Utilizing Technology for Learning STEM Subjects: Perceptions of Urban African-American Middle School Students

By Xue Wen and Eugene Kennedy
2016, Vol. 8 No. 02 | pg. 3/3 |

Implications for Learning and Teaching

The compelling question to ask is how to exploit the potential of technology to promote students’ engagement, thereby enhance students’ academic achievement in Science, Computing, Engineering, Mathematics and other so-called technical disciplines (STEM), particularly for African American population. To that end, we provide some recommendations to educational practitioners (e.g., teachers, administrators):

  • Schools might partner with local community organizations (e.g. Pelican Educational Foundation) and local businesses to offer technology education learning opportunities for African-American students, families, and community members at large. Schools are perceived as the bridges to correct the social inequity within our society. We should try to mobilize partnerships to enable schools to reach this goal.
  • Schools and teachers might meaningfully design technology-based learning experiences in STEM curriculums. For example, African-American students could be engaged with tasks involving the hypertext online web (e.g. wikis) for relevant information, or creating digital artifacts or using digital storytelling approach to demonstrate science concepts in their STEM expo presentations. Therefore, schools might need to equip with enough technology resources, such as the Internet, e-mail, smart boards, or any technological tools to support technology integration education.
  • Minority students from low socioeconomic families might be provided more opportunities to engage in an after-school program, field trips related to technology, advanced technology courses. Good news is that this school supported by Pelican Educational Foundation already offers after-school enrichment program for their students. It offers a variety of extracurricular academic programs, including First Lego League Robotics, Seaperch Underwater Robotics, and an after-school STEM club. Programs also could be offered on digital storytelling, graphics design, or several other areas relevant to students.
  • Schools might provide professional development for teachers on integrating technology in the curriculum and the ongoing technical support necessary to sustain an effective teaching environment within a school. Successful technology integration goes beyond the initial acquisition of hardware and software. Professional training might include coaching and online workshops which aim to equip teachers with necessary instructional technology skills to engage in the 21st century.
  • Middle school students were not proficient in information and communication technology (ICT) resources and demonstrating knowledge via ICT tools. Schools are encouraging students to demonstrate their knowledge and skill via digital technology. Employers are expecting graduates to perform a wide array of technology-related tasks.

Recommendations for Future Research

This research provides evidences of African-American students’ attitudes toward technology education and preferences with regard to the use of technology for STEM learning across gender and grade. However, the result of the current study is not sufficient to be representative for this population.

Future research should gain more insight through a larger sample size. In addition, future research should seek to explore why African-American boys are more willing to use a computer to help study than African-American girls, or why African-American girls are more likely to think it is helpful to use a computer to help their study. Why do younger African American children have stronger tendency to do class work through computers and believe that it is beneficial when using computers to help study? Why do African-American students think mobile devices are useful for learning mathematics? These questions will ultimately need to be answered in future research.

Through understanding the perceptions of today’s African American middle school students about technology education and the use of technology for learning, future research should address ways in which the African-American students’ positive attitudes and motivation can be exploited to promote success in STEM related fields.


The potential of technology to enhance pedagogical practices in K-12 STEM education requires an understanding of the preferences, attitudes, and technological habits of students. While there has been some research in this area, there has been limited focus on minority students, especially those in high poverty, urban settings. Although it is widely recognized that increasing effective STEM engagement for this segment of the population is an important requirement for the country’s future, there is little information on their views and habits with regard to technology and its relevance to STEM education. This study sought to provide insights into this area at a critical point of potential intervention, middle level education.

The results of the study indicated that respondents to the survey were positive about the potential of technology in their education. Most did not indicate any significant limitations with regard to technology access. Remarkably, the respondents favorably valued the importance of technology and its significance in terms of STEM learning. Most, for example, perceived that it was important to know how to use the technology tools and looked forward to more opportunities to use technology tools for learning, therefore, more than half of them favored additional advanced courses related to technology and there was considerable demand for technology-focused after-school experiences.

Few notable differences were noted between males and females. In the third section of the survey, comparing to African-American girls, African-American boys expressed greater interests in doing class work with assistance of technology devices; however, African-American girls were more likely to value the meaningfulness of the use of technology for learning, particular when the role of technology is to help study.

The overall conclusion for this study was that African-American students were more positive toward technology than some literature (Fairlie, 2012; Jackson et al., 2008; MacHale, 2007) would suggest. It suggested that teachers and administrators should become familiar with the various ways minority students’ technology interests were supported in the school and at home and disseminate information about informal technology related activities or programs. Additionally, the preferences and perceptions of these students were relevant to the design of technology-based learning experiences. For example, if African-American students perceived that mobile devices were useful for learning mathematics, then this is a potential area that educators can exploit to promote practice and engage the learner.




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Survey of Students’ Interests in Technology

Instructions: This survey presents a series of questions about your interest in technology education and the use of technology for learning. There are no right or wrong answers to any item on this survey, we want you to express your personal interests or feelings. For each item, please check the answer that best reflects your interests or feelings.

About You

  1. How old are you?
    -11 -12 -13 -14 -15 -16 -17 -18
  2. What grade are you in?
    -6 -7 -8
  3. Gender
    -boy -girl
  4. Your Ethnicity
    -Black -Hispanic -White -Other

Appendix 1

Students’ Interests in Technology Education

The Use of Technology in Learning

Appendix 2

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