edtech 541

Reflecting on EdTech 541

Posted on Updated on

ReflectionScreen Shot 2016-04-23 at 5.48.34 PM

This class is the one that I was most looking forward to taking. I enrolled in the MET program at Boise State because last fall, my high school gave each student a Chromebook. It was as simple and as challenging as that. I have always been passionate about using technology, but in an economically disadvantaged school district, as a special education teacher, there have not been many instances where technology could be seamlessly introduced and used on a regular basis. Now that my students have access, I need to be able to use that technology effectively to enhance their learning and increase their chances of success in what is arguably one of the more difficult subjects they face, algebra. The biggest thing this class taught me is that I can do it. Many times I read the list of assignments for the week and had no idea how to apply them to my subject area. Each assignment pushed my levels of creativity and challenged me to find new tools and methods of implementation. Creating instruction by relating different content areas to math was daunting. I found that the more difficult the assignment was to relate to math, the more I had to research beyond what the book gave me. This increased my learning exponentially, and it shows in my projects and my classroom. I have already used several of these lessons with my students. Applying these in my classroom showed me what I could accomplish when I consider the pedagogy, what tools are available, the relative advantage of each tool and strategies of application. Ensuring that each was appropriate for both algebra and special education added an extra level of constraint. My teaching has improved based on what I have learned this semester. I have learned to really look at the relative advantage of using a particular piece of technology, and implement it because it will enhance the lesson, not take over the lesson. While my mindset has not changed because of what I have learned, my level of understanding is deeper, making me more mindful of how I use technology with my students. At heart, I am a Constructivist, but my teaching style has always been more Instructivist because often that is what my students need and can handle. They struggle with project-based learning and will either give up or shut down completely. They find technology engaging enough that they are willing to put more time and effort, more perseverance into their learning. Using technology also allows me to pursue the Connectivist theory, by teaching my students ways to help themselves by finding tools that will allow them to find success and solve problems on their own. And that, for me, is why I am here.

Standards

Artifacts

AECT Standard 1 (Content Knowledge): Candidates demonstrate the knowledge necessary to create, use, assess, and manage theoretical and practical applications of educational technologies and processes. All of the projects created for this class clearly fell into both the Using and the Evaluating categories under AECT Standard 1. I researched and chose technology to implement and then assessed the relative advantage of that technology and its use in my chosen area, special education high school algebra.
1.2 Using – Candidates demonstrate the ability to select and use technological resources and processes to support student learning and to enhance their pedagogy. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
1.3 Assessing/Evaluating – Candidates demonstrate the ability to assess and evaluate the effective integration of appropriate technologies and instructional materials. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
AECT Standard 2 (Content Pedagogy): Candidates develop as reflective practitioners able to demonstrate effective implementation of educational technologies and processes based on contemporary content and pedagogy. This class made me consider how best to implement chosen technology, while reflecting on the pedagogy behind the process. I struggled with the application of these projects in an algebra classroom but researching the pedagogy was helpful. I needed to consider not only the best way to apply technology to the math, but also how to adapt and create materials that will assist my self-contained students and allow them to find success with concepts that are often abstract and difficult to grasp.
2.1 Creating – Candidates apply content pedagogy to create appropriate applications of processes and technologies to improve learning and performance outcomes. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
2.2 Using – Candidates implement appropriate educational technologies and processes based on appropriate content pedagogy. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
AECT Standard 5 (Research): Candidates explore, evaluate, synthesize, and apply methods of inquiry to enhance learning and improve performance. My students tend not to do well with project-based learning. As a result, my teaching style has been more Instructivist in nature. My time spent researching, using and creating materials by using technology for enhancement has given me methods I can use to incorporate more Constructivist methodologies to my teaching. While my classroom will never be wholly Constructivist, this class has given me the tools to at least blend the theories, making for a better-rounded classroom experience. Interacting with my classmates has also given more credence to my thoughts of Connectivism. My goal has always been to teach my students how to find tools to help them problem solve.
5.1 Theoretical Foundations – Candidates demonstrate foundational knowledge of the contribution of research to the past and current theory of educational communications and technology. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
Resource Page 
5.2 Method – Candidates apply research methodologies to solve problems and enhance practice.  Resource Page 
5.3 Assessing/Evaluating – Candidates apply formal inquiry strategies in assessing and evaluating processes and resources for learning and performance. Resource Page 

 

