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Internet in the Classroom: Effects on Reading

Comprehension, Motivation and Metacognitive


Awareness
Bracha Kramarski and Yael Feldman, Ramat-Gan, Israel

Abstracts
The main goal of the research was to examine the contribution of an internet environment embedded with metacognitive
instruction on students’ reading comprehension, motivation and metacognitive awareness. The participants were 52 students
who studied in two eighth-grade classes randomly selected from one junior high school and assigned to one of two conditions:
(a) internet group – exposed to metacognitive instruction embedded in an internet classroom; and (b) control group – exposed
to metacognitive instruction embedded in a regular class. results indicate that although the internet environment contributes
signiŽ cantly to the motivation of the students towards the study of English as a foreign language, no real contribution was found
regarding actual improvement of achievement in the area of English reading comprehension and metacognitive awareness.
The theoretical and practical implications of the study are discussed.

L’internet dans la classe et les effets sur la compéhension dans la lecture, la motivation et la conscience
meta-cognitive
Le but principal de cette recherche était d’examiner la contribution d’un environnement internet inclus dans l’instruction
metacognitive sur la compréhension de la lecture par les élèves, la motivation et la conscience metacognitive. Les participants
étaient 52 élèves qui étudiaient dans des classes du grade 8 sélectionnés au hasard dans une junior high school et repartis en
2 groupes: (a) groupe internet – exposé à l’instruciton metacognitive comprise dans unse classe internet; (b) Groupe du
contrôle – exposé à l’instruction metacognitive dans une classe ordinaire. Les résultats indiquent que bien que l’environnement
internet contribue de facon signiŽ cative à la motivation des étudiants, à l’étude de l’Anglais comme langue étrangère, on
n’a pas trouvé de contribution réellement signiŽ cative concernant une amélioration des résultats dans le domaine de la
compréhension de la lecture et la conscience métacognitive. L’article discute des implications théroriques et pratiques de
l’étude.

Internet im Klassenzimmer: Ein uss auf Leseverständniss, Motivation und metakognitives Bewußtsein
Das Hauptziel dieser Untersuchung war, den Beitrag einer webbasierten Umgebung mit metakognitiven Anweisungen auf das
Leseverständnis, die Motivation und das metakognitive Bewußtsein von Studenten zu ergründen. 52 Kursteilnehmer, die in
zwei eighth-grade-classes studierten, die nach dem Zufallsprinzip von einer Juniorhighschool ausgewählt worden waren und
eine von zwei Bedingungen erfüllten: (a) Internet-Gruppe -ausgesetzt der metacognitive Anweisung im Rahmen eines Internet-
Klassenzimmers; (b)Kontrollgruppe - ausgesetzt der metacognitive Anweisung eingebettet in regelmäßigem Unterricht.
Die Resultate zeigen, daß, obgleich das Internetangebot erheblich zur Motivation der Kursteilnehmer beim Studium von
Englisch als Fremdsprache beiträgt, kein realer Befund betreffend die tatsächliche Verbesserung des Leseverständnisses und
des metacognitiven Bewußtseins gefunden wurde. Die theoretischen und praktischen Folgerungen der Studie werden
diskutiert.

Introduction
As increasingly more schools achieve internet capabilities and as educational technology discourse increasingly
promotes the necessity of technological competence and promotes the promise of global connectivity, educators
have been exploring ways to use and rationalize the use of the internet in their classrooms (Fabos and Young,
1999; Fetterman, 1998). Researchers have indicated that the new medium has given teachers and learners
immediate access to authentic materials and contexts for cultural learning which may increase meaningful
learning and affect students motivation (Finnemann, 1998; Hellebrandt, 1999; Hoffman, 1995; Lee, 1997).
Earlier studies on web-based environments for educational communication report how network interaction in
many learning projects results in superŽ cial and experience-based discussion, but does not reach the level of
theory-based re ections and argumentation (Fabos and Young, 1999). These Ž ndings indicate that designers

