Science Fair Project:

Computer vs. Human: How Do Children Learn Best?

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  • Do kindergarteners learn better from a computer or a teacher?
  • Do third-graders learn better from a computer or a teacher?
  • Do middle-school aged children learn better from a computer or a teacher?

Are computer programs effective teachers? This experiment will address this question by comparing children’s learning ability when taught by a computer versus a human teacher.

  • Approximately 20 test subjects in each age group (eg, kindergarteners, third-graders and seventh-graders). Include an equal number of males and females in each group.
  • Several computer learning programs (eg, word identification for kindergarteners, spelling for third-graders, and math for seventh-graders)
  • An adult or adults with experience teaching the above subjects
  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Notebook for recording and analyzing results

  1. Divide up each group of students. One half of each age group will spend 20 minutes learning from computer software and the other half will be taught the same material by the teacher.
  2. Create tests about the material covered by each of the computer programs.
  3. Ask approximately 10 kindergarteners to spend 20 minutes learning from the word identification software.
  4. Give the test that you created to each of these 10 kindergarten students immediately after they complete the computer lesson.
  5. Ask a teacher to individually teach the exact same material to 10 different kindergarten students.
  6. Give the test that you created to each of these 10 kindergarten students immediately after they complete the lesson with the teacher.
  7. Ask approximately 10 third-graders to spend 20 minutes learning from the spelling software.
  8. Give the spelling test that you created to each of these 10 third-graders immediately after they complete the computer lesson.
  9. Ask a teacher to individually teach the exact same material to 10 different third grade students.
  10. Give the spelling test that you created to each of these 10 third-graders immediately after they complete the lesson with the teacher.
  11. Ask approximately 10 seventh-graders to spend 20 minutes learning from the math software.
  12. Give the math test that you created to each of these 10 seventh-graders immediately after they complete the computer lesson.
  13. Ask a teacher to individually teach the exact same material to 10 different seventh grade students.
  14. Give the math test that you created to each of these 10 seventh-graders immediately after they complete the lesson with the teacher.
  15. For each age group, average the test scores from the students that were taught by the computer and compare to the average test score from the students that were taught by the teacher. Do you observe differences in the average test scores? Does it appear that students learn better from the computer or the teacher? Do your results differ between age groups?

Terms/Concepts: how do children learn?

Author: Megan Doyle
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