AECT standards. (2012, July 16). In Association for educational communications and technology. Retrieved from http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/aect.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/AECT_Documents/AECTstandards2012.pdf

 


Performance Assessment

  1. Content – My blog posts are thorough and contain references to both the readings and my personal experiences. They are written with the reader in mind, and contain an attempt to display my thought process, what I have learned, how that new knowledge applies to my world and any extra research I did to learn more. I feel I earned the full 70 points for this area.
  2. Readings and Resources –  Each blog post references at a minimum, the reading from the class text. I often referenced other research that I did to further my knowledge and satisfy my curiosity on topics I found most relevant. I believe I earned the full 20 points for this area.
  3. Timeliness – This was the hardest part of the blogging assignments for me. Writing is a difficult process for me. I am more comfortable speaking in a group than writing my thoughts. I need time to finish the readings, do more research if I felt it was needed, process my thoughts and then put them into written form. The majority of my posts were completed by midweek, but some of the topics I found more difficult were posted later. Because of this, I am going to say that I earned 15 of the 20 points in this section.
  4. Responses to Other Students – I made at least two thoughtful substantial responses to other students’ posts for each blogging assignment. I included my thoughts on what was posted, as well as personal experiences and commonalities. I believe this should merit the full 30 points for this section.

 

Obstacles and Solutions for Integrating Technology into a High School Algebra Classroom

Posted on Updated on

While integrating technology into a mathSolutions Not Problems Notice On Board classroom should be a goal to strive towards, there are some significant obstacles to full integration. The first and most daunting is the difficulty writing math functions and symbols on the computer. Drawing graphs, typing square root or cube root signs, creating fractions, even writing simple vertical addition and subtraction problems becomes a challenge when one is trying to type them on a computer. Fractions end up looking like this: 3/5 and my special education students often misconstrue the meaning. Even the graphing calculator has programming to make fractions look like fractions, so the inability to write them in the same format across multiple platforms is a problem. Without access to special math terms, typing a square root problem looks like this: \sqrt{4}. This is LaTeX, which is used in gMath, Google’s answer to inputting math terms. My students find this task very difficult, rendering the relative advantage of using gMath very low. There are many solutions to these issues, ranging from not using technology at all to trying to piecemeal something together to make it work. My favorite program for inputting formulas and symbols is MathType by DesignScience. My math department has been using it for years with no issues until we became a GAFE school. It does not integrate with Google Apps for Education which we are encouraged to use. The add-ons that Google has to input math are weak. It is much faster to write things out with pencil and paper. I use my Elmo to project what I am writing, or I have been known to snap a picture of a problem and throw it up on our Classroom site for discussion. When I must type equations in a document, I use Word instead of Google Docs.

Sometimes technology makes things too easy for students. GeoGebra and Desmos are wonderful graphing programs, but they don’t allow the student to graph the equation. All the student is required to do is input the equation or the points and the program will complete the graph. This makes the technology too helpful and removes that learning curve and with it the understanding we earn when we create something for ourselves. In my classroom, the solution is to use these programs as a check after completing the graph on paper or a dry erase board. If a student is truly stuck, I will scaffold the assignment by having them input the information into Desmos and using that to create the graph. As they gain confidence, they will use it just to check their work.

The graphing calculator used in high school classrooms is a very controversial topic. Many teachers do not like the reliance students have on this tool, stating that it erodes knowledge of basic facts and becomes a crutch. In the eyes of a special education teacher, this calculator is a tool that allows students to participate in deeper, richer mathematical discussions. My students are missing many of the basic skills. They do not know the times tables, nor how to divide. Many are unable to do basic addition and subtraction. Without the calculator, they cannot manage algebra. Using the graphing calculator skillfully levels that playing field. Teaching them how to use it well is an important part of my curriculum. As my overall goal for my students is to teach them how to solve problems by finding needed information, the graphing calculator fits that criteria. As an adult, if I don’t know how to do something, I will look it up or find a tool to help me. My students need to learn that same life skill. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, “ When teachers use technology strategically, they can provide greater access to mathematics for all students” (NCTM, n.d.). My solution to this argument is to encourage use of the calculator as a tool. Many of my students will try to do the math in their heads but often get it wrong. We talk a lot about finding and using tools to help us be the best that we can be. I find they are more willing to use a tool, then something they feel they need because they have an IEP.