Education Media International ISSN 0952-3987 print/ISSN 1469-5790 online © 2000 International Council for Education Media
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150 EMI 37:3 – MEDIA AND INFORMATIOON TECHNOLOGIES

of computer learning environments should not take for granted the fact that learning with advanced technologies
is always associated with metacognitive activities (Kramarski, 1999). Special attention should be given to the
questions: how can we enhance meaningful learning by using interactive technologies? What are the pedagogical
methods of using that technology.?
Theorists (Armbruster et al., 1982; Baker and Brown, 1984; Flavell, 1979) have long emphasized the role of
metacognition in improving comprehension. Flavell (1979) deŽ ned metacognition as either 1) knowledge or
awareness of one’s cognitive processes, their operation and outcomes and 2) the conscious control or regulation
of one’s own knowledge. Metacognitive knowledge pertains to the beliefs and understanding of those factors
or variables that in uence the outcomes of cognitive processes. The variable categories are person, task and
strategies. Metacognitive knowledge has three components referring to strategy use: declarative (knowing what),
procedural (knowing how) and conditional knowledge (knowing why).
Mayer (1998) stresses the importance of metacognition by stating that metacognitive knowledge is a predictor of
successful problem solving, together with skill and motivation. Reading is one of the skill domains where the role
of metacognition is of signiŽ cant value.
Several previous studies examined the effects of metacognitive instruction on reading comprehension (Mayer,
1998; Palincsar and Brown, 1984; Pressley et al., 1992; Salomon et al. 1989) and on metacognitive awareness
(Masui and DeCorte, 1999; Mevarech and Kramarski, 1997). A major common element of these studies is
training students by formulating and answering a series of self-addressed metacognitive questions. Palincsar and
Brown (1984) found that the comprehension of poor readers improved when they were taught to predict,
question, clarify and summarize what they read.
We hypothesized that providing metacognitive instruction in internet classrooms would exert more positive
effects on students’ reading comprehension and metacognitive awareness than implementing metacognitive
instruction in regular classrooms. This is because the internet environment is assumed to be more motivating
for students’ learning and promotes contextualized and authentic practice of English as a foreign language and
culture.
The purpose of the present study was twofold: (a) to investigate English reading comprehension of students who
were exposed to metacognitive instruction embedded in an internet classroom versus metacognitive instruction
delivered in a regular classroom; (b) to examine the differential effects of the two instructional methods on students
motivation and metacognitive awareness.

Method
Participants
The sample of participants in the study consisted of 52 students (25 male and 27 female) who studied in two
eighth-grade classes randomly selected from one junior high school and assigned to one of two conditions: (a)
internet group – exposed to metacognitive instruction embedded in an internet classroom; (b) control group –
exposed to metacognitive instruction embedded in a regular classroom.

Treatment
All students, in both internet and control groups, studied English as a foreign language in pairs with the same
teacher. They used the same metacognitive learning methods while practicing reading comprehension. The
metacognitive learning was based on a four stages of a metacognitive strategy (Polya, 1957):
1. identifying the task;
2. planning;
3. performing; and
4. evaluation.
In particular, they practised reading comprehension strategies such as: scanning, skimming and use of contextual
clues (for more details see Appendix A).
The difference between the groups was in the source of texts they studied. The internet students learned in a
computer laboratory. They studied basic and technical internet skills, such as searching for information from
Internet in the Classroom 151

various web sites. They practiced the metacognitive strategies on texts they chose from a hypertext which were
extracted from web sites recommended by the teacher. Students who learned in the regular class practised the
metacognitive strategies with similar texts which were taken from their textbooks.

Measures
Three questionnaires were used in the present study to evaluate reading comprehension, motivation and
metacognitive awareness. in addition observations of both internet and control groups were carried out. Following
is a description of the three research measures:
Reading comprehension questionnaire. A 12 item open test was used to assess students’ reading comprehension at the
beginning and the end of the study. The test was based on the use of reading strategies which the students
acquired during the metacognitive instruction. The students’ score ranged from 0 to 100. The Kuder-Richardson
reliability coefŽ cient for this measure reached the 0.81 level.
Motivation questionnaire. This questionnaire included 15 items adapted from the questionnaire used in a study
conducted by Schraw and Dennison (1994), and assessed students’ motivation to study English (e.g. ‘I enjoy my
English lessons’). Each item was constructed on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5
(Strongly Agree). The students’ score on this questionnaire ranged from 1 to 75. The Kuder-Richardson reliability
coefŽ cient for the motivation measure reached the 0.77 level.
Metacognitive awareness questionnaire. This questionnaire included seven forced-choice items with 5 choices adapted
from the questionnaire used in a research study by Carell (1989). The questionnaire assessed students’
metacognitive awareness regarding their reading (e.g. ‘What do you do if you encounter a word and you don’t
know what it means?’). The students’ score on this measure ranged from 0 to 100. The Kuder-Richardson
reliability for this measure reached the 0.77 level.
Observations. Three pairs of students were randomly selected from each study group and observed during three
lessons. The observations focused on three criteria based on students’ learning behaviors: motivation,
metacognitive awareness and technical skills.

