ACTing Smarter Online is
based upon two foundational bodies of literature. The first deals with the ways in which we can
use technology to individualize instruction and work within each student’s
“zone of proximal development.” The
second deals with how we can use technology to help struggling students
overcome “learned helplessness” in order to be successful on high-stakes
tests. Some key research is listed
Technology and Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal
1. Title: Vygotsky,
Tutoring and Learning.
Authors: Wood, David; Wood, Heather
Maintains that a common set of principles governs all tutoring, no matter what
the age range, and extending to a variety of formats (including computers).
Compares Lev Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development with "scaffolding," both concepts relating to the process of
effective educational cooperation between adults and children. Note:The
following two links are not-applicable for text-based browsers or
2. Title: Processes for
Developing Scaffolding in a Computer Mediated Learning Environment.
Authors: Bull, Kay S.; Shuler, Paul; Overton, Robert; Kimball, Sarah; Boykin, Cynthia; Griffin, John
When in the “zone of
proximal development” for a particular skill or piece of information, a learner
is ready to learn but lacks certain prerequisites. Scaffolding is an
interactive process in which a teacher or facilitator assists such a learner to
build a "structure" to contain and frame the new information.
Scaffolding can be provided by teachers, peers, or computers, and may include
the use of tutoring, performance systems, and reciprocal teaching. Online
scaffolding practices include scaffolding embedded in the information, such as
visual cuing, separate web pages of directions on what to notice or what
process to employ, tutorials that are interactive or downloadable, help pages,
additional explanatory links, or communication forms to contact the instructor
3. Title: The Effects
of a Meta-cognitive Computer Writing Tool on Classroom Learning Environment,
Student Perceptions and Writing Ability.
Author: Evans, Karen S.
A study investigated how the introduction of a computer writing tool that
provides meta-cognitive guidance to students interacting with it--the Writing
Partner2 (WP2)--influenced the classroom environment, and explored both effects
"with" and effects “of” working with such a computer tool.
4. Title: Information Technology in Childhood Education
In this article the
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is considered as the foundation for a
software design frame-work. The issues of interactivity and collaboration are
the focus of our interpretation of Vygotsky’s work for application to the
software design process. The Ecolab is a piece of educational software
developed using this Vygotskian design framework. It is aimed at 10 and 11-year
old children learning about Ecology and has been evaluated with a class of such
learners. The results of this evaluation are discussed in terms of the
interactions and collaborations children experienced and in the light of the
learning gains they made while using the software. It was concluded that the
ZPD is a useful theoretical construct for educational software design, but that
creating the most effective collaborative interactions between software and the
computers is complex and individual to each learner. In addition, children were
not effective at set-ting themselves challenging tasks or in seeking
appropriate assistance. To be successful such software therefore needs to
embody flexible and fadable scaffolding and either maintain or expect as input,
sufficient information about the individual learner to offer them appropriately
Technology and Overcoming Learned Helplessness
1. Title: Assistive and
Adaptive Technology--Supporting Competence and Independence in Young Children
Author: Brett, Arlene
Argues that computers and related technology can be an important asset in the
classrooms of young children with disabilities. Suggests that this technology
can promote mobility, communication, and learning; increase independence;
augment abilities; compensate for learning challenges; overcome learned
helplessness; and foster competence and
2. Title: Learned Helplessness:
The Effect of
Failure on Test-Taking
Authors: Firmin, Michael; Hwang, Chi-En; Copella, Margaret; Clark, Sarah
This study examined learned helplessness and its effect on test taking.
Students were given one of two tests; the first began with extremely difficult
questions and the other started with easy questions. The researchers
hypothesized that those who took the test beginning with difficult questions
would become easily frustrated and possibly
doubt their intellectual ability. This would result in the participants missing
easy questions when compared to those who took the test which began with the
easy questions. The result of the study confirmed the hypothesis. The results
of this study could also be applied to other classroom tests and standardized
tests where learned helplessness could negatively affect test scores. Note:The following two links are not-applicable
for text-based browsers or screen-reading software.
3. Title: Poor
Performance After Unsolvable Problems: Learned
Helplessness or Self-Esteem Protection?
Authors: Frankel, Arthur; Snyder, Melvin L.
People often perform poorly on tasks following experience with unsolvable
problems. Two competing explanations for this performance deficit (learned helplessness
and egotism) were tested. Subjects were given either solvable or unsolvable
discrimination problems and then a series of anagrams which were alleged to be
either highly or moderately difficult. Subjects previously given unsolvable
problems did better on the anagrams when led to believe the anagrams were
highly difficult. This result is contrary to a learned
helplessness theory interpretation which
attributes performance deficits following unsolvable problems to the belief
that outcomes are independent of responses. Instead, this result supports an
egotism explanation which maintains that people are not likely to try hard on a
task following experience with unsolvable problems. That is, following failure,
people are not likely to try hard on a task, unless a poor performance would
not pose a further threat to their self-esteem.
4. Title: Generality of learned
helplessness in man.
Authors: Hiroto, Donald S.;
Seligman, Martin E.
Notes that learned
helplessness-the interference with instrumental responding following
inescapable aversive events-has been found in animals and man. The present
study tested for the generality of the debilitation produced by uncontrollable
events across tasks and motivational systems. 4 experiments with a total of 96
college students were simultaneously conducted: (a) pretreatment with
inescapable, escapable, or control aversive tone followed by shuttlebox escape
testing; (b) pretreatment with insoluble, soluble, or control discrimination
problems followed by anagram solution testing; (c) pretreatments with
inescapable, escapable, or control aversive tone followed by anagram solution testing;
and (d) pretreatments with insoluble, soluble, or control discrimination
problems followed by shuttlebox escape testing. Learned helplessness was found
with all 4 experiments: Both insolubility and inescapability produced failure
to escape and failure to solve anagrams. It is suggested that inescapability
and insolubility both engendered expectancies that responding is independent of
reinforcement. The generality of this process suggests that learned
helplessness may be an induced "trait."
5. Title: Learned Helplessness:
Theory and Evidence
Authors: Maier, Steven F.; Seligman, Martin E. P.
Authors believes that three
phenomena are all instances of "learned helplessness," instances in
which an organism has learned that outcomes are uncontrollable by his responses
and is seriously debilitated by this knowledge. This article explores the
evidence for the phenomena of learned helplessness, and discussed a variety of