The issue with graphing calculators is the question about why we are using them at all. They are old, outdated and prohibitively expensive. None of my students can afford their own, and while my district supplies each teacher with a classroom set, this does not help when they are trying to work problems at home. Desmos is the beautiful, FREE solution to this problem but we are not there yet. I teach my students how to use both the ti-84 and Desmos. The only reason I use the 84 at all is because New York does not allow the use of Desmos on the state exam. It is my hope that eventually we will follow Texas, which is now allowing a special testing version of Desmos on the Star Assessments. This needs to happen and happen quickly, as the continued use of this expensive, outdated piece of technology further widens the digital divide.

Technology is an important part of today’s mathematics classrooms. According to the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, “students have to be better prepared to use technology efficiently and fluently both so they can learn mathematics better and apply what they learn in the workplace” (as cited in Roblyer, 2016).
As programs, apps, websites and tools continue to evolve, the relative advantage of using technology in the math classroom will continue to rise. It will also create new challenges and obstacles, such as the newest apps that allow students to snap a picture of a problem and then it will solve it for them. Luckily the ones that I have tried so far have not been consistent enough for students to rely on, but I am sure that time will come in the near future.

References

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (n.d.). NCTM. Retrieved from http://www.nctm.org/Standards-and-Positions/Position-Statements/Strategic-Use-of-Technology-in-Teaching-and-Learning-Mathematics/

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.) Massachusetts: Pearson.

 

Relative Advantage of Game-Based Learning in a Special Education Algebra Classroom

Posted on Updated on

According to Keeler (2014), digital classroom games fall into three categories: game-based learning, game sheets, and gamification. Game-based learning is the use of games to enhance learning. These often provide simulations to draw the learner in and allow the student to experience an environment. Examples include SimCity, World of Warcraft, MineCraft, and CellCraft. Using these games in the classroom can have many positives such as increasing learner engagement, teaching effective collaboration and problem-solving skills and bringing classrooms into the 21st century with technology. These programs give teachers concrete information on a student’s progress, useful for directing instruction and providing progress information for special education student IEPs. GBL also allows for individualized instruction, something that can be very valuable in a classroom with a wide range of learner abilities. Unfortunately, for me, the drawbacks far outweigh the advantages. I am not a gamer, and these games take a long time for me to figure out well enough to instruct my special education students in their use. Time I don’t have. I also have to admit that my interest level in them is not high enough to make me want to make the time. Games that are drawn-out and complicated tend to lose my students. They get frustrated very easily and will completely shut down if they don’t get it immediately. This is a defense mechanism against feeling stupid. It is much “cooler” to say something is stupid and refuse to try it than it is to admit they don’t understand. It is also difficult for me to find enough time to play these immersive games in my limited class time. I have forty minutes per day to teach common core level algebra to students who have very few of the basic skills. Isolation is another concern. Many of my students lack social skills and have few friends. Will it reinforce this behavior if I use GBL extensively? Gamification is the application of game-based elements to non-game situations, such as awarding badges or levels for work completion (Keeler, 2014). Classcraft is a good example of gamification, as are rewards programs offered by stores such as Starbucks (Isaac, 2015). This reminds me of token economies, and I suspect more educators use this form of GBL without realizing that they are using gaming. I had not made this connection before researching this topic and find it an interesting suggestion. While I have used gamification in the past, I am not currently using it. It does cross my mind periodically, but the amount of work implementation requires seems daunting right now.

I find the last category, pagesheets, the easiest to use. Keeler states that pagesheets fall between GBL and gamification, and allow students to practice concepts learned in class. They are basically gamified worksheets, with students practicing a defined skill with game elements added, such as avatars, sound effects, and storylines (2014). Graphite, Cool Math, Brain Pop and Khan Academy all offer games that fall into this category. These are easy to find and do not require a lot of time to learn or to complete, making them perfect for my students.

As a special education math teacher, I find games can be a challenge to implement successfully. Many of my students are poor readers. They also tend to be hesitant to try anything new without near 1:1 support from their teachers. They are quick to frustrate and give up easily. If something takes too long to understand or master, they will just walk away. And yet, they love to play games. Easy games that they can quickly learn and play successfully. To this end, I use a lot of Keeler’s pagesheets. These allow me to choose a specific skill and let my students play a game to practice it. They need so much repetition and practice to master algebraic concepts, and this is something beyond a basic worksheet that encourages more learning. I will often find a short game to reinforce a skill and attach it to our homework in Google Classroom. Even if they don’t do the homework, many are willing to play the game, allowing me to get something out of them outside of the classroom. And the relative advantage of that is very, very high.