Procedure
The study was carried out in the third semester of the school yearn and lasted for about two weeks (eight
lessons). Before the intervention all students were administered the reading comprehension questionnaire
and then embarked on their learning tasks in accordance with their particular learning method. During the
study observations were conducted. At the end of the study the Reading Comprehension, Motivation and
Metacognitive Awareness questionnaires were administered to all the students.

Results
The Ž rst purpose of the present study was to investigate reading comprehension of students under the two
conditions described above. The mean scores and standard deviations of students on the reading comprehension
pretest and posttest are presented in table 1.
Results indicate that no signiŽ cant differences were found between the internet and control groups for the total
reading comprehension scores in the pretest (t(50) = 0.25, p>0.05) prior to the beginning of the study and in the
post-test at the end of the study (t(50) = 0.94, p>0.05). Interestingly, the control group outperformed the internet
group on the total score (M = 84.23;S=11.19; M = 81.35; S = 11.01. N.S). Further analysis on the use of reading
comprehension strategies indicated signiŽ cant differences between the groups on the measure of Ž nding authors’
opinion. The control group signiŽ cantly outperformed the internet group (M = 14.85; S = 4.48; M = 12.27;
S = 4.64). No differences were found between the groups on use of strategies: Ž nding items by scanning, under-
standing the main idea by skimming and interpreting words with contextual clues.
The second purpose of the present study was to compare the differential effects of the two metacognitive methods
on motivation and metacognitive awareness for learning. Table 2 presents the mean scores and standard
deviation for motivation and metacognitive awareness. SigniŽ cant differences between the two groups were found
for the total motivation scores (t(50) = 2.58, p<0.01), with the internet group outperforming the control group. In
152 EMI 37:3 – MEDIA AND INFORMATIOON TECHNOLOGIES

Table 1 T-test, mean scores and standard deviation on reading comprehension pretest and posttest by treatment

Control (n = 26) Internet (n = 26)

T S.D Mean S.D Mean


(df=50)
0.210 13.2 74.5 13.2 75.3 Total-pretest
0.949 11.19 84.23 11.01 81.35 Total-post-test
Strategies on post-test:
993 3.22 22.46 4.74 21.35 Finding items by scanning
0.431 4.23 20.15 3.45 20.62 Understanding the main idea by skimming
0.185 6.37 26.77 5.58 27.08 Interpreting words with contextual clues
*2.039 4.48 14.85 4.64 12.27 Finding author’s meaning

*p< 0.05; a Range: 0 – 100.

Table 2 T-test, mean scores and standard deviation on motivation and metacognitive awareness by treatment

Control (n = 26) Internet (n = 26)

t(50) S.D Mean S.D Mean


2.578* 10.27 58.00 8.23 64.65 Motivationa
3.871** 7.88 86.92 14.74 74.23 Metacognitive awareness b
a Range: 1–75; b Range: 0–100. Note. *p< 0.01, *p<0.001*

Table 3 Description of the observations in each group

Control (n = 26) Internet (n = 26)

Motivation No enthusiasm about the lessons Enthusiasm about the technological tool
Happiness when the lesson was Ž nished Willingness to continue and engage in the
lesson

Metacognitive Working deeply with metacognitive Hardship to implement the metacognitive


Awareness strategy deeply strategy with the open learning
environment
Utilized the class period to its fullest extent Concentration problems

Technical problems No technical problems Pitfalls of high text level of internet


Unknown Internet commands
Students’ trying to utilize the class period
for CHAT options
Internet in the Classroom 153

addition, signiŽ cant differences between the two groups were found for metacognitive awareness (t(50) = 3.87,
p<0.001). in this case the control group outperformed the internet group.
Table 3 presents the qualitative analysis on observations of the students in each group. The observations of
students’ behaviours in the class indicated a different learning atmosphere in the internet class versus the regular
class. While the internet group students were more enthusiastic about the new technology, but encountered more
technical problems and difŽ culties in integrating the metacognitive strategy in their learning, the control group
students were less motivated in their learning but efŽ ciently utilized the the metacognitive strategy lessons in the
regular class.

Discussion
The main goal of the research was to examine the contribution of an internet environment embedded with
metacognitive instruction to students’ reading comprehension, motivation and metacognitive awareness. In our
research we realized that the internet environment failed to contribute signiŽ cantly to students’ achievement in
English reading comprehension.
The metacognitive strategy for reading comprehension, was in itself not internalized by the Internet group.
Through the observations it was concluded that the group failed to implement the metacognitive strategy
correctly and therefore failed to surpass the accomplishments of the control group. In addition, some technical
problems were noted, which interfered with the students’ concentration and wasted time allotted for the
assignment.
One must emphasize that the research was conducted on eighth grade students only, and at that age (13–14),
students often struggle with problems of concentration and adherence to objectives, especially regarding new
frameworks. This fact apparently contributed to the difŽ culty of confronting authentic Internet texts, and the
requirement for higher levels of foreign language proŽ ciency than those usually attained by eighth grade students.
It is suggested that a similar study be conducted on the contribution of an internet environment to the
development of higher reading proŽ ciency skills in high-school aged students.
These above explanations also serve to support the results, which indicate that the control group students
exhibited a signiŽ cantly higher level in their metacognitive skills than that exhibited by the experiment group.
Observations indicate that the control group worked with the model thoroughly, internalized it fully, researched
it deeply and utilized the class period to its fullest extent while encountering no technical problems.
These Ž ndings support the cognitive-metacognitive approach in learning. It can be assumed that the use of
metacognitive strategies faclitated metacognitive awareness, self-controlling and self monitoring of the cognitive
processes which affects reading comprehension (Masui and DeCorte, 1999; Mevarech and Kramarski, 1997;
Pressley et al., 1992).
The Internet group students, as previously hypothesized, exhibited signiŽ cantly higher motivation than the
control group. Those results are congruent with the Ž ndings of with Garner and Alexander (1981) and Smith
(1995), who indicated an increase in motivation that was due to internet assisted learning which included
authentic and meaningful information. The observations – in which enthusiasm about the technological tool
could be sensed, as well as excitement and honest willingness to continue and engage in the lesson assignments in
that environment, – also supported the Ž ndings of Garner and Alexander (1981) and Smith (1995). However, in
the control group the English lessons did not increase students’ enthusiasm, since the classes were no different
from the classes to which they were already accustomed. Baker (1998) has reported that the use of the internet
creates the necessary positive and motivating atmosphere conducive for learning English as a foreign language. It
is suggested that teachers should be encouraged to use the internet in all classrooms, and especially in classes
where motivation is a problem. Moreover children should be exposed to the internet early in life so that, on the
one hand they can become technically proŽ cient in its use, and on the other hand, the excitement of using the
internet in class will not distract them from the actual lessons.
In summary, the research found a deŽ nite positive link between metacognitive awareness, and student
accomplishments. Results indicate that although the internet environment contributes signiŽ cantly as far as the
motivation of the students towards the subject of English (as a foreign language) goes, no real contribution was
found as far as the actual improvement of achievement in the area of English reading comprehension and
metacognitive awareness.
154 EMI 37:3 – MEDIA AND INFORMATIOON TECHNOLOGIES

Implications and future research


These Ž ndings have several practical implications. This study indicates that the use of advanced technology is not
a panacea for enhancing students’ understanding. In the light of the constructivist approach, it seems that in order
to utilize advanced technologies efŽ ciently, students should be exposed to metacognitive instruction that enhance
awareness, self-controlling, and self monitoring of the cognitive processes. Therefore there is a need to design
metacognitive strategies as an integral part of the use of the technology (Kramarski, 1999). The question of how
advanced technologies should be used in the classroom and who beneŽ ts from learning with them merits future
research.
In light of the Ž ndings and suggestions of the present study, there is a need to develop metacognitve instructional
methods that are appropriate for using the internet in various domain speciŽ c areas, such as in the study of
languages as well as in other relevant subjects. The issue of the conditions under which each method works best
also merits future research.

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Internet in the Classroom 155

Biographical notes
Bracha Kramarski has a doctorate, specializing in mathematics and education in different learning environments.
Her main interests are Teaching of Mathematics, Computers and Education, Cognition and Metacognition,
Different Learning Environments and Teacher’s Training. She also develops programmes for the teaching of
mathematics by computers, the development and management of a project IMPROVE: Method for teaching
mathematics in heterogeneous classrooms. She is currently Deputy Director of the School of Education and Head
of the Teachers Training and Inservice Education.
Yael Feldman is also at the School of Education, Bar-Ilan University.

Address for correspondence


Bracha Kramarski, School of Education, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel; e-mail: kramab@
mail.biu.ac.il

Appendix A
A metacognitive strategy for reading comprehension