I remember in my first year of teaching, looking around my empty classroom, bereft of resources and manipulatives, and seeing textbooks galore, thinking: There has to be a better way.
It struck me finally one day when one of my students asked me about the question in the text.
“Do farmers really count kernels of corn?”
If I was going to teach math I was going to have to teach it differently. I needed to teach math in a way that made sense to me and was going to contribute to my students learning in a more meaningful way. Within a week, I had rolled an unused media cart into my classroom, I had commandeered the little-used computer lab across the hall, and the textbooks were ditched. I was all-in and extremely nervous that -- as a new teacher -- I was going to be “found out” and my choices would be questioned. Six years later and the books have never made their way back in.
So how, as a new teacher, or one wishing to make the transition, do you begin a technology based math program?
Read, Read and Read Some More
There are some amazing digital resources available to teachers, and Twitter has become my chief source of education and technology news. Create your own network of educators and begin to read what they post. Begin following the people whom they follow. Find your board’s technology and math gurus, and ask them to point you in the right direction.
My go-to site for tech education is Clif Mims, member of the University of Memphis‘ Instructional Design and Technology faculty since 2005. His news daily can be read here:
Become the Tech Expert
I hear from a lot of teachers that they don’t have any technology at their disposal. Does someone else at your school? A friend at another school? Can you register for workshops which would be of interest?
You must invest the time in learning the technology. Simple as that. You cannot expect to use technology as a part of your daily math lessons if you have never explored the technology yourself. In using the technology you will naturally think of new and interesting ways of using it as a part of your math program and develop ways to integrate it into the curriculum. Always remember that the curriculum tells us what to teach but not how to teach it.
Here are some links to get you started:
3D Tin: www.3Dtin.com
Google SketchUp http://www.sketchup.com/intl/en/
The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/vlibrary.html
The Medium is Not the Message
Technology is cool. Technology is fun. It is also expensive. The novelty of using technology in the classroom is fleeting. When I began using technology to teach math six years ago, technology had not yet penetrated every aspect of our lives; using technology was enough to captivate students' attention and hold it. No more. Technology in the math classroom has to have a purpose. I hear teachers say it would be neat to have X piece of technology in their room. If it’s neat you are looking for, look elsewhere. These are tools that can be used to create amazing work, whether 3D landscapes and architecture or using an excel spreadsheet to graph student generated survey results. If students are given real work, with a true purpose, incorporating newly acquired tech skills, they will surely fly.
Still not Convinced?
Here are a couple of inspirations for you.
The first is a very well known RSA talk by Sir Ken Robinson about the need to change the delivery of education, and a new talk about education’s Death Valley
The second is a TED talk by British technologist and big thinker Conrad Wolfram. He advocates strongly for introducing tech into maths and makes a compelling argument.
Start with integrating one new item a month to your teaching and before you know, it you’ll be an expert spreading the gospel of tech to your colleagues!
Jason Rodger is a CCT and Grade 6 MFI Teacher in Ottawa, Ontario. He and his colleague, Michael Wendler, will be interviewed by me on Skype this Friday, May 17, 2013. Please leave a comment or question which you may want him to address during our interview later this week. Interview blog will be posted next week.