References

Isaacs, S. (2015, January 15). The difference between gamification and game-based learning. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://inservice.ascd.org/the-difference-between-gamification-and-game-based-learning/

Keeler, A. (2014). Beyond the worksheet: Playsheets, GBL, and gamification. Retrieved from Edutopia website: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/beyond-worksheet-playsheets-gbl-gamification-alice-keeler

Acceptable Use Policies

Posted on Updated on

Internet usage policy

Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) are put in place by school districts as a way to ensure that the school network and technology are being used in the manner in which they were intended. The policy is often linked on school websites and is easily accessible. Some schools have it as a stand-alone document while others embed it in their general Code of Conduct. However the district presents it, most require both students and parents to sign the document stating that they have read the material and understand it.

 

According to the Consortium for School Networking, Acceptable Use Policies have two main foci: protect and provide. AUPs should “protect students from harmful content on the Internet and regulate students use of the Internet, so they do not harm other students or interfere with the school’s instructional program and provide students with good access to digital media to support engaged learning” (2013). AUPs are also a form of protection for the district itself.

An effective AUP should include, per the National Education Association, a preamble, definitions, a statement of policy, acceptable and unacceptable uses and a violations/sanctions section (as cited in “Getting Started,” n.d.). At a minimum, a good AUP should include the district’s goals, what the acceptable uses are and also the unacceptable uses of the given technology. Definitions should be included to ensure clarity and understanding, and consequences for violations should also be clear. In researching different AUPs from local districts, I found a wide range of policies and documents. Some are very short and lacked any real specificity, outlining the policies and uses in broad strokes. Others are very detailed and lengthy, which everything spelled out very distinctly. Both of these types of AUPs are concerning for very different reasons. If an AUP is too short or is missing some of the sections, such as definitions of terms, it leaves itself open to personal interpretation, resulting in less protection for everyone involved. However, if it is too lengthy and detailed, the district runs the risk of people signing the document without reading it thoroughly, if at all, much like those pages of small print that credit card companies send to users. This can also result in less protection, as end users will not know what is acceptable use and what is not. There was an occurrence in a local district last year involving a custody battle. The student had written a diary of sorts using a Google Doc on the school server. The parent and lawyer demanded the school turn over the documents. The AUP states very clearly that all material created and saved on the school server is school property and as such, is accessible by the district. The student and parent both signed the document but the student did not read it. After consulting with the district attorneys, the school agreed to provide the requested material.

It is a fine balance to write an AUP that includes all the necessary information, without being so long and wordy that the majority of users will not read it in its entirety. My district’s AUP is mailed home to students and parents before the start of each school year. Both must sign it before the student is allowed to access the Internet on the school network, using school devices. As a special education teacher, my concern is that my students are being given this policy, and they are signing it, most without having read any of it. Those that do make an attempt to read it, often do not understand the ramifications of what they have read, if indeed, they can process the material at all. If a student requires tests to be read to them, important documents such as this should also be read to them, with someone from the school checking to ensure that they understand the material and what their signature represents. It is not enough to send it home for a signature. We need to find a way to ensure that the information is processed and understood. This could happen when our Chromebooks are issued in the fall, or during the first week of class. However we implement this, it must be mandatory, for both the students’ protection and that of the district.

 

Here are some examples of Acceptable Use Policies from several local school districts, with the first one being my own:

Glens Falls City School District

Lake George Central School District

Saratoga Springs City School District

Fort Edward Union Free School District

Albany Unified School District

Plattsburgh City School District

 

References

Consortium for School Networking. (2013). Rethinking acceptable use policies to enable digital learning: A guide for school districts. Washington, DC.

Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.). In Education World. Retrieved February 21, 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

 

 

 

Advantages of Using Multimedia in the Classroom

Posted on Updated on

The topic this week is the integration of multimedia in the classroom.  It seems only fitting that the blog is actually a vlog. This video presented a huge challenge. I did not want to be a talking head but I have never created a video with images inserted into it. With the help of my daughter, a talented artist and musician, I was able to create my video using iMovie. It turned out to be pretty simple, giving me another tool I can use with my students.

