Effects of Multimedia Software on Achievement of Middle School Students in an American History Class

Winter 2008

Source: Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Volume 41, No. 2;
p. 203-221; Winter 2008

(Reviewed by The Portal Team)

This study investigated social studies achievement as a result of utilizing a multimedia-based American history software program (Ignite Early American History, 2003) to augment textbook and lecture materials for seventh-grade middle school history students.





Subjects were seventh-grade students enrolled in public middle schools in a large urban school district in the southwestern United States. Students in eight separate sections of seventh-grade history, taught by four different teachers in three different middle schools participated in the study. The experimental group of students received treatment (i.e., use of the Ignite! program) in addition to textbook- and lecture-based instruction for all units of early American history study. The control group received textbook and lecture instruction only but did not use the Ignite! program. During both instructional conditions, the same teacher administered textbook- and lecture-based instruction in presenting the same information to both groups of students. The overall sample size was 184 pretests and posttests, obtained from an experimental group comprised of 93 students, and a control group comprised of 91 students.


Four female teachers participated in the study. The teachers worked at three different middle schools, collectively teaching American history to a total of 637 seventh-grade students each day. Each participating teacher taught an experimental group (one full class) of students in which the American history software was used as an instructional supplement, as well as a control group (a different class) in which the software was not used. This ensured that both control and experimental group students had the same teacher, helping to reduce the chance of sampling bias. The average age of the teachers was 35 years, with an average of 9.5 years of teaching experience.

The instructional software used was an interactive multimedia program designed to teach middle school students through video, song, animation, text, and other media to develop critical thinking skills while acquiring knowledge of required content strands (Ignite Learning, 2003). Teacher and student activities, pretest and posttest scores, and instructional methods for experimental and control conditions were documented in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the results.

In the current study, the data suggest that use of a software program affected student achievement scores on a standards-based, multiple-choice test; however, many questions about the effects of educational software on student learning remain unanswered.

Ignite! Early American History. (2003). [Computer software]. Austin, TX: Ignite! Learning.
Ignite! Learning. (2003). Teaching students in the ways they learn best: The Ignite/method of instructional design. Retrieved January 22, 2005, from http://


Updated: Dec. 29, 2008