and 18th, 2016, students will complete a baseline written assessment (pre-test) that will be graded by their teacher (myself as researcher) per the FSA rubric as outlined by Florida State Standards. Data will be recorded in the Progress Monitoring Essay (PME) data spreadsheet (see appendix).

Following the baseline assessment of writing achievement, all six classes will be instructed without the use of technology to support learning on the students’ part. Students will be required to write notes by hand, peer review, edit, revise, conference, etc. without the use of a computer or cell phone to aid in the completion of the first four embedded assessments (EA) within Unit 1 and Unit 2 of the SpringBoard Level 5 curriculum. Throughout instruction the researcher will record field notes on strategies, reflections, biases, and any details that arise. Once students have completed each EA, the teacher/researcher will grade each essay per the FSA rubric as outlined by Florida State Standards. Data will be recorded in the PME data spreadsheet.

During the second semester, all six classes will be allowed to utilize cell phones and computers throughout the note taking, peer reviewing, editing, revising, and publishing processes for the final two units of the SpringBoard Level 5 curriculum. Once students have completed each EA, the teacher/researcher will grade each essay per the FSA rubric as outlined by Florida State Standards. Data will be recorded in the PME data spreadsheet. Field notes will continue to be recorded.

Following completion of implementation of the study, data from personal reflections and field notes will be compiled.

Data Analysis

Quantitative and qualitative measures will be recorded throughout the study. Qualitative aspects include measuring and recording baseline writing data for each student. Following the baseline assessment, two EAs per four units of instruction will be measured and analyzed via repeated-measures, ANOVA, measure of central tendency by mean, and tested for main effects, two-way… (three-way, et cetera) interactions. Overall averages will not be consistent within all six classes due to the grouping of students into each course (E2R, E2esol, E2H). With this being recognized, average achievement of progress will be measured and analyzed against each other average achievement of progress.

Qualitative data from observations, personal reflections, and field notes will be compiled, coded, categorized, and analyzed. All data will be then be compounded and synthesized in order to provide interpretation of results.


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Hooper, S., & Rieber, L. P. (1995). Teaching with technology. In A. C. Ornstein (Ed.), Teaching: Theory into practice, (pp. 154-170). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Igo, B. L., Bruning, R. A & Riccomini, P. J. (2009). Should middle school students with learning problems copy and paste notes from the internet? Mixed-methods evidence of study barriers. Retrieved from

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