Relative Advantage of Using the Basic Suite in a High School Special Education Mathematics Classroom

Posted on Updated on

The basic suite is a group of programs comprised of a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation program. They can be used together or as separate components, which adds to their versatility. There are several suites one can choose from including iWork from Apple, Microsoft Office, Open Office and Google Docs. Educators integrate these into their classrooms for many reasons. They are easy to use, enhance instruction, promote collaboration and allow students to become familiar with technology that is common in the workplace.

Word processors allow for the creation of professional-looking documents that include both text and graphics. They are possibly the most widely used technology in today’s classrooms because they work well in all subject areas and can easily be adapted for students with disabilities. Google Docs allows for sharing and collaboration by both students and teachers, which has changed the entire process of writing. Drafts are now ongoing, as shared documents are easy to edit and revise based on teacher input and comments placed directly into the document (Roblyer, 2016). Students with physical disabilities can access word processing programs through adaptive keyboards or voice recognition, allowing them a level of independence not formerly attainable. Word processing is a common accommodation on IEPs. It allows students with poor handwriting or spelling skills to complete written assignments on the computer instead of using pen and paper. This is much preferred over the old accommodation of a scribe, as it gives the student more autonomy in the assignment, and saves time. Word processing applications can be difficult to use in the math classroom. Journaling, creating word problems and working with vocabulary are all ways that they can be integrated into mathematics. While there are ways to create equations in these programs, it is too time-consuming to write and solve equations on the computer. In this instance, pencil and paper outperform technology.

Spreadsheet applications are used extensively in math education because their main function is to “organize and manipulate numerical data” (Roblyer, 2016 p.121). Many teachers use them as grade books and to create lesson plans. All spreadsheets include formulas, making it easy to perform calculations. Ease of editing allows both teachers and students to change scenarios to see the impact of changes in a given mathematical scenario. “By answering ‘what if’ questions in a highly graphic format, spreadsheets help teachers encourage logical thinking, develop organizational skills, and promote problem solving” (Roblyer, 2016 p.124). The ability to take large groups of data and create charts or graphs within the spreadsheet application not only saves time but gives students a visual way to look at numbers. This is especially useful for students with disabilities, as it allows them to make connections that would have gone unnoticed in the past. Organization and application skills, two areas with which many of these students struggle, are greatly enhanced when spreadsheet applications are used in the classroom. According to Roblyer (2016), the biggest issue that teachers confront when implementing spreadsheets in the classroom is students’ fear of math (p.123). Playing with and processing numbers are much scarier than with words. This is something math teachers deal with on a daily basis, which may be another reason for their widespread use in mathematics. To borrow from Dan Meyer, they are seen as the pill to the headache that math can create.

Presentation software is used mainly as a support for speakers during a presentation. Microsoft Powerpoint is arguably the most well-known of these programs, in fact, “the name PowerPoint is often used interchangeably with presentation software, much as the brand Kleenex is often used instead of facial tissue” (Roblyer, 2016 p.125). Presentation software is often used incorrectly, leading to the opposite effect of what was intended. Many presenters overuse words and bullets on the slides leading to a disconnect in the audience as they focus on what the slide says versus what the speaker is saying. According to Roblyer (2016), “using presentation software effectively requires substantial background in specific pedagogical and visual design principles” (p. 127). Many presenters read their slides to the audience, leading to disengagement, and often irritation. A good rule of thumb when creating slides is that they should not make sense without the speakers words. A well-developed presentation gives visual learners the ability to assimilate verbal information, leading to deeper levels of understanding. Presentation software in the math classroom can be hit or miss. There are many tutorials available that use this type of software, some effective and some not. It can be difficult and time-consuming to create slides with math concepts, but there are add-ons and workarounds to help with this. LaTeX is one such program, but the learning curve can be daunting.

I use slides a lot in my classroom. If I have an instruction for my students to follow at the start of class, I will project a slide on the board with a list of what they will need such as glue sticks, scissors, and their interactive notebooks. This helps save time and is very quick to put together. Warm up problems are also placed on slides and projected at the start of class. Using the camera feature in a PDF program allows me to take a picture of a problem and insert it into a slide. Throw in a background and a graphic and the warm up is ready to go. Google Slides allows presentations to be shared and encourages collaboration. I have had groups of students create slides showing what they have learned about a topic, or as a way to teach a topic to their peers in a jigsaw type of activity. A future goal for my classes is to put my tests on slides, with each question on a separate slide. It can be difficult to administer tests to special education students as their disabilities dictate how and where they are tested. A single test for my students can involve three staff members and three locations. By creating a test in presentation software, it can then be uploaded to a program like VoiceThread, allowing me to narrate each slide. Students can take the test in the same room as their peers, listening to the slides with headphones and pausing and rewinding as needed. While this can be time-consuming, and is not feasible for state tests, the relative advantage is high enough for me to add this to my list of things to try.

