Relative Advantage of Technology in the Content Areas, Especially Mathematics
In the past, application of technology to education was often motivated by a desire to control instruction. Technology was often viewed as novelty. In the modern era, technology has become central to most subject areas. In English, all research and reports are done using computers. In mathematics, calculators and graphing calculators are used daily. In history, the internet provides a wealth of resources from videos to biographies. The list of how and where various forms of technology are implemented goes on and on. But, in order to be effective, technology and teachers must work together to provide challenging learning opportunities.
According to the U.S. Department of Education in the works titled, A Research Project Sponsored by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement:
When students are using technology as a tool or a support for communicating with others, they are in an active role rather than the passive role of recipient of information transmitted by a teacher, textbook, or broadcast. The student is actively making choices about how to generate, obtain, manipulate, or display information. Technology use allows many more students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills than is typical in teacher-led lessons. Moreover, when technology is used as a tool to support students in performing authentic tasks, the students are in the position of defining their goals, making design decisions, and evaluating their progress.
The teacher’s role changes as well. The teacher is no longer the center of attention as the dispenser of information, but rather plays the role of facilitator, setting project goals and providing guidelines and resources, moving from student to student or group to group, providing suggestions and support for student activity. As students work on their technology-supported products, the teacher rotates through the room, looking over shoulders, asking about the reasons for various design choices, and suggesting resources that might be used.
Today, technology can help teachers to supplement content, engage learners, enhance delivery and assess student learning. Integrating technology can enhance any content area such as math, science, languages, social studies, music, art, physical education or health. Technology should be implemented to make the lesson more engaging, relevant and authentic. Effective and appropriate use of technology in different content areas can help both teachers and students.
Researcher, S. Pogrow describes how integrating technology into grades 4-9 mathematics classes can create “… a new, more powerful, and dramatic way to present mathematical concepts in ways that allow students to construct an intuitive sense of how to apply them” (Pogrow, p.7). He asserts that technology can be used to present a variety of fantasy settings in which dilemmas arise and the curriculum and teacher bring in the math concepts to resolve the dilemma. In addition, technology can be used to present mental models which will allow students to learn how to solve almost any story problem.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) places great emphasis on the use of technology in mathematics education. Technology, one of the six principles fundamental to school mathematics programs as outlined by NCTM’s Principles and Standards, is “essential in teaching and learning mathematics; it influences the mathematics that is taught and enhances students’ learning.”
Teachers must be careful when implementing technology in mathematics instruction and be aware of the numerous pitfalls, such as accountability and the ongoing “math wars” debate. However, the benefits of including technology greatly outweigh the costs and, as Robyler and Doering state, “technology can serve as a catalyst to move teachers toward an instructional style that is more student centered” (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 310). The top technology strategies for mathematics include graphing calculators, interactive software, spreadsheets, virtual manipulatives, and computer algebra systems (CAS) (p. 325).
Technology has the ability to bring the intangible and abstract concepts to life. This is especially important in mathematics. But regardless of subject area, the challenge for educators is to make effective use of those technologies that are available.
Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn?. Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235-266.
Pogrow, S. (2004). Supermath: An alternative approach to improving math performance in grades 4 through 9. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(4), 297-303.
Roblyer, M.D. and Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology Into Teaching, (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Principles and Standards for School Mathematics: http://www.nctm.org/standards/content.aspx?id=16909
Technology and Education Reform: A Research Project Sponsored by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/EdTech/effectsstudents.html