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EDC-G 610
December 12, 2001
Final Project
How Technology Can Transform a Classroom:
A Look at the Uses of Technology
In Secondary Mathematics Education
Technology has the potential to transform the contemporary classroom into a hotbed of interactive learning. The idea is to take normal, everyday learning situations and enhance them through the use of televisions, computers, LCD projectors, etc
. Instead of typing papers on word processors and handing them to teachers in paper form, students can utilize technological tools such as email and the Internet to relay assignments back and forth. This is not to suggest that schools will no longer require students to use papers and pencils. I am merely expressing the excitement of encountering various formats for learning in classrooms today.
As a future educator, I have had the opportunity to observe teachers and students at various settings in the area. My field experience has brought me to several different classrooms, mainly in the field of mathematics. During my observations, I have seen technology used in a variety of ways in the classroom. These experiences have inspired me to research and evaluate some of the ways students could benefit most from having technology in their classrooms.
In order to interpret some of the current uses of technology, I consulted the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS). These standards describe the level of proficiency that students should have with technology by the time they graduate from high school.( HYPERLINK "http://cnets.iste.org/sfors.htm" http://cnets.iste.org/sfors.htm) Although the standards relate the goals that should be learned and mastered by the student, teachers can use these standards as a guide for researching, planning, and developing technology-based lesson plans. Not only can teachers of technology use these standards, but teachers who are trying to incorporate technology into their classrooms can also use them. Although I focus most of my essay on relating these standards to the experiences I have had in different mathematics classes, it is important to understand that these standards are interdisciplinary in scope. Therefore, these guidelines apply to teachers who have been in the trade for many years, as well as prospective teachers, like myself.
The technology standards are divided into six categories, each incorporating one or more standards to be obtained and mastered by students. I will touch upon each category in my analysis, reserving more time for those standards I feel to be particularly important. The first category is: Basic operations and concepts. The suggestion here is that students graduating high school should understand and be able to use various forms of technology. In my opinion, the best way to enable students to become proficient with technology is to expose them to it. Then, you need to let them explore and gain their bearings so they enjoy using this new tool.
Students need to be engrossed in hands-on activities that require them to think and evaluate. This idea of trial-and-error goes hand-in-hand with mathematics instruction. Students first learn how to use a graphing calculator by watching the instructor, but then they need to interact with and explore the tool on their own in order to become more comfortable with using the technology. I observed this type of exploration during my fieldwork at Quincy High School. The two teachers that I work with often allow the students a few minutes to explore new functions on the calculator in small groups. Generally, they present a lesson where they instruct the students on how to use a new function on the calculator, and then the students proceed to work on a set of problems in small groups. This peer-collaboration time is an adjustment period for them to gain mastery of that particular function of the calculator, before moving on to more difficult operations.
The second category is: Social, ethical, and human issues. One of the most important aspects of this understanding is that students gain an appreciation of technology, which encourages lifelong learning. That is an essential goal for any teacher in any classroom. Drier, Dawson, and Garofalo discussed this lifelong connection in an article I read entitled, Not Your Typical Math Class. The authors describe various forms of technology in todays math classrooms, such as spreadsheets, databases, and the Internet. These technologies empower students and teachers to investigate questions that reflect their own interests.(Drier, Dawson, & Garofalo 1999) Students can learn how to use databases and spreadsheets by charting topics of interest, such as music, films, books, etc
. The first sign of interest facilitates the chance of lifelong learning. If a student is interested in learning, the chance is greater that the interest will continue to grow as years pass.
The third category is: Technology productivity tools. The goal is for students to use technology to enhance the knowledge they are learning in the classroom. When learning is enhanced, students have room to explore and create their own authentic projects and practices, while still maintaining the importance of learning the basics and fundamentals. Drier, Dawson, and Garofalo discuss this idea as it applies to mathematics. Technology in mathematics teaching should support and facilitate conceptual development, exploration, reasoning, and problem solving. However, technology should not be used to carry out procedures without appropriate mathematical and technological understanding.(Drier, Dawson & Garofalo 1999) Textbooks and classroom lessons should not be replaced with absolute computer instruction. The direction that teachers should be moving in is toward using technology as a tool for teaching the essential material.
