Dinosaurian Technology Use in Math – Time to Evolve

My placement has notably little technology available, at least compared to those of my peers.  Technology includes the teacher’s computer, an Elmo document camera, a projector, and a set of calculators.  Yet I cannot imagine needing much more for this level of math – which includes Algebra I and Algebra II.

As a teacher, I use Google Docs to create and store daily warm-ups and exit quizzes, using the projector to display these problems on the front board.  This is certainly helpful, not only to allow me to organize, update, and plan for each class, but also to be able to present more graph-oriented or visual problems that would take a deal of time to copy onto the board.  Nearly daily, I also use the document camera when I am teaching lessons.  I tend to prefer this method since I can face the class as I instruct, rather than writing on a board and then turning to speak.  Another benefit of this method is having a written copy of the exact lesson I present that I can later show students who missed something or who were absent previously.  Likewise, it allows me to keep a detailed record of how exactly I went about teaching a particular lesson, since this material is not lost once it is erased.  Additionally, this year I have frequently used Desmos Online Calculator to create graphs for my Algebra II class and give students the opportunity to visualize shifts in graphs.  Finally, I have seen my CT create YouTube videos of abbreviated lessons to support students who are frequently absent, have language barriers, or need to hear an explanation one more time.  I view this to be tantamount to the Algebra II class, given that this class does not have a textbook, so students can then rely on something more than just any notes they take in class.

At this level of math, when students are still learning the fundamentals – which admittedly have the propensity to be a bit dry and boxy – basic technology suffices.  Students can focus on learning calculator functions for graphs, but otherwise stick to the concrete, straightforward concepts that are usually best solved with pencil and paper.  While I have seen teachers use online quizzing platforms for fun class competitions or Smart Boards to record student work on the “white board”, I do not see either of these functions as essential or possible solely through technology.

In this age of the ubiquitous use of technology, it seems odd to dismiss its applicability to the classroom.  It can provide new and exciting possibilities for presenting math.  Yet I find it hard to implement creative lessons for math while still covering all of the standards in the given time.  Thus I find myself using only bare bones technology to support straightforward lessons.  I perceive a constant clash between getting lost in the wonderful, creative, exploratory elements of math (which technology could support) and sticking strictly to the schedule of more down to earth, black and white, repetitious elements.  The more I think about it, the more it seems that technology use in math should increase as students move past the fundamentals – perhaps in Calculus or even beyond.  This math is often more abstract or more applied, both of which can be supported by programs and graphics on technology that do not subtract from students’ focus on the crux of the material.  I remain dubious of heavy use of technology in lower levels of math, though.  Perhaps, through this course I will open my eyes to new possibilities availed by technology and discover more of a middle road approach to using technology strategically and in a manner that richens learning.

Image: Dinosaur by Thomas Hawk – Link

4 Replies to “Dinosaurian Technology Use in Math – Time to Evolve”

  1. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

    Although technology has made many things in life easier, I do agree that for some subjects it just isn’t prudent to extensively use technology when pencil and paper will do the same exact thing. I applaud the fact that you were able to perceive the benefits of the lack of technology in your classroom because we’ve all been through Algebra I and II and have suff– I mean survived those courses long before Chromebooks and iPads.

    It seems like the methods you are using with the tech you already have has been sufficient enough without need for anything more. I can understand the frustration of not having an Elmo and having to write notes and copy diagrams on the board for the students to be able to see an example and work through them with you. It is time consuming and takes up a lot of space that could be used for notes or other important aspects of the lesson.

    I hope we can all find our own middle roads so as to make learning fun, engaging, and fuller for our students.

    1. First off, I agree with Tamalin, that we should be looking for the simplest tools to get the job done. If paper and pencil is all you need – great!

  2. Kristen – I think the essence of the challenge is well stated in your comment “I perceive a constant clash between getting lost in the wonderful, creative, exploratory elements of math (which technology could support) and sticking strictly to the schedule of more down to earth, black and white, repetitious elements. ”

    So sin’t question not simply one of tech use – but of how to bring the some of the ‘wonderful, creative, exploratory elements of math’ into more introductory courses?

  3. Truer words have never been spoken…Well, probably it has…A lot of times somewhere in someone’s life.

    As I read this, I found out that I and the teachers at my placement basically do the same thing as you. While we do use Chromebooks in our Math classes, it is mainly to explore Desmos or practice on Khan Academy. So, the main bulk of technology use in the classroom goes to the teacher (Elmo, projector, desk computer, so on). Meaning, like you, our students do a lot of work on pencil and paper, which helps build memory as we know. And, honestly, I feel more comfortable writing rather than messing with a mouse and keyboard. As much as I would like to bring more “cool” technology uses in my classroom, for Math, I believe that pencil and paper, marker and whiteboard, chalk and blackboard (cringe), or any writing utensil and surface would work best with the very basic of technology available (which you have listed).

    And those “black and white, repetitious elements” can be colorful! Just buy those multi-color pens that Raegan has.

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