Learning with Computers: The Theory Behind the Practice

This resource addresses why technology use in the adult basic education (ABE) classroom does not always make an impact on learning or effective instructional practice. 

J. Cromley
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL)
Publication Year
Resource Type

The author considers the following issues:

  • The limited research available on effective computer integration into the classroom;
  • Effective uses of technology for teaching ABE students;
  • The impact of increased interest in technology;
  • Blending human interactions into settings that rely on technology as the primary teaching tool (e.g., distance learning);
  • How technology can increase collaboration among students;
  • The use of technology to increase memorization;
  • Technology to assist students with special considerations for learning;
  • Using technology to assist and develop thinking skills.

The author in each concise section offers a brief review of the literature, a rationale, and practical ideas for utilizing technology to support each of these aspects of learning.  She ends the article with general tips to keep in mind when incorporating technology, and particularly computers, in the classroom.

Required Training


What the experts say

This resource is a short literature review of available research related to integrating computers into instruction. The article provides a list of eight effective attributes of computer-assisted instruction, and then reviews the research behind each one, and provides teaching suggestions. She lists effective uses of technology and provides tips on how to use the computer to enhance learning, emphasizing that educational software needs to be used in the context of other instruction and supported by interaction with the instructor and other students. The five implications drawn at the end of the article will be particularly useful to teachers.

Although there is little in the way of definite conclusions, the resource provides concrete suggestions for ABE teachers, such as “put computer use in context by having discussions before and after use,” and “use drill software sparingly and strategically.” A further example of useful information is the clarification that listening to text being read aloud while also reading it is helpful for some kinds of learners in mastering content, but does not improve reading. This is a practice often used in reading software, so this is important information for teachers. These suggestions and implications are supported by the research, and important for teachers to be able to access.

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