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Transition from Traditional Materials to the Use of Digital Learning Materials in Middle School Curriculum

Alenez, A. (2017). Technology leadership in Saudi schools. Education and Information Technologies, 22(3), 1121-1132.

This article outlines the potential of Saudi schools to have technology leadership that is provided for by Learning Resource Centers (LRCs) for the purpose of fostering the formulation of a technology-motivated environment. The study conducted by Alenez utilized the ground theory methodology, as well as, the CBAM stages of concern and levels of use to expound on the Learning Resource Centers in Saudi Arabia and their leadership role within the framework of the current ICT reforms in schools. Through the interviews conducted by the author involving participants from the Northern Borders University training programs, it was established that Saudi schools need standardized leadership to ensure the comprehensive and standardize utilization of technology through networked Learning Resource Centers. Therefore, in order to make the use of digital learning materials in schools successful, Saudi teachers with meager knowledge of technology need to use Learning Resource Centers.

The reason for selecting this article as a source for my research is because Alenez emphasizes the need for teachers to have the required ICT skills needed to lead and guide the students through various digital learning techniques. It is not just sufficient to have digital learning tools in a school. Such digital learning tools will only be beneficial to the students if the teachers can help them grasp the concepts as quickly and easily as possible. It is for this reason that Learning Resource Centers are an ideal solution to the technology leadership gap that exists in middle schools in Saudi Arabia. The article sets a platform for the formation of Learning Resource Centers that are tailor-made for students in addition to the existing Learning Resource Centers that are designed for teachers so as to improve performance in middle schools through the use of digital learning tools.

Neville, W., & Gafar, A. (2012). A Strategy to Improve The Usage of ICT in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Primary School.

According to Almalki and Williams, integration of technology in education is an intricate concept that requires practical interpretation in order to attain significant results. As a nation, Saudi Arabia does not have technological infrastructure that is similar to those in developed countries. Based on this understanding, effective strategies are critical to improving the application of ICT in primary schools efficiently. An education system that Almalki and Williams describe as utilizing ICT efficiently in learning and teaching is one that entails the integration of ICT into the school curriculum and classrooms. Notwithstanding, there are certain barriers that prevent the successful implementation of ICT in primary schools in Saudi Arabia. However, Almalki and Williams give some recommendations to surmount these challenges such as training for Ministry of Education Staff in ICT, creating a suitable ICT infrastructure environment and developing ICT training programs for teachers in schools.

This article is extremely vital to my research in that it highlights the challenges that schools in Saudi Arabia face while integrating ICT in the education system and curriculum and recommends various solutions to these challenges. The barriers related to the implementation of ICT in schools exist in three categories, that is, institution/school factor, teacher factor and extrinsic factor. The strategies provided by Almalki and Williams for ICT integration in middle school are vital to ensuring that both teachers and students in middle school benefit from using digital learning tools. Some of these vital strategies include introducing certain subjects that are related to ICT to schools at a national level and providing ICT training programs for teachers and students to help sharpen their technological skills.

Alrashidi, A. (2014). E-learning in Saudi Arabia: A Review of the Literature. British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science, 4(5), 656-672.

As stated by Alrashidi, distance education and the utilization of digital information technologies are growing swiftly throughout the world both in remote areas and urban areas such as towns and cities. Alrashidi describe distance learning and distance education as a variety of discordant learning methods. Nonetheless, communication can be carried out online through emails or on the specific course website or portal. With such improved accessibility and availability, Saudi Arabia has embraced distance learning enthusiastically in recent years. This article explores the novel era that the government of Saudi Arabia is ushering in through the increased implementation of distance learning in school systems. However, despite the progress of the government in integrating e-learning in the school curriculum, there have been numerous fears, unanswered questions, criticisms, doubts and expressions of pessimism regarding the value and subsequent success of the proposed distance learning system in Saudi Arabia. As a result, Alrashidi conducted the study on e-learning in Saudi Arabia to evaluate the literature about e-learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that influenced the decision to implement and integrate distance learning for education systems.

