My own group fluxiates between 3 and 5 students each week, all of whom face major struggles with language, and demonstrate difficulty with basic number sense. Interestingly, I am finding that even working in a small group, my students struggle to pay attention, and each needs different areas of focused remediation.
Today, I tried a new approach, based on the success of my 1:1 conferences in Literacy...
While two students worked on an iPad app I had brought from home, and another played a 2-digit math game on the classroom computer with headphones, I worked with one student on a paper and pencil task, talking through the math vocabulary he was struggling with, and guiding him in explaining his thinking (we were rounding numbers to estimate).
After 12 minutes, we switched: I sent the student I had been conferencing with to go work with the iPad, and moved one of the students from the iPad to the computer. The computer kid then came to me, and we conferenced on what he needed - developing a firm grasp on the hundreds chart so he could use it to help himself round two-digit numbers up or down.
We continued rotating every 12 minutes so that by the end of the session, I had touched base personally with all four students. Then we played a small group math game together. The students left the session having had fun with numbers, and hopefully having learned a few strategies specific to their needs.
After the session, I reflected on whether I had used technology as a learning tool this afternoon, or merely as a babysitter.
Personally, I think the case could be made for both.
For example, although on one hand one might argue that the computer games and iPad apps were merely glorified worksheets, thus placing this task firmly in the the "substitution" phase of the SAMR model.
On the other hand, the technology allowed me to quickly pull up a math app or game suited to the specific need of a student in a way I couldn't possibly imagine customizing "busy work worksheets".
Further, the technology engaged the students sufficiently to allow me to work in an uninterrupted way with each student for 12 minutes at a time -- a significant chunk of time in which to intensively support specific needs and remediate isolated skills for those students. The "babysitting" provided by a tool which incorporates built-in feedback the way the games and apps do (both included visual prompts for the students whether they were correct or incorrect in their responses to a given math question) was beyond any task of which I could have previously concieved.
In this case, one might argue that the task as designed falls into the Modification phase... or at least straddles the Enhancement and Modification phases of the SAMR model!
At the very least, technology has most certainly caused me to consider how I teach and reflect on the effectiveness of the choices I make in ways that I didn't before I became more involved in its use in my classroom.