Basic Suite software packages have changed a lot since they were first developed. The ability to share and collaborate within these programs from anywhere in the world has increased the usability and relative advantages in the classroom. As students enter the workforce, their knowledge of and familiarity with these products will make that transition easier.

 

References

Roblyer, M. (2016).  Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Massachusetts: Pearson.

 

Vision Mission Statement

Posted on Updated on

School 2.0

Our world is changing exponentially.  We are more connected, more tech-savvy and better informed on global events.  As teachers, we see the results of this in our classrooms every day. Students lives revolve around technology.  They are texting, sharing, downloading and communicating throughout their waking hours.  Except when they are in school.  Education has been slow to embrace this new world. “We have not yet become good enough at the kind of pedagogues that make the most of technology; that adding 21st-century technologies to 20th-century teaching practices will just dilute the effectiveness of teaching” (Keeling, 2015).  The skills they need.  Instead of teaching students what to learn, we need to teach them how to learn.  My students constantly ask me why they need to learn algebra.  The truth is, they don’t.  I am a special education math teacher in charge of getting my high school students through the state exam so they can graduate from high school.  None of my students will ever need to know how to factor a quadratic equation in their future lives.  Nor will they need to put an equation into y=mx+b form. I am teaching them how to think.

My school has a fifty percent poverty rate.  All of my students live in poverty.  They are all on the wrong side of the digital divide.  Many of my students have no access to the Internet outside of school.  Few have cell phones; even fewer have smartphones. To level the playing field, every student in my high school has a Chromebook provided to them. All of my students use them almost exclusively to message each other via Google Hangouts and watch videos on YouTube.  It isn’t that they refuse to use them for collaborative projects, or to help themselves.  They just do not know how.  Shockingly, over half of my students had no idea how to access their school email, compose a message and send it.  They require exposure, not just to mathematical concepts, but also to technology.  Without this exposure, my students will continue to fall behind their more connected peers.  Technology can and will help students become better problem solvers.  With this in mind, one of my roles is to provide a technology-rich learning environment.

Many classrooms are still driven by the objectivist method of teaching. The teacher is the “sage on the stage” imparting knowledge through direct instruction. Students are seen as vessels to drink in all that the teacher has to share with them. Classes have been taught this way since the beginning of education, and while the elders of society like to state that it worked for them, that it was a good solid education, they are not seeing the big picture.  In the words of Marc Prensky (2001), “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.” What has worked in the classroom in the past no longer prepares students for the jobs they will be working in the future.  Employers need workers who can function in this increasingly connected world.  They are looking for employees that can think and problem solve. This epic shift is forcing teachers to adopt a more constructivist style of teaching. Inquiry-based learning is student-centered, leaving the teacher as the “guide on the side”.  Learners are expected to drive their own knowledge through project-based learning.  These classrooms look very different.  The teacher is not the focus; the learning is. These teachers facilitate instead of lecturing.  Students are not seen as a blank slate but as the sum of all their life experiences and prior knowledge. Constructivists believe that these experiences should drive project-based learning, making learning more meaningful. This method of teaching helps students learn problem-solving skills, flexibility and perseverance.

The best classrooms offer a blend of these two methodologies. According to Roblyer (2016), “Proficient technology-oriented teachers must learn to combine directed instruction and constructivist approaches and to select technology resources and integration methods that are best suited to their specific needs” (p. 49).  Technology in the mathematics classroom makes abstract ideas more tangible and approachable for students with learning differences.  By making the math more accessible, learner engagement and confidence increase. My students can spend more time applying what they do know, while relying on technology to help them overcome what they don’t know.

Resources:
Keeling, B. (2015, September 15). Technology in classrooms doesn’t always boost education results, OECD says. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/technology-in-classrooms-doesnt-always-boost-education-results-oecd-says-1442343420

Prensky, M. (2001). “Digital natives, digital immigrants” On The Horizon, 9.5, 1-6.

Roblyer, M. (2016).  Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Massachusetts: Pearson.