Computer-Based Tutorial Programs
Computer programs that provide students additional practice with selected topics in the secondary school curriculum can be developed or purchased. With these programs, the computer can drill students in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry as well as in arithmetic. Moreover, the computer can do more than just acknowledge a correct answer and generate another problem (or indicate “error” and repeat the same problem). The software can indicate where an error was made or offer suggestions for reaching a correct answer based specifically on the student’s incorrect answer.
Computers can be used for tutorial, drill, and practice in a number of ways. The software should be adjustable in terms of level of difficulty, number of problems, and mastery level. The software should be intelligent; it should sense when a student is having difficulty with a particular operation or concept and automatically branch to a tutorial with another set of problems. Software that includes a classroom management component and a record-keeping facility is helpful in planning lessons and tracking students’ progress.
One of the major problems for a teacher of a large class is not being able to provide adequate individual instruction, even with an aide or teacher’s assistant. Weaker students often require considerable attention. A computer with appropriate software can help these students work on their deficiencies, of which they usually are acutely aware, without taking up significant teacher or class time. The argument that computers are nonthreatening, noncritical, and nonjudgmental is certainly valid, especially if the software includes positive reinforcers or if the mathematics is presented in the context of a game or a challenge.
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