2001 Conference Proceedings

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Power Learning with Inspiration®-Plus: Computer-Based Study Strategies

Mary Ditson
Coordinator, CBSS Outreach Project Center for Electronic Studying
University of Oregon
1244 Walnut St., Suite D
Eugene, OR 97403
Phone: 541-346-2623
Fax: 541-346-2565
E-mail: mditson@oregon.uoregon.edu

CBSS -- not CBS! -- is a University of Oregon-based national network, and you are invited to help broadcast the news! CBSS stands for "Computer-Based Study Strategies" and we are teaching students of all stripes to use the computer as a study tool.

The need to study and learn is not diminishing as we pass into the 21st century. The methods, however, are changing. The activities that make for effective studing -- exploring, organizing, manipulating and owning information -- can be greatly assisted with our favorite exploration, organization and information manipulation device, the common computer. Used this way, the computer becomes a "cognitive partner." You know this. I know it. And all stud-ents, caught in the act of stud-ying, need to know it.

Any student can benefit (i.e. work smarter, learn better, improve their grades and stay in school) by using the computer to study and complete assignments. However, students who have trouble (e.g. students with learning disabilities) can benefit the most. These students experience added benefits such as enhanced self-esteem, increased school satisfaction and the desire to continue their education.

Unfortunately, computers themselves do not teach any but the most astute students how to study with them. Many students aren't taught how to study at all, or given methods or strategies to use.

Here at the Center for Electronic Studying, University of Oregon, we have spent the last nine years developing and testing a number (around 40) of specific computer-based study strategies. These strategies -- CBSS -- are met with enthusiasm and used with success wherever we go. We have confirmed the benefits listed above through a series of federally-funded research projects conducted by Dr. Lynne Anderson-Inman and associates.

CBSS: An Example

Each of these strategies is just that, a strategy -- an easy-to-follow plan with steps. For example, we noticed that the students we were working with experienced difficulty when asked to synthesize information, such as when the assignment goes something like this: "Using three sources of information (books, articles, websites, etc.) write a report about an animal. Talk about the animal’s appearance, habitat and behavior."

Many students do not know how to approach such an assignment. Typically, they go to the library and find some reference materials. They may look at the pictures; they may read sections that look interesting. They may copy sentences out of the materials, or highlight large portions of text. Lacking a strategy, many students flounder along without a system, without confidence, doing their best to come up with something to write.

Students who have learned our computer-based study strategy for Synthesizing Information start by going to their computer and opening a program that facilitates electronic outlining. They type in the topic of their research and the categories of information they’re going to seek. At the end of the outline, they add a spot for "bibliography." As they explore each resource, they enter the title, etc. under bibliography, and give the source a code, e.g. (1). As they, they simply type into the outline bits of information that they want to remember, with the code belonging to the source. The outline structure allows them to think and organize while they are reading, as they decide where to place each bit of information, according to the topics to be covered.

When all the sources have been explored and all the bits of information have been entered into the outline, it is time to work with the outline, organizing the bits, rearranging, deleting, adding, sorting, until the outline reflects the order and information that the student wants to use for their paper. Outlining electronically allows the student to do this easily and legibly. They are in control and can experiment, think and re-think as much as they would like.

At this point, writing the paper is merely a matter of translating the information bits into sentences and paragraphs, constructed by the student using his or her own words. One easy way to do this is to make the "outline" window fill only the left part of the screen, and to place a word processing document in the right. This way, the student doesn’t have to make the perceptual shifts when relating hard to electronic copy. They can even use cut and paste to reduce the amount of typing needed build their paper. In this way the information is truly synthesized, the paper is well-written, the material is well-learned and, as we hear from many students "It’s fun!"

Software That Facilitates CBSS

Relatively early on in our decade-long CBSS research and development process, we found that Inspiration® software is a marvelous and inexpensive tool for facilitating computer-based study strategies. Inspiration ® is a simple, intuitive program that makes it very easy for students to create electronic outlines as well as diagrams, or "concept maps" that are fantastic for visual learning and visual learners. These two functions are linked on the program; people can display their ideas in either view and, with one click, see the information in the other view. Changes in one view are automatically registered in the other view. The resulting implications and applications are many!

CBSS is an solution to the problem of Assistive Technology options for students with Learning Disabilities (a required consideration with today's IDEA regs). Training also includes review of technology which facilitates word prediction, text-to-speech, and speech-to-text processes.

Most recently, we have been developing, using and sharing strategies which involve the use of AlphaSmart devices, Palm Pilots and WYNN (What You Need Now) software.

Getting CBSS Training at Your School/District

The CBSS Outreach Project is a new three-year federally-funded (and, in Oregon, state-supported) project which enables us to provide professional development training, technical assistance and follow-up to participating sites in 10 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

We are currently looking for schools/districts who are interested in adding CBSS to their curriculum/options for students, including but not limited to secondary students with learning disabilities.

In the CBSS Outreach model, each participating site has a Project Leader -- a local teacher, administrator or tech coordinator -- who is willing and able to serve as a "local expert" in CBSS. We provide training for this to occur via regional Institutes and web-based coursework.

We ask the Project Leader to think about how to best institute the program at their site. Should all the high school students learn it? Should middle school students with LDs learn it first and teach others? Would a a better "critical mass" of interest and knowledge be built by training all the teachers in the district? Should teachers get course credit for learning CBSS? Should parents be trained, or at least informed about it?

These and other considerations lead to decisions made by the local Project Leader and formulated with a timeline and evaluation activities into a CBSS Implementation Plan for the site.

Schools and districts from the 10 states listed above may apply to be Participating Sites. This is an ideal project for schools/districts which have technology resources and would like training to be able to derive maximum benefit from these resources. We currently are serving 30 participating sites.

To learn more about CBSS and/or to become involved in the CBSS Outreach Project, please visit our website at http://cbss.uoregon.edu.

The CBSS manual is currently being revised, but a fine older model is still available. Application criteria and further information are also.

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