Regent University, Virginia
ABSTRACT The author used a mixed-method design to determine whether and how use of computers in the classroom affects sense of learning in a community among high school students (N = 181). The results indicate that using computers in the classroom positively affects students’ sense of learning in a community. Analyses revealed that students believed that connectedness with their peers is the most important variable in developing a sense of community. Results suggest the following policy implications for urban education: (a) use of computers in teaching may add to the sense of classroom community and (b) sense of community is important and may be linked to academic success. Key words: computers, sense of community, high school education
echnological innovation has become a commonplace phenomenon and is frequently taken for granted by contemporary society. In everyday life, technology plays an ever-increasing role; innovations, such as cellular telephones, hand-held computers, automatic teller machines, and digital videodisks, quickly become incorporated into daily use and are added to society’s vocabulary. Information is available in far greater quantities than ever before, and the means to access and share it with others is unprecedented. Because the pace of sophisticated technological change is so rapid, however, little is known about its effect on the society that it pervades. The classroom is a microcosm of society, and technology is having an increasing impact in schools throughout the country. In the same way that little is known about how technology affects communities in general, little is yet known about the effects that increased use of technology is having on school communities, in particular, on the sense of community of classroom learners. Sense of Community The concept of community has received considerable interest in recent years in the United Sates, and related research has increased. Despite concerns of some community psychologists over the erosion of the sense of community, and 371
its description by Sarason (as cited in Lounsbury & DeNeui, 1996) as the “overarching value” of community psychology, it was not until the mid-1980s that McMillan and Chavis (1986) proposed an operational definition of community. Their definition describes community as (a) a feeling that members have of belonging, (b) a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and (c) a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together. Hill (1996) concluded that psychological sense of community refers to variables beyond individual relationships, that it appears to be setting specific, and that aspects of the concept differ from setting to setting. One such setting is the classroom. The sense of community among the students within a classroom is important. The construct is related closely to research by Glynn (1981) and Royal and Rossi (1997), who argued that common goals and values are essential elements of community, and by Strike (2004), who theorized that normation (i.e., the willingness of students to internalize group-shared expectations), is an important aspect of a learning community. Learning is assisted if students believe that they belong to the community or group that makes up a class and if they contribute to, and benefit from, that classroom community. Interpersonal relationships also are enormously important in a community of learners. The less a person understands the feelings and behaviors of others, the more likely he or she will act inappropriately or insecurely and fail to gain acceptance within the community (Gardner, 1983). Cooperative learning is an important component of the sense of classroom community. Johnson and Johnson (1992), Kagan (1994), and Slavin (1991, 1995) contributed to a considerable body of research that supports the...