Thursday, April 29, 2010

How Technology is Changing Math Classrooms (for the Better!)

Guest post by Tracy Beach as part of the EdTech Blog Swap

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The American classroom is constantly evolving. Dry erase boards took the place of chalkboards. In today’s lecture halls, the click-clack of laptop keyboards can be heard over the scrawling sound of pen on paper.

Technology can never replace teachers, but it makes an often-times difficult job easier by opening up new resources for teachers and students, fostering individual learning and communication with families, and making a deep pool of information more accessible than ever before.

Let's count the ways technology is changing math classes for the better!

Technology helps make assessment and progress reporting more objective and more frequent. It's imperative that a math teacher knows right away when a student falls behind, but it can be difficult in a busy, full classroom. With more immediate and more granular progress reporting, educators can determine a child's need, and communicate with students and parents outside school hours through email and classroom websites.

Virtual Manipulatives, adaptive curricula, and more

Not every child learns the same way. New, innovative technologies make math learning increasingly individualized. The most advanced online learning programs, like DreamBox Learning K-3 Math, capture every mouse click as a student learns in order to instantly provide the right lessons, at the right level of difficulty, with the right hints, sequence, and pace (and much more) for each individual child.

Virtual manipulatives, such as the ones used in DreamBox Learning (and which are available for any elementary teacher to use in the classroom free) let kids build an answer instead of selecting one from a multiple choice list. Research shows constructing knowledge this way is a more effective way to learn math.

Student progress reporting is being revolutionized by online learning as well. When every mouse click is captured as a student is learning, teachers get immediate, detailed, useful information about where each student is progressing and struggling.

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As technology evolves, more and more kids expect to learn at their own pace and participate in collaborative learning and exploration. Students will also need strong tech skills when they enter the fast-changing working world.

Personal response technologies enable teachers to gauge students' skills almost instantaneously. No more having only one or two students raise their hands –one new calculator tool makes it possible for teachers to hear from every pupil in the classroom at once on a math problem. Hearing from every student on a math problem is a major plus for math teachers because they can better assess student learning curves.

The wide, wide world

Technology enables teachers to access data from a wealth of sources and in a myriad of forms – online math games and manipulatives, lesson plans, printables, creative activities for their classrooms, discussion forums and more. With access to these broad resources, lessons become richer and more colorful.

New infrastructures bring the world into the classroom and give kids opportunities to see and experience things they might not have otherwise. They can take a virtual tour of the Pyramids, complete math problems in real time with other kids around the globe on World Math Day, and rocket through space –all from their own classroom or home.

Math Teachers Unite

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Teaching, although rewarding can be lonely –educators often collaborate with colleagues, but much of the day is spent in classroom talking to kids. Social media connects math educators across the country. They can share tools and success stories, help each other with various math teaching techniques, and inspire other instructors.

We the Teachers and edWeb.net are examples of social media "clubs" just for teachers. Teachers can share lesson plans, join a group of math teachers, or discuss new ideas in the forums.

And, technology brings students together – they can collaborate and cooperate on tough math problems. They can study algebra together, work out a challenging proof, and chat about this week's math homework right from their computers.

Technology turns the math classroom into a vast virtual space with unlimited learning potential. But in the words of Bill Gates, "Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important."

 

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