Computers and graphing calculators can be a supplement to any mathematics lesson, as long as the material or the goal of the lesson has been presented to the students. This will enable students to gain mastery of this idea as using technology to augment what they learn from their notes and their textbooks. The underlying theme is achieving balance in mathematics education. Teachers need to incorporate forms of technology throughout the curriculum, in order for students to meet these standards upon completion of high school.
Balance plays a key role in the fourth category of the technology standards for students: Technology communications tools. Students should be introduced to a variety of technology and formats for communication, for which they will become competent users. These formats include: spreadsheets, graphing calculators, software such as The Geometers Sketchpad, and the Internet. In a typical math lesson on graphing data, instead of charting the data out by hand students can represent a simulation on the calculator. Another idea is for students to work cooperatively to complete a project where they are asked to represent their data using a spreadsheet. This will give them the opportunity to collaborate to solve a problem and produce a finished product, showcasing their effective technology skills.
The fifth category is: Technology research tools. According to the Standards, Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources. The World Wide Web has made research an expedient process. By the click of a button, students can move through hundreds of pages of mathematical theory in minutes. To research the statistics on population data, students can pick and choose from a number of lists generated by narrowing their searches on the Internet. Drier, Dawson, and Garofalo explain why this technological convenience can be such a benefit for a lesson or a research assignment. Simplifying data gathering allows more time for analyzing and interpreting data.(Drier, Dawson & Garofalo 1999) Rather than spending hours looking for credible data, students can use the time to dig deeper to research more aspects of a given topic. This enhances the importance of good, credible research.
The graphing calculator is an example of a tool that speeds up the process of solving mathematical problems. At Quincy High School, the students are lucky enough to have televisions in every classroom. In math, this is especially helpful for the teacher and the students when using graphing calculators to solve problems. The teacher can connect the calculator to the television screen so each and every student can see the screen of the teachers calculator. This allows them to move step-by-step as an entire class. As a whole, the class can work more quickly with the data because the students can check to see that they are on task with the instructor. It also makes it easier to discuss the data when the whole class has a visual to look at. Visuals enhance a mathematics lesson by providing evidence and examples for students to observe.
The sixth and final category is: Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools. The essence is that students can use various forms of technology as resources for solving real world problems, and making decisions and inferences about current or historical events. The World Wide Web provides access for students to connect their studies in math with its applications to the real world. They can compare trigonometric functions to the oscillation of the tides or the orbit of the planets. An interactive lesson in mathematics could encourage students to search the Internet for average temperatures from around the world, and then make predictions about future temperatures or weather conditions. As students begin to master a level of competency with technology, they will be able to use their skills to explore areas of personal interest.
Piecing together the six categories with their proposed standards, students should have achieved a well-rounded exposure to technology before they receive their diploma and graduate from high school. Of course, the ideal situation for the student is to be exposed to various forms of technology at an early age. Students who do not have technology access such as a computer at home rely on their education to provide them with these experiences. Those students who do not receive adequate exposure or mastery are at a disadvantage to those that do. This disadvantage becomes evident in society when they apply for a job.
As future educators, our duty and responsibility lies in providing a complete education for all of our students. We work as part of an interdisciplinary team, where each one of us is responsible for fostering excellence in our chosen field. In order to produce students that will prosper in society, we need to include the important pieces of technology in our lessons. I intend to incorporate technology into my curriculum to enhance my instruction, but is it enough? How can I ensure that my students will leave my classroom feeling confident with their technological skills? In what ways could they demonstrate their mastery of the proposed Standards? These are some of the questions that I hope to answer with more searching, evaluating, and first-hand experience as an educator.
Bibliography
Drier, H. S., Dawson, K. M., & Garofalo, J. Not Your Typical Math Class. Educational
Leadership. Feb. 1999, v. 56, n. 5, p. 21-25.
National Educational Technology Standards for Students, accessed Dec. 8, 2001.
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