We hear from Patrick McGrath, EdTech Strategist at Texthelp over a series of blogs that focus on the elements of a successful vision and plan for an effective technology strategy.
Let’s do some maths. It’s a simple multiplication and all I ask is that you don’t use a calculator. Ready? Eighteen multiplied by five. That’s 18 x 5.
The answer? 90. Pause for a moment and think about how you arrived at your answer – 10 x 5 + 8 x 5? Maybe 20 x 5 and minus 10? 9 x 5 x2? There are numerous routes to this answer, and many of us will approach the problem and path to its solution very differently. This particular sum is based on a classroom experiment carried out by the mathematician Jo Boelar. In her experiment she simply asked that question to a class of 30 students, then provided digital tools to allow each student to show how they arrived at the answer. The result? 14 different ways. For one simple two-number multiplication.
Digital devices allow to deepen learning of any school subject
Let’s think about how technology might be able to support this. There’s an immediate challenge – and that’s in the perception of what effective technology looks like for maths. I routinely poll teachers at events asking about their most used technology. The result? The Interactive Whiteboard and the trusty calculator.
It’s easy to see why, but it’s not enough. Subjects like maths and science should be leading the charge to showing effective technology for learning. Why? Think back to our 18×5 question – only by using technology can we provide a platform that allows students to explore and express maths in a way that is personal to them, and only by using technology can we provide a canvas to allow students to be creative with maths and build context. Sure, there’s pen and paper – and some students will stick with these tools, but others will want to engage through technology, and so we need to understand how.
There’s a range of fantastic tools that can help when partnered with Chromebook and Laptop – solutions like Geogebra open up graphing and 3D calculations, and EquatIO allows students ways to include written maths, graphs or even dictate or handwrite maths using a touch screen.
We’ve been used to a world of in-built equation editors. Difficult to learn, they’ve been the preserve of higher end maths for many years. Which may be why the reluctance to integrate devices into maths based subjects at other levels. That’s not the case any longer – the tools, the technology and the pedagogy now enable us to deepen learning, build better understanding of the language of maths and develop logical and critical thinking – for any age of students from early years to higher education.
The right vision and plan help us build much wider use of our digital devices and ensures that no subject is left behind.
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