CCE Theses and Dissertations

Computers as Ubiquitous Tools for Teachers and Learners: A Case Study of the Maine Laptop Initiative

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Getrude W. Abramson

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Committee Member

Helen St. Aubin


The purpose of this research was to examine the relationship of air traffic controllers' cognitive styles, learning strategies, and performance within a multimedia learning environment. The treatment software employed a revised human computer interface (RCI) that had recently been introduced to Air Traffic Control management training. This HCI offered users expanded options for controlling course sequence and content. Subjects for this study included 30 Air Traffic Control Specialist (ATCS) supervisors stationed at Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regional Air Route Control Centers in Jacksonville and Miami, Florida. Subjects completed a pre-test, a treatment module on labor relations, and tests for immediate recall and retention. Tracking code recorded subjects' navigation. Specifically, this research examined the relationship between subjects' cognitive styles (i.e. field dependence), levels of deviation from provided course sequence and content, and performance on immediate recall and retention measures.

The ATCS cognitive screen protocol produces a homogeneous population of controllers exhibiting a unique suite of cognitive skills. These skills are deemed essential to the traffic control function. Subjects from the research sample fell within the field independent range of cognitive style (mean 13 .83, SD 3.65). Pearson Product-Moment correlation indicated a significant, moderately low relationship between cognitive style and immediate recall measure (r =. 37, CL =. 05) and a significant, moderately low correlation between cognitive style and retention (r =. 38, CL =. 05). Multiple regression analysis indicated a significant correlation between cognitive style scores, deviation from provided course content, and retention outcomes (.59, a = .05).

This study represents a preliminary, exploratory investigation into optimal HCI design of multimedia learning environments for the unique ATCS population. The identification of a predominantly analytic cognitive style and evidence of a significant inter-relationship between cognitive style, deviation from provided course content and retention validate a need for further research concerning the inclusion of navigational options and alternate learning resources within ATCS management training software. Likewise, these findings suggest the need to construct a more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between cognitive styles and the cognitive processes that controllers employ within interactive learning environments. The study contributes to a general literature on cognitive style, learning strategies, and performance.

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