The reason for choosing this article as a vital source of information for my research is because it attempts to utilize the literature on e-learning to demonstrate the social, cultural, and economic benefits of e-learning since it provides the opportunity for the development of knowledge. Most literatures explore the academic benefits of digital information technologies without taking into consideration other benefits. Alrashidi takes into account the social, cultural and economic benefits of e-learning and provides the reader with essential information regarding how middle schools in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ought to go about implementing and integrating digital information technologies in their curriculum so as to ensure an all-round development of the students and the education sector in general.

Dede, C., & Jobs for the, F. (2014). The Role of Digital Technologies in Deeper Learning. Students at the Center: Deeper Learning Research Series.

According to Dede, the last major transformation of the education in the United States occurred a century ago when as part of its alteration from an agricultural to an industrial economy the country invented a novel model of schooling. This new model of schooling treats education as a routine and almost mechanical process that is similar to the production of material commodities on an assembly line. Instead of the education system permitting the students to learn at their own pace and according to their individual interests and needs, the system treats students as interchangeable parts that are sorted by age, grouped in various classes of equal size, accorded identical instructions, evaluated at fixed intervals and moved along to the next grade provided they meet the minimum prerequisites. It is imperative to note that once the students are moved along to the next grade upon attaining the minimum requirements, they undergo the same process of learning and evaluation as they did in the previous grades. This kind of monotonous learning is what the author terms as a limit to deeper learning.

This article contributes to my research by highlighting the redundancy of a new model of schooling that incorporates technology. If traditional techniques of learning and teaching in middle schools were accused of being redundant and robotic, then the inclusion of digital learning tools escalates the level of redundancy in teaching and learning since it easier to operate. A system of technology-related schooling has also been found to favor the elite in the society with people from disadvantaged backgrounds lagging behind in school. However, with strategies such as extended inquiries, interdisciplinary projects, collaborative investigations, apprenticeships, as well as, other opportunities for students to connect academic subjects to their personal interests, debate and discuss intricate concepts and confront real and open-ended world problems, digital learning materials can yield positive results in middle schools.

Eady, M., & Lockyer, L. (2013). Tools for learning: Technology and teaching. Learning to Teach in the Primary School, 71.

According to the article Tools for learning: technology and teaching strategies, the pace of technological change in schools and in the society, has been exponential and will continue in the same trajectory. Teachers are utilizing ICT to espouse their role in providing students with advice and structure, monitoring the progress of student, and analyzing their achievements. When students employ technology in analyzing data, designing products, conducting research, solving problems, and assessing their work, they work in collaboration with their colleagues to formulate and communicate new understandings and knowledge. This article presents the reader with a range of tools, as well as, learning and teaching practices that are ideal for helping students and teachers gain meaningful benefits from the use of digital learning materials.

This article is vital to my research as it helps the readers to discern the role of technology in education and how students can utilize digital learning tools to perform functions such as analyzing data, designing products, conducting research, solving problems, and assessing their work. Moreover, it helps both teachers and students identify resources and technological applications utilized in classrooms today. The article also provides suggestions on how schools can embed technology in their curricula via a vast array of learning and teaching strategies, as well as, how to assess these digital learning tools to ascertain whether they support learning and teaching and are beneficial to teachers and students in terms of performance. Thus, by exploring the use of digital learning and teaching tools in primary schools Eady and Lockyer were able to fathom the possible barriers and challenges teachers and students in primary schools’ face and how to overcome them.

Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. E. (2009). Learning, teaching, and scholarship in a digital age: Web 2.0 and classroom research: What path should we take now?. Educational researcher, 38(4), 246-259.

As Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes state, since Windschitl first outlined a research agenda for classroom research and the World Wide Web, critical changes have occurred in the conceptualization of classrooms and nature of the Web. Such alterations have affected constructs of instruction and learning, as well as, the paths for future research. This article explores the features of the Web 2.0 that make it different from the Web present in the 1990s, expounds on the contextual conditions in which the teachers and students utilize the Web today and assesses how Web 2.0’s unique features and capabilities and the proclivities of the youth in using it influence teaching and learning. From the analysis conducted by Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes two vital themes emerged, that is, online identity formation and learner participation and creativity. Since the research conducted by Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes was limited to certain variables, the authors recommended that a stronger study should be conducted with a focus on the students’ daily usage of Web 2.0 technologies, as well as, their learning with the help of Web 2.0 both in and outside of the classrooms. The article Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age also discussed insights on how educational scholarship may be transformed with Web 2. in light of the themes of online identity formation and learner participation and creativity.

This article contributes to my research by outlining how the Web can be used by students in their studies and for research purposes. However, despite the easy accessibility of the Web, students and teachers might fail to attain their desired results based on identity, creativity and participation challenges. This is because unlike traditional methods of schooling that required immense participation, creativity and involvement, digital learning materials provide students and teachers with so much allowance that they end up showing meager limited involvement or commitment to their work. Thus, despite the fact that digital learning and teaching materials in middle school make the work of students and teachers easier than traditional schooling methods, they should be careful not to lose their focus, creativity and identity in the process.

Devlin, T. J., Feldhaus, C. R., & Bentrem, K. M. (2013). The Evolving Classroom: A Study of Traditional and Technology-Based Instruction in a STEM Classroom. Journal Of Technology Education25(1), 34-54..

            In the article “The Evolving Classroom: A Study of Traditional and Technology-based Instruction in a STEM Classroom,” authors Devlin, Feldhaus, and Bentrem described a study conducted using action research with a traditional mixed method approach to understand how technology affects instruction delivery to middle school students regarding their assignments in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). To gain understanding, the authors looked at how in-person communication and video presentations affect student ability to follow instructions, engage in critical thinking and work with others collaboratively. Data was gathered through a two-question survey given to 87students and seven interview questions provided to a focus group made up of 22 students. Some participant received in-person instructions and others received video instructions. After analyzing the data, the authors concluded that technology can help engage middle school students during the first minutes of giving an assignment. While the study did not measure student achievement, the students perceived technology was a better way for them to understand the assignment.

Kreijns, K., Van Acker, F., Vermeulen, M., & Van Buuren, H. (2013). What stimulates teachers to integrate ICT in their pedagogical practices? The use of digital learning materials in education. Computers in human behavior, 29(1), 217-225.

Kreijns, Acker, Vermeulen and Buuren addressed the question of what stimulates teachers to integrate information and communication technologies in their pedagogical practices in the context of the usage of digital learning materials by teachers. The authors adopted the Fishbein’s Integrative Model of Behavior Prediction in their study to investigate the various relationships between proximal and distal variables and intention. The results of the mediation analysis showed that the proximal variables subjective norm, attitude and self-efficacy towards digital learning materials were critical predictors of the intention of the teachers to utilize digital learning materials. However, the contribution of the subjective norm was modest. The results also revealed that subjective norm, attitude, and self-efficacy mediated the impacts of the three distal variables on intention, that is, the perceived skills and knowledge to use DLMs, previous utilization of DLMs and the colleagues’ usage of DLMs. Kreijns, Acker, Vermeulen and Buuren concluded that skills and persuasive communication-based training seem to be the appropriate interventions required to improve self-efficacy in utilizing DLMs and promote a positive attitude towards DLMs.

The reason I selected this article as a source material for my research is that it provides salient information regarding the motivation of teachers to integrate digital learning materials in their teaching techniques. When teachers have adequate knowledge and skills on how to use the digital learning materials effectively, they are motivated to utilize digital technology when teaching, issuing instructions, communicating with students and assessing the work of students. The desire to improve their teaching capabilities is also another reason that motivates teachers to