Literacy Network: Using Computer Network Technology to Support Deaf Students Meaning Making in Science

October 1, 1996

The Literacy Network Project is a multi-year collaborative effort between CCT and the Lexington School for the Deaf to develop a model program for the use of local area network technology in subject matter areas to enhance literacy development and science learning in deaf students.

For several years now, high school students at the Lexington School for the Deaf have been using a networked system of computers that is equipped with communication software (group conferencing, electronic mail, and word processing) in their science classes. In these classes, discussions and activities are conducted in written English over the network. During the 1992-93 school year, the use of the network was expanded from two pilot classes that had been involved from the beginning of the project, to the entire high school science department. Five science teachers integrated the use of the network into eight different high school science classes ranging from the pre-high school level (between 8th and 9th grade) to 11th grade.

The expansion of the Literacy Network Project thus made it possible to document how the network was used by different teachers in different classes, and to compare the effectiveness of different implementations of the technology for student learning.

The teacher's involved in the Literacy Network Project included two teachers who had been using the network for 4 years, and three teachers for whom the use of network and computer technology was more or less novel. The teachers received a brief introduction into the use of the network from the computer coordinator of the school, and met periodically with staff from the Center for Children and Technology to plan for and reflect on the use of the technology. The network was being used intensively by all eight participating science classes during a two-month period in the spring of 1993. This period of implementation was accompanied by formative research.

The purpose of this paper is to report the findings from this research and to discuss its implication for the development of network-supported learning environments for deaf students. The following areas are discussed in the report:

  • Findings Overview
  • Teacher Responses
    • Perceived impact on learning
    • Perceived Impact on themselves and their teaching
    • Problems
  • Patterns of Network Use
  • Effectiveness of Different Patterns of Network Use
  • Implications for Program Development
    • Network Use
    • Scheduling
